Reviews: Archive Creator (v1.1.1)


Towards the end of 2002, I sat down to scan about 1,000 slides using my Nikon ED IV film scanner. Each scanned file was 34Mb in size (with Digital Ice applied). That's 34,000Mb worth of files. Several weeks later, I got up and had a cup of tea, sat back down again and then worked out how to backup all of those files onto CDs. This meant figuring out how many files would fit onto each CD and trying to keep track of which files I had copied onto what, over the course of a couple of weeks. Now the copying-to-CD process wasn't quite as bad as the scanning part (that's a completely different story...) but it was prone to error and not particularly exciting to do. If only I'd known about Archive Creator from Pictureflow...

Remember floppy disks? Too young to remember them?! Well, because their storage capacity was so small, you often had to copy your data onto several disks, which involved a process called spanning. As the data was copied across, your PC would prompt you to insert a new floppy disk when the current one was full. At the end of this process you were left with a set of floppy disks with your data spanned across them.

Archive Creator uses a similar principle, but applies it to CDs (and to DVDs as well in the soon to be released Version 2). To combine the two examples that I've already used, my 1,000 scanned slides are the data that I want to copy, and CD is the modern-day equivalent of the floppy disk. Archive Creator takes the data and works out for you how many CDs you need and how many files fit onto each CD. It then prompts you to insert new CDs throughout the copying process, as and when they fill up. All you have to do is periodically check how Archive Creator is doing and pop-in a blank CD when requested.

In addition to this, Archive Creator creates a HTML-based index file for the data that you are copying. In the case of photographs, the HTML page contains thumbnails and links to larger JPEG versions of all the images that you are copying, and is automatically launched when you insert the CD. You can choose to copy the index file onto just the first CD of the set, or all of the CDs (recommended). So you only need to have a Web browser installed to be able to view the contents of the CD.


5 stars
(out of 5 stars)

At the time of writing, Archive Creator costs $40, and there is a trial version that you can download to check that your CD-burner works with the program (this is recommended by Picture Flow here). The trial version is limited in that you can only burn the first CD of a multi-CD set until you register the product.

Full pricing details can be found here:


4 stars
(out of 5 stars)

These are the key features of Archive Creator (as listed on the PictureFlow website):

  • Archive Creator is so simple to use that you will actually archive your files on a regular basis, which in the end is the most critical aspect of the program.
  • Archive Creator automatically spans your Archive Set across multiple CDs.
  • Archive Creator can automatically create an HTML Web-Style Gallery that is written to each of the CDs in the Archive Set.
  • Archive Creator creates the HTML "Web Style" Index even from most RAW image files automatically with no conversion software required (Canon, Nikon and others).
  • The Archive Set CDs each have the entire Archive Set HTML Index on them. So you can view and find a file even if it is not on the CD you have in the drive. In other words, if the Archive Set is made up of 4 CDs, and you are later viewing CD#2, you can view the images from all 4 CDs, right from CD#2!
  • You can preview images during the selection process by clicking on them...even most RAW file types.
  • Simple 3-Step operation...Select Files, Process File Set, Burn CDs.

Archive Creator can deal with most of the file types on your hard-drive; click here for the full list. If you use a Digital SLR, such as a Nikon D100 or Fuji S2, then Archive Creator has no problems in reading and archiving the proprietary RAW files that these cameras produce. The program can also create thumbnail preview images for most file types, so that you can see which files you are archiving before you archive them.

The icing on the cake is the automatic generation of a HTML index page which allows you to quickly see what is stored on a CD that has been created with Archive Creator. This simple HTML page should ensure that you never lose your valuable photos again, unless you lose the CD of course!

I haven't been able to find an equivalent product to Archive Creator, so you need to consider the feature list that it offers and decide if it will improve your workflow. Does the program fill a gap in the market, or do you think it is superfluous to how you operate? If you don't regularly backup your files, then maybe you will ignore this program now, but I bet you'll be back after you've inadvertently deleted some files...

Ease of Use

5 stars
(out of 5 stars)

The Archive Creator interface is divided into 4 main stages which you complete in turn (click the thumbnail image to open a full-sized screenshot):

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The Setup page allows you to select the files that you want to archive using the Windows Explorer-like tree, and choose the settings for the archive set and the HTML index file. There is also a file preview window which shows a thumbnail image of the currently selected file.

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The Process page will automatically begin processing the files that you selected on the Setup page. Archive Creator clearly tells you how many CDs are required for the new archive set and how many files have been processed in total. You can also preview the HTML index file at this stage.

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The Burn page only becomes available when you have completed the Setup and Process stages. You can choose to burn all of the CDs in the Archive set, or just burn selected CDs, and you can also alter the CD Burning Options. During the CD burning process, Archive Creator tells you exactly what's its doing in the Progress panel; the fact that you are kept very well informed is one of the program's main strengths.

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The optional Verify page allows you to check the integrity of the data on a CD, even if it wasn't originally created using Archive Creator! So if you have some previously archived files, you can use Archive Creator to check that the CDs still work. You don't have to verify your archived files, but it's a good idea to do at least a quick check before you remove the files from your hard drive.

(Click to enlarge in a new window)

HTML Index

This is a sample screenshot of the HTML index file that Archive Creator produces.


4 stars
(out of 5 stars)

If you've currently got gigabytes of photos or data stored on your hard drive, then you should definitely consider archiving your files in some way, before the inevitable hard-drive failure happens and you lose everything. Believe me, it's a horrible feeling when you realise that you've just lost a few months worth of photographs, all because you were too lazy to backup your files regularly.

Archive Creator makes this potentially tedious and error-prone process a whole lot easier if you have a CD burner. All you have to do is select the files and insert blank CDs when prompted! How much easier could it be? Add the HTML index file into the mix, which ingeniously lets you see what's on each CD on any computer with a web browser, and you're left with a compelling answer to all your archiving needs.

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