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Directory Opus - Essential Software


Might and nimble, Directory Opus is, no question, the best and most useful piece of software I've ever bought. 

I have used Directory Opus, daily, since my early teens - so - gulp! - that's for over 30 years now.  There's literally no other piece of software I've spent more time with.  First, long ago, on the legendary Amiga system (remember Deluxe Paint, anyone? So good!!). And now, for decades, on Windows PCs.    In this case, familiarity most definitely does NOT breed contempt.  I love Directory Opus.  

(The Directory Opus logo even has a floppy disk in it - a tribute to those halcyon Amiga days!)

I won't use a Windows PC without it, quite frankly (Opus let's you carry a portable version on a USB key - I keep a tiny USB key on my keyring - so you can just plug it in to any machine and have your entire setup with you wherever you go - easy as that!).  I simply couldn't add up all the hours of time it has saved me, these many years.

(NOTE: We've now arranged a special Directory Opus discount for friends of Image Science → see the end of the article for details!)

Directory Opus (AKA Dopus, or just Opus to us long time users) - is not wonderfully pretty. I guess you'd call it - utilitarian. 

But by golly it's powerful.

There are just so many tasks it makes easy, and so many other pieces of software it replaces, I consider it 'the missing part' of Windows. (Indeed, Opus is probably the main reason I even us Windows (in an industry where Macs are often seen as the preferable option). This is because it's so powerful and there's simply nothing that compares on other platforms. Sure, you can do most of the things Opus does, with a collection of other tools, it's just that Opus makes all these things so easy and so consistent. So it's easier to learn. And it's highly performant and responsive, too, even when dealing with very large numbers of very large files.

It's so simple you can install it and immediately you'll find it useful. But dig deeper - and you'll realise just how powerful it is.

Also - Opus is Australian made. That never hurts! And it certainly helps with support, should you ever need it.

In the industry we're in - the Visual Arts - good file management is a key part of effectively managing your workflow over the long term.

In the modern Visual Arts, your key assets are your digital files. I cannot tell you how many people would live happier, more productive work lives if they simply used better tools, and a small amount of discipline, to bring organisation to their workflow. Opus is simply the perfect tool for doing this.

Let's look at few things you can use Opus for, and at how many other pieces of software you just won't need anymore when you have one integrated, insanely powerful tool to do just about everything you would ever need to do with files!

So, let's run through some of the key things Opus can do to improve your workflow and make those mundane file management tasks easier and more efficient....

Opus Basics

(click to zoom) Opus in dual pane display mode....
(click to zoom) Opus in dual pane display mode....

Dual Pane Display

This is an absolute 'no brainer'.  A huge amount of file work is simply moving things around to create good structure.  A bit of discipline in your file structure will set you up for a more easy work process - for the rest of time.  It's a fundamental part of making it easy to find the things you need. 

Traditional file managers make even this basic task far more difficult than it needs to be - I mean 'cut and paste' for files is really just a stupid approach.

Opus supports a dual pane display - meaning you can have two folders open at once and drag and drop between them.  I mean, this is trivially obvious stuff, but neither the Finder on Mac or the File Explorer on PC really does this.  

In Opus you can have the two panes, organised vertically or horizontally, whichever you prefer.  Both panes can have a tree directory structure displayed, or just one, or neither.  Basically, if you can think of a way you want your two areas opened, Opus can do it.  And of course each pane can have a separate view - e.g. thumbnails, or the details view, etc.  If you don't like dual pane display, you can use tabs instead.  Or use both panes AND tabs - you can have tabs in either (or neither) pane!  It's infinitely flexible.

Above and beyond your two panes, you can have an image preview, and a metadata panel for the current file (e.g. camera EXIF data).  And you can edit the metadata quickly and easily right there if you want to, of course - no need for a separate tool or to fire up some sluggish beast of an application like your RAW converter.   (There's an example of this setup towards the bottom of the article where we talk about Media Viewing).

