I N T R O D U C T I O N
From Blade Technologies principal Jason Purcell:
ThumbCuffs was a stand-alone program that managed and encrypted ThumbsPlus databases and application settings.
I became aware of the need for ThumbCuffs via my frequent lurking in Cerious Software's Usenet groups. Over time, I took note of a few complaints regarding distinct symptomatic problems that appeared to me could all be solved by a unified solution. Many of these issues seem to boil-down to a single gripe: Although ThumbsPlus maintained a separate "database settings" file per database that was distinct from the application/user settings file, these distraught Usenet posters firmly believed that a number of items in the latter belonged in the former.
Additionally, a couple of people were unhappy that both database and user settings were stored in plain text, so that anyone (or any program) could easily see a list of most-recently used databases, files, folders, file masks (filters), searches, and — at the time — keywords (though I believe keywords have since been migrated to database storage).
ThumbCuffs fixed these problems by maintaining separate user settings files per database, or even per database/per user. I called these separate settings profiles. Profiles could be created from scratch, based on the user's current ThumbsPlus settings, or copied from another profile.
Instead of launching ThumbsPlus, the user would launch ThumbCuffs, select the desired profile, enter a cipher key if they chose to have the database and settings encrypted when not in-use, and click the "Launch" button. ThumbCuffs would decrypt the archived database and settings files, move them to the place that ThumbsPlus expected to find them, and launch ThumbsPlus.
ThumbCuffs would detect when ThumbsPlus was shut down or had (sadly) crashed, re-encrypt the database and settings files, and move them back to the archive directory. When ThumbsPlus wasn't running — or when it was running but hadn't been launched via ThumbCuffs — absolutely no unencrypted Thumbsplus data remained on disk. While hardly a perfect solution, it was pretty slick, and seemed to make people happy.
D E V E L O P M E N T
Though I'd been working in .NET since its 2001 betas and had used it for a considerable number of personal projects and experiments, 2004's ThumbCuffs marked the first time I counted on it to make money. I didn't expect much — I knew the number of people who considered inadequate the ThumbsPlus way of handling databases and settings was limited.
In fact, this was one of the reasons I targeted this need for my first commercial .NET project: I had just became a full-time, self-employed engineer again for the first time in nine years, was working alone, and had other jobs, so I didn't want the potential of big support problems on a newborn programming platform. This project was limited both in scope and risk.
As I remember it, the primary development hassle was identifying which installation track the user chose during ThumbsPlus installation: "Shared database / shared user settings," "shared database/separate user settings," or "all files in a single location," compounded by the knowledge that multiple databases were often utilized in each case.
L E G A C Y A N D P O S T - M O R T E M
Contrary to my fears, ThumbCuffs was the lowest-maintenance application I've ever distributed. Outside of a machine-specific problem installing .NET, there were no issues whatsoever until Windows Vista with its User Account Control debuted years later. I made some modifications to deal with that development, and since then haven't heard from a single user.
I never actively marketed the product, only offering it to affected users I found on Usenet. I intended to speak with Cerious in hopes of either convincing them to work my functionality into ThumbsPlus or else offering ThumbsCuffs as a companion product on their web site, but as has happened so often I became so busy with other projects that this one fell by the wayside.
Lastly, a plug: I've been a ThumbsPlus user since V3 was relaeased in 1997. I've periodically evaluated ACDSee and other image managers, and though the best of them have their merits, I've never been compelled to abandon ThumbsPlus. Sure, I have a long, running list of feature requests and wished-for bug fixes I'd love to see implemented, and V8 was a veritable dumpster fire (I and many other users stuck to V7 for years after V8's release due to this disaster), but Thumbsplus is simply the best image manager available. If you need to annotate/categorize/search/de-duplicate/catalog an image collection of any substantial size, do yourself a favor and give ThumbsPlus a spin.