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An Interview with Steffen Setzer

In this interview, Steffen discusses Canto Cumulus.


Steffen Setzer Steffen Setzer is Director of Marketing at Canto. Canto is a leading supplier ofdigital asset management solutions and has been dedicated to helpingcustomers fully utilize their digital assets since 1990. In this interview, Steffen discusses Canto Cumulus, a cross-platform solution that enables companies to easily organize, find, share, and track their ever-increasing numbers of photos, illustrations, presentations, video, audio, layouts and more.

Geetesh: Tell us more about the evolution of the Canto Cumulus platform.

Canto Steffen: Canto Cumulus started out many, many years ago as a desktop application geared toward photographers. Its evolutionary milestones include the move to a multi-user system, the move to support multiple platforms, and the release of a set of extremely powerful Web clients. Maintaining good, solid relationships with technology partners like Microsoft, Apple, Quark and Adobe have enabled us to support those systems and applications in the ways users expect, and to provide the real "bridge" users need to maintain control over all those assets--regardless of origin. Some of what has influenced the direction of Cumulus comes from what we see happening in the industry. For example, as the competition between Quark and Adobe heated up, we knew we had to continue to improve our support for both, because users were going to get caught in the middle. Likewise at the operating system level: Apple, Microsoft, Sun and the Linux Foundation are never going to be too concerned with users on other platforms, but we are. An early goal for Cumulus to provide a "platform agnostic" approach to file management, and that's what we have today.

Geetesh: How does one get started with implementing Canto Cumulus in an organization? What are the prerequisites, and how long is the learning curve?

Steffen: One of the greatest strengths of Cumulus when compared to other systems is how easy and forgiving it is to new users. No previous training or certifications are necessary and the initial installation really is an easy, standard double-click software installation. Immediately after installation, users can start cataloging assets. Once the system is up and running, configuration changes and such can be made without taking it offline, or even requiring users to log out. Even better, no configuration changes are dangerous, because anything can be undone or fixed later. This enables Cumulus administrators to experiment with configurations until they get exactly what they need.

The learning curve for users depends a lot on the configuration of the system. Cumulus offers a lot of power, so it's possible to provide users with so many choices, they become overwhelmed. But, it's easy for Cumulus administrators to limit what each user sees so that their experience is streamlined and totally in sync with how they do their work..

Geetesh: Version 7.6 adds support for the new PPTX file format in both cataloging and export. Can you tell us more about these improvements specific to PowerPoint?

Steffen: First off, Cumulus supports all file types, so MS Office is included in that lot. But it also offers advanced support for Office, which enables it to do things like extract the contents of Word files into searchable metadata fields, and also grab the metadata users enter from within the Office applications.

But the best news Cumulus offers Office users is that you won't find better support for PowerPoint in any DAM system! For starters, every Cumulus system comes with a free PowerPoint add-in that provides Cumulus-direct access right from within PowerPoint. This makes it really easy for PowerPoint users to get cataloged images and slides from Cumulus. Cumulus can also catalog each slide in a presentation into its own record. This means that each slide can have its own metadata, and is searchable directly. In other words, you can search for specific content on a slide and find that slide, instead of just the presentation it's in. (Of course, you can find the presentation too.)

Cumulus also knows how to work with PowerPoint to create brand new presentations and, Cumulus can even create PowerPoint 2007 presentations when PowerPoint isn't even on the user's computer. This makes it possible, for example, to use a Web browser to search for slides and images and create brand new presentations over the Web. Users can even choose a master slide and layout to be used in the new presentation. Cumulus can also convert images and other asset formats, including PDF, into PowerPoint slides and presentations.

Geetesh: How does Canto Cumulus compare to Microsoft's own Expression Media product? I do notice that Canto's offering provides PowerPoint integration that is absent in the latter product. Can you share your thoughts?

Steffen: There are a number of applications out there that work nicely for individual users--Expression Media is one of them. But these applications lack the features needed for collaborative development, including precise permissions, check-in/out, and automation for notification, file processing, etc. I think the comparison between these applications and Cumulus stems from the days when Canto offered a single-user version of Cumulus. But these days, there's really no comparison anymore. In addition, Cumulus focuses on cross-platform support. It's typical for other companies to focus on one OS or another--especially a company that makes one of those operating systems.

Geetesh: Is there anything you want to share with Indezine readers? Some trivia, an unconventional case study of Canto Cumulus, or anything you want to add at the close of this interview?

Steffen: Sure! To give your readers a sense of how long Canto Cumulus has been in this market, consider this: When Cumulus 1.0 shipped, the main feature it offered was thumbnails, which was a huge hit, because the operating system didn't even support them! It's a been a long haul, and Canto has always managed to stay ahead of competitors and the makers of the operating systems on which we run. Apple and Microsoft have recently made strong pushes toward the integration of metadata on the OS level, but they're still many years behind where Cumulus was many years ago. They have, however, brought to light how important metadata and digital asset management have become. Your readers likely know this better than many others!

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