So pretty much no matter how you want to look at your files, Opus can do it.  And if you find yourself setting up particular views, you can save this view.  Each instance of Opus - and you can have as many as you like open at a time - is called a 'Lister'.  Any saved Lister is accessible with a right click the Opus icon - and it opens up exactly as you want and with the folders for each pane/tab/whatever, all pre-loaded and instantly ready to go.

Workflow Automation

Ok, a dual plane display is pretty obvious, and plenty of other tools let you do this. Nothing revolutionary here. But Opus goes much further and is enormously powerful.  

(This next bit is a bit wordy but bear with us, it's worth it!).

Let's consider a classic scenario - you have some works (stored in your master files) - that you now need to prepare to print at various sizes, and then, as orders come in, you need to actually print those files for your customers.

File Resizing:

First, you can use something like Photoshop actions to automate the creation of sized versions of your files. (Basically, Photoshop actions are macros - you just record a sequence of actions and then you can play these back over other files. Once you're used to this, they become an essential part of your toolkit and a massive time-saver!). Once you've created actions, you can then turn your Actions in to 'Droplets' - very handy little things that you can then just drop your files on to, and they will each get batch processed to whatever your action specifies.

Back in Opus you would create and save a Lister setup that has your master folder on the left, and your Action Droplets on the right. Then just drag and drop your files from one side to the other and wham bam you will have all your re-sized files created for you, just like that!

Actually Printing:

If you the excellent print software that is Mirage, you can do the same thing there - create droplets that automate your printing.  This is so good - all your settings (including all the fiddly stuff like colour management) - are saved in the droplet so you never have to worry about missing some setting and getting dodgy prints ever again.  Save another Lister for this, and once again you just drag what you need from left to right and before you know it the prints are flying out of your printer.

Need to convert some images from TIFF to JPEG?  Make some thumbnails for a website maybe?  No worries, Opus has all this built in.  Along with rotate/resize and so on.  You won't need an image editor for many of you basic day to day image operations.

So you can see - we can go from simple drag and drop to a complete workflow system!

You can save literally hours in your work day using these automation approaches - using Directory Opus as the 'master control system' for this

This is in fact exactly how we queue up print jobs here at Image this is a system that can scale all the way from a few files and a single user, right up to an efficient system for a very busy fine art print lab making hundreds of large prints every week!

Here's a concrete example to make this clearer:

First, we have the Opus 'Jump Menu' - accessed by right clicking on any Lister in the Windows task-bar. 

You can see various saved Listers - each of these is really a template for a workflow that I can open, then immediately begin to work with,.

Each saved Lister opens with exactly what I need in each pane, ready to go.  It's an enormous time saver.

And below is the actual workflow.  I've blurred out the names on the left (for privacy reasons), but behind the blur are  today's files, downloaded into folders per customer, all ready to print.

On the right hand side our the 'hot folders' for our RIP. 

Any file we then drag and drop from the left to the right will automatically be uploaded into our RIP and queued for printing. 

We have a huge number of these 'hot folder' queues - close to 1000 I think.  Initially a little tedious to set all this up, for sure (but Opus helped in many many ways when making all the folders, with the marvellous renaming tool you'll see below)....but once set up this is an amazingly efficient way to manage print processing!

Key Utilties


Batch renaming is easy but powerful.
Batch renaming is easy but powerful.

Another huge part of file management is renaming.  We all know what comes out of our cameras is generally pretty ridiculous.  It's pretty much impossible to mentally map '_1213143.cr2' to what is in the image.  So, even with great catalogue tools like Lightroom, you'll almost certainly find yourself renaming files at some point.  Or say you need to take a folder of images and rename them in to a particular order, as a sequence for a book, for example.  Opus makes this easy.

Opus has powerful batch renaming built in - so again, no need for a separate tool.  I've used a lot of those tools and frankly it's pretty embarrassing to those tools that Opus does this basic task even better than most dedicated tools.  You can use wild-cards, regular expression, add prefixes and suffixes, see previews of results, undo operations if you make a mistake, and even save your file renaming recipes to make repetitive renaming as efficient as possible.  It's both very easy to use, and (as ever with Opus), very powerful.  

Synchronisation and Backup

File synchronisation / Backups made easy...
File synchronisation / Backups made easy...

