Monday, November 1, 1999

Album-To-Go Software makes photo sharing a breeze


By Heather McDaniel

When Club Photo, a photo-sharing Web site that has taken a user-convenience approach to digital image sharing on the Internet, announced it would launch a new Album To Go software program for Palm devices, I was skeptical. Palm devices only have 16 shades of gray in their displays (older models only four), and JPEG images shared over the Internet start with 65 million. I figured that the Palm device's little screen wouldn't be able to easily translate images of 600 x 800 pixels or higher and retain much detail.

But I've always liked black-and-white photography, so I decided to set aside my doubts and give this new photos-on-the-Palm device a whirl. I must say it is very, very slick. Within the first few minutes of watching a series of favorite images loop through an automated slide show, I was hooked.

This software works beautifully if your objective is to store and share favorite photographs using your Palm device. In my mind it's changed from a gimmick to a really great idea.

One reason is that Club Photo did a great job with the translations, turning what I normally experience as a generally business-oriented tool into something you can have some fun with. It's a lot faster to pull the Album To Go program up on your Palm device's screen and pass it around the lunch table than to pull those crinkled old photos out of your wallet. And once you get the hang of setting the contrast to best effect, they look pretty good, too.

The program is useful for more than personal purposes although, as a Palm V user with lots of snapshots, that's what first caught my interest. I have a friend who is a wedding photographer and I can imagine him using a Palm device to show poses to prospective customers. I can imagine that the ability to show photos on the go would also be very useful to people in fields such as real estate and insurance.

The bottom line is, Club Photo has managed to translate full color images extremely well into the shades-of-gray environment of a Palm display. And the software is free, to boot.

System requirements

Album To Go software runs on the Palm III, Palm IIIe, Palm IIIx, Palm V and Palm VII. If you have a Palm device with IR (infared) capabilities, you can beam your favorite pictures to other Palm users who have Album To Go software loaded on their devices.

I downloaded the free "host" (or maybe "mother ship") Album To Go software from The compressed Zip file package includes a desktop portion, which I use on my AMD K6-2, 350 MHz home-built system, running under Windows 98. The Desktop portion of the software package takes up only about 150K of space on a Windows 95, 98, or NT system that already has the Palm Desktop HotSync Manager installed. The part of the program that stays on the Palm unit is only about 50K, very cheap real estate considering how much power this little program manages to pack. Album To Go software also runs on Power Macintosh systems running MacOS 8.0 with Palm Desktop HotSync Manager installed, though the early Mac versions were reported to have bugs. Because it's the first release of the Mac software, it's not too surprising that it's somewhat of a work in progress.