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The Slacker's Guide - Order From Chaos: Delicious Library

by Chris Barylick
November 18th, 2005

In what could be called one of my more foolish life choices, I've decided to move to a new apartment. For anyone who's been through this, this is closely akin to waking up and deciding to perform interpretive dance in the middle of rush hour traffic. There is nothing sane about the process and anyone who's become adept at it has only done so due to experience from the thousands of things that can go wrong.

Still, it's a better apartment and with graduate school over, the time has come to say goodbye to my near-campus gulag, complete with less than 200 square feet of space.

Now comes the fun part: putting everything into some kind of order. After combing through a tangle of old books, CDs, DVDs, comic books, video games and old VHS tapes (they're more categorized by pile, if anything), I decided to listen to the publicity that's generated around Delicious Library, give this program a shot.


Delicious Library's main screen.

So far, the program has worked better than I ever could have hoped. Delicious Library, a program by Delicious Monster, is a small shareware application designed around categorization of literally everything with an ISBN number/bar code. These numbers, which are applicable to books, movies, games and magazines, are run across an Amazon.com database, which returns full pictures, descriptions, summaries, ratings, selling prices and other relevant bits of information regarding the item. Like Apple's iPhoto interface, the item is then grouped on a virtual "shelf" which the user can then double click to bring up a full profile of the item. What begins as a random pile becomes a carefully organized database with none of the typing or cross referencing that typically goes into creating a catalog.


Pulling up item details in Delicious Library.

Combine this with additional features such as direct hooks into Amazon.com's seller accounts (don't need that VHS copy of "Spartacus"? A few clicks can bring you to the seller's page provided you've set the account up already).

To scan, simply use a USB, Bluetooth or FireWire scanner and you're off. For those of you looking to get a bit more out of your iSight, just click on the camera icon, make sure the iSight's preview screen comes up (it's a grayscale image with several small scanner lines running horizontally across it), then grab the first item you'd like to scan and you're ready to go. For best results, try a room with plenty of ambient lighting and use the preview screen to gauge how both the item and the iSight should be held. It's a little tricky at first, but there's no mistaking the classic checkout-style beep when an item has been scanned correctly and Delicious Library is running the number through Amazon for a match.

Once a match has been found, the program will speak the item's title in a voice that blends both Majel Barrett's voice as the computer in the various Star Trek series with Hal 9000, yet is perfect for the task at hand; it gets your attention and there's no mistaking it.

Delicious Library also hooks into additional system tools such as iCal and Mac OS X's internal address book. Add a user as a borrower and then drag an item from your shelves to that user and the item will be identified as on loan with a return date that can be sent within iCal. Once the return date arrives, iCal's alarm function can indicate that it's time to ask for the item back as well as provide future reminders. Like iPhoto and iTunes, custom groups can be set up for both multiple users and to help categorize items by user preferences. Similar to creating a new album in iPhoto, users can create additional shelves to categorize their items and organize their inventory from there.

As strange, original and practical as any shareware title currently on the market, Delicious Monster has created an absolutely killer application worth its $40 license fee, even with the casual use that organizing items for a move has provided for it. And even if building the world's most intricate and well-organized catalog of your possessions isn't your goal, the program is simply fun to use.

Somewhat akin to the food-pellet idea of user feedback, scanning loose items becomes something of a hobby as you're doing something else and easter eggs like a Yoda voice when a Star Wars book or game is scanned or a hissing of the word "Voldemort" when a Harry Potter item is inserted make the program geeky and fun. Almost perfectly co-branded along with Amazon's services, the seller features help the user to quickly put a loose item on sale for anyone who might want it, which is as far as the program can go without actually clearing out additional space in your home and depositing a small profit in your bank account.

Delicious Library is a 10.6 MB download that requires only 15.2 megabytes of hard disk space once installed. The program requires Mac OS X 10.3 or later to run.

That wraps things up for this week. If you've seen anything new or interesting in the Mac universe, please e-mail me.

Chris Barylick covers games for The Mac Observer, and has written for Inside Mac Games, MacGamer, UPI, the Washington Post, and other publications.

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