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Summary:

Apple’s products are often very focused on the consumer market, striving to provide features to allow you to manage your personal photos, music, documents and data. The iLife suite is a feature packed bag of goodies which handles anything you throw at it with style and […]

Apple’s products are often very focused on the consumer market, striving to provide features to allow you to manage your personal photos, music, documents and data. The iLife suite is a feature packed bag of goodies which handles anything you throw at it with style and ease. But what about a Mac as a business tool?

I’ve recently set up a new company – a stock photography website (Our Stock Works) – and myself along with another director have used solely Apple’s products in collaborating and going through the process of launching the business. It has been a hassle free and streamlined process from the word go, and I’m going to cover some of the features and applications we’ve used in our workflow.

Website Design and Programming

We prefer to do things as ‘old school’ as possible, and don’t use too many of the fancy tools available. For coding and programming the website, we used a combination of Dreamweaver and TextWrangler. For graphic design we used Adobe Photoshop, and for FTP we used Transmit. It’s a fairly standard set of tools which are widely accepted. There were a couple of slightly less widely known ones which made things easier too:

Our Stock Works with Webkit

Shared Calendars

By default, iCal doesn’t allow you to share calendars from one computer to another. This functionality would have been absolutely ideal, and will most likely be coming in Apple’s next operating system – Leopard. The way we used shared calendars was with the help of 37Signal’s Basecamp software. We set events and milestones in Basecamp, which were automatically downloaded and shared between everyone’s computer.

37signal

It was great to know that people weren’t missing out on important events, and had no excuse not to meet those deadlines!

Website Testing

One of the most important things when setting up an online presence is to know that it works cross operating system, cross browser. This has often been a problem on a Mac to test, as we’re still unfortunately in a minority. Ensuring your site works on Safari doesn’t mean it’ll look right in the questionably incompliant Internet Explorer. Until the advent of Intel based Mac’s, I was required to swap my keyboard, mouse and monitor over to a Windows based machine and then boot up separately to test the layout in IE. Hardly ideal! Boot Camp was released during the term of this project, and that simplified things to an extent being able to run Windows on my MacBook.

Parallel

Far surpassing all these is Parallels Desktop however. Being able to hit ‘alt’ and seamlessly switch between Mac and Windows is simply a dream come true. It makes testing a no hassle procedure, and we’re proud to say that Our Stock Works looks great cross browser.

Easy Aperture

One of the most important aspects of Our Stock Works is being able to find the image you’re looking for. We do this using titles, descriptions and tags. The obvious way to enter these into our system is through a standard web upload form, ‘tagging’ the image as you upload the file. That’s how most other people do it.

Whilst we offer that, we also read IPTC data from the image when it’s uploaded. This allowed us to do some interesting things with Aperture. Imagine you’re on the road shooting images, but can’t dial up to the internet to upload and tag them. You can simply enter the keywords and details into Aperture, then when you come to upload the images all the tagging is done seamlessly. Aperture is a great tool I’d like to focus on more in the future.

Conclusion

From our experience, we’ve learned that Apple’s tools aren’t all for the consumer. There are so many ways to enhance your organization with Mac products that there’s no longer any reason not to! Some pro applications (Aperture etc) do fit the professional bill, but often it’s the standard consumer applications which can take on a whole new use when integrated with other systems (iCal and Basecamp for instance).

I hope you feel inspired to try some of this with your own project!

  1. hi there, its the first time i come on the site, and i really need some help on something. i have about 25gigs of music and i want to purchase an ipod. should i go ahead and buy a 30 gig video ipoid or should i wait it out, is there anything worthwhile coming out soon? thanks i appreciate any feedback

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  2. Cyrus should wait as new iPods are due in September. It just may be a Nano update; but I suspect more for the holliday season.

    Thanks for sharing your experience. These are of great use for those contemplating switching.

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  3. Cyrus should wait for the new iPod. Who know? We might see the phone as well..

    Great read btw..

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  4. Just so someone is posting with relevant info… great article. It’s always interesting to read how someone else does things. (store tips for later…) Thanks for the info!

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  5. Joseph Pollone Monday, August 21, 2006

    Thanks for sharing your process, David. Your work certainly inspires me. Can you elaborate on some questions?

    1) Can you tell us the hardware you used in bringing ourstockworks.com to production? Did you use a server in your development process?
    2) I like the effect when clicking on the magnifying glass. Are there other areas where you have made use of AJAX?
    3) For your MySQL databases, do you replicate the databases to a local server? Also, are the images stored on the file system or in BLOBS?
    4) Is there an automatic workflow in creating the different picture sizes and watermarks (i.e. thumbnail, small, large) once a picture is uploaded?
    5) Can you estimate the number of hours it took to complete the site?

    I really like the UI (especially the way you pulled the tags as mini buttons), and I appreciate the way you are using Aperture’s IPTC data. Well done!

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