This post isn't really about Extensis Portfolio, iView or Lightroom - it's really another of my despairing rants - but today I was asked about getting metadata out of Portfolio and into something like iView or Lightroom.

The direct answer is that Portfolio lets you sync the metadata into jpeg and tif files, but for other file types your options are limited to using Portfolio's text file export. If your new program has a text import feature, then you can export all your data out of Portfolio and import it into the other program. Unfortunately, neither iView nor Lightroom has text file import - silly because migration inwards might make it easier to win new customers….

The other main route is via scripting, and this can be done in a number of ways:

  • A Portfolio script might generate xmp sidecars, which iView or Lightroom can read. This won't work if you want to move to the Mac-limited Aperture because, though some tout its DAM features as being better than the competition, it can't read xmp metadata in sidecars or if it's embedded in the image.
  • Script Portfolio and iView in tandem, so the script reads each Portfolio item and updates the corresponding item in iView. This method won't work with Lightroom because although it is marketed as “professional”, it doesn't support scripting. It might work with Aperture, but I don't know its scripting interface well enough to say.
  • Export Portfolio's text file and then read it in a script that updates iView - this might even be adopted to update the SQL database behind Lightroom. Essentially this last method was how I got from Portfolio to iView, importing the text file into Excel and using its scripting engine to update iView.

In short, nothing is as easy as it should be. Thinking back, I used to do a lot of data migration of big financial accounting systems and 5+ years ago almost all of them had better text file import facilities than DAM packages which, after all, are designed for left brained Mac fanboys who really need help with big words like metadata. It's as if DAM software vendors think your archive's worthless, or you wouldn't mind re-entering all those captions and keywords. Come to think of it, the DAM program with the best text import features is probably… Portfolio.