Directory Opus includes an excellent file synchronisation tool.  The destination can be other folders (local or network) - but you can also use things like S/FTP to synchronise your files to other servers.  Of course if you have 'Cloud Folders', you can use those too (and Opus naturally and nicely supports things like Dropbox, OneDrive etc).

Over the years I've tried many dedicated tools for backup (EaseUS, Syncback, Windows itself, Acronis etc etc) - and these days all I do is use Opus to synchronise important files to my cloud folders.  It's easy.  So easy that there's no mental burden to doing it regularly, and the result is a perfect copy-in-the-cloud with the exact structure I use, and therefore incredibly easy retrieval of any file, should things go wrong.  (I use Dropbox's 'packrat' system that also lets you rollback to previous versions of a file if I ever do stuff something up and save over something I need!).

Once again you can save your Lister & sync. set-ups to make this super fast - just open up the saved Lister, hit 'Compare', check it's going to do what you want and then hit 'Synchronise' - done.  Another complex task made easy by Opus.  

(Side note - despite managing some 20 machines between home and Image Science, I don't even back up operating system / program stuff any more - it's only the files I really want to make sure I keep.  If a computer falls over so badly that I'd need to restore an OS backup, I just re-install to a clean machine, re-configure (I save application settings and sync those to the cloud periodically too of course) - and add back my files from the cloud.  That way I get all the benefits of a clean, new machine and get all my files's only marginally more work and we all know that computers tend to run best when first installed...)

Batch File Moving/Copying

Copy queing can save hours with large file operations.
Copy queing can save hours with large file operations.

Re-organising things means shuffling them around.  Inevitably, a drive fills up, or some other reason comes along to move things around.  Most of us have machines with a bunch of drives in them (which as I hope you know is the key recipe for a screaming fast imaging computer).  I have libraries with literally hundreds of folders and hundreds of thousands of sub-folders and files in them.  I suppose by now, many people do.

So, copying and moving is a common task.  Opus again replaces other tools here.  It has an excellent in-built queuing system to prevent drive thrashing.  Say you want to copy a bunch of folders from one drive to another - so you drag and drop each one over to the new drive.  If you do this with File Explorer, you'll then see each transfer operation start but soon slow to a crawl as all these jobs compete for the computer's attention.  Drives can only read/write one file at once, so all these operations happening at the same time are competing for the same resource.  This can mean your copies proceed dramatically slower, as the computer spends time switching between each task, in a crazy, inefficient round robin.   

Not so with Opus - it automatically detects this scenario, and creates a copy queue (which you can see, re-order, cancel parts of individually etc - all very easily and with a great interface).  This means the job are not run in parallel, which creates the problem, but sequentially - each one at full speed.  I've tested this, and it can make a massive difference in the total time to copy a large amount of folder/files.  Like, literally orders of magnitude faster than doing the same thing with File Explorer.  It's genius (and, onmce again, replaces old tools like Teracopy etc. that used to offer this).

Find Duplicates

Order from Chaos - find duplicates easily...
Order from Chaos - find duplicates easily...

Anyone with a large library of files - and what Visual Artist doesn't match that description?! - knows that inevitably some file duplication will probably occur.  Of course it wastes space, but these days space is cheap.  The big problem with this is confusion.  Which is the file I wanted?  Are those two files really the same?  Maybe I should jsut keep both, jut in case.  And before you know it, you're making a third working copy, just to be sure.

Opus can find all these duplicates for you, and super quickly.  Heck, it can even search inside of archive files for duplicates!  It can compare not just at the filename and size level, but can even compare the actual file contents to make sure they're truly exact duplicates (uses MD5 signatures, for the technically minded).    So even if you've named the same file two different ways, Opus will find it.

Just one more amazing tool to help you keep on top of your file chaos!

Filtering / Sorting / Grouping

Any file view in Opus is filterable.  Just start typing and Opus will filter the list of files in front of you instantly.   Use wildcards etc.  Once you get used to this, it becomes just so much quicker to find the file you want from a big list of files.

