Tuesday, 9 June 2009

A Desktop Repository

You can tell that it's exam marking season, because I am obsessed by displacement activities. Further to my last post, I've managed to create a kind of pseudo-repository on my desktop (DeskSpace? EDesk? Deskora?)

iPhoto is managing collections of PowerPoint slides (actually 2549 slides from 109 slideshows which represents about 10% of the total number of slideshows on my laptop). Every slide is of course just an image of its original self (iPhoto is a photo application after all!) but courtesy of each image's embedded EXIF metadata I can search for slides that contained a particular phrase, regardless of the presentation in which they were originally stored. Then I can export that collection of individual images to an external program that uses the provenance metadata stored in the images to construct a new slideshow from the source components of the original PowerPoint files.

At the moment it's the kind of repository that Heath Robinson would sell you (a set of scripts more than a set of services :-), but I think that it ticks most of the boxes: there is an ingest procedure, collection management, browsing, searching, metadata, packaging formats and dissemination processes. And to accomplish some form of preservation I could even print all the slides into a very desirable coffee-table book or burn a DVD slideshow.

(The top image is a screendump from iPhoto showing slides from four presentations, the bottom image shows a new PowerPoint presentation made from slides containing the term "Open Access". The slides were identified in iPhoto but created from PowerPoint source files.)

This brings up some nice repository challenges
  • managing packages and components simultaneously, even when the components can't have an independent existence. Slides can't exist outside a presentation in the same way that paragraphs can't exist outside a document or cells outside a spreadsheet.
  • visualising huge amounts of data. Being able to scroll through dozens of presentations at once is incredibly liberating, compared to opening them individually and watching PowerPoint draw the slide sorter previews v..e..r..y.....s..l..o..w...l....y at a choice of three sizes.
  • PowerPoint, like RSS, is a rather nice packaging format that could be used much more often by repositories. How about saving your search results as a powerpoint presentation?


  1. Thanks for the the excellent post; the concept of the desktop repository manager is a meme that has been bouncing around (seems like) for quite a while, and I can't understand why it has yet to be realized.

    As you say, it is a paradigm we are very familiar with. Whether it is image management (you and my family use iPhoto, while I am devoted to Picasa!) or source code control (my team uses SVN for everything, me via TortoiseSVN), we all seem to "feel" this is right.

    NOTE: One of the cool things about Picasa is the ability to mix and match local resources (images) in different web albums. Seems like this would be a cool way to re-use specific slides in new presentations (which even SlideShare doesn't give you, AFAIK)

  2. Interesting idea. Are you still using this method?
    How are you generating the image of each slide and populating it with the EXIF info?