Of course, you can sort anyway you like.  And you can add just about any column you like to the file view - want to sort photos by metadata?  How about the F-Stop you used because you're writing an article on depth of field? 

Opus makes this trivial - you don't even have to fire up your RAW catalogue.   Just a add a column in Opus (which is as easy as  'Right Click -> Columns -> Picture Metadata -> F-Number). 

You can also create Flat Views - which show you the folder structure and what files are in each folder - I find this super handy when I need to send a list of files and folders to someone.

Archive Support (Zip, RAR, etc)

Windows has had built in archiving support for ages now, but it's clunky, doesn't support many archive types, chokes on very large files, and is just generally slow and shabby.  Of course there are better tools (even free ones like 7-zip,which is excellent) - but once again Directory Opus comes to the rescue and removes the need for a separate tool.

Opus has comprehensive archive support (natively or via a large array of seamless plugins) - and I haven't need any other tool for any archive related task in more than a decade.  Creating archives is trivial, as is previewing and/or extracting them.  And as ever it's as fast as any dedicated tool I've used.

Previews and Viewing Media

Opus has a very fast in-built image viewer (which even supports colour management for JPG and PNGs - it would be nice to see this expanded to TIFF/PSD, but the existing implementation works for most things). 

For quick previewing, you probably won't need anything like ACDSee, IrfanView, or whatever is popular these days.  I do all of that in Opus - and if I need more I've got Bridge/Photoshop/Lightroom for 'serious' image work, of course.

Opus (either natively or using plugins) - can preview just about every file format there is, be it image, document, video, music, or something else.  You can set it up so that when you click on any particular folder it instantly displays that folder just the way you want, complete with your media previews.

Opus showing colour managed thumbnails & large preview, complete with (editable) metadata...
Opus showing colour managed thumbnails & large preview, complete with (editable) metadata...

There's More!!

So Much More!

Even after all this, I have truly barely even scratched the surface of what Opus can do. All the above is just core, day to day functionality - but wonderfully implemented, so easy to use, and always fast.

If you're not sure yet, Opus has a 60 day trial period.  Plenty of time to explore all it can offer!  (But don't forget to come back to us for the discount code when you decide to go ahead!  See below!)

Everything is completely configurable - folder views, every menu, button, toolbar, hot keys, favourites, etc.  it can all be tweaked to 'just so'.   There's also an undo list, folder/file size tools, check-summing, list printing, etc. etc.  (And, it all works perfectly on 4k/High DPI monitors too, of course - no fuzzy fonts or low quality icons here!).

Opus of course totally replaces File Explorer (which I haven't even started in years now, it's so useless) - and can even be used as a program launcher too (create buttons for all your favourite programs and never see the Windows desktop again, if you like!).  You can live in Opus, if you want to!    And the amazing thing is, despite all this power, it's not complicated.  Even my in-laws - not computer whizzes at all - swear by it.  You can be up and running with all the basic functionality immediately, then explore the more powerful stuff at your leisure.   From top to bottom it's a wonderful considered piece of software. 

There's plugins a plenty, extensive scripting support, comprehensive S/FTP support if you do work with web servers etc.  It it's file related, Opus probably does it already, and the folks at GPSoftware are always adding new things - and are also always on top of OS updates etc.  If ever you're stuck or want to dig in to something powerful, there's a resource centre and forum with plenty of enthusiastic users, and the Opus staff, to help out.

Basically, if you use Windows PC, you just have to use Opus.  At only AUD $89 (full price for a single license - see below for a discount!) - it's just a ridiculously good value bargain.  It's an essential purchase that will pay for itself in times saved in no time at all.  (The only thing we don't like about it is that it's not available for the Mac, or Linux.  And sadly there's nothing on those platforms that comes anywhere close, either!)

Image Science Discount!

As we've known the Opus folks for some years now, and have recommended many an Image Science customer to them, they've offered a special deal for Image Science customers.

Just send us an email and we can send you a magic link that will give you an immediate 10% off your Directory Opus purchase!

(We recommend you go for the Pro version as lot of we what we mention above is only in the Pro edition.  Add export to USB key if you want to be able to use it on any machine, and the S/FTP support if you use that!).