April 15, 2009

Image Resizer Powertoy Clone for Windows: The First Year

Last Saturday was the one year anniversary of my Image Resizer Powertoy Clone for Windows project. I thought it would be fun to talk about some of the project's highlights of the past year.

A few years ago, my mother asked me if there was an easier way to resize photos. My dad had walked her through the steps of doing it one picture at a time through Photoshop, but that was such a tedious process. I, being the wonderful sun that I am, introduced her to Microsoft's Image Resizer Powertoy for Windows XP. A few years later however, she decided to get a new laptop with Windows Vista. She, like myself and so many others, was disappointed to find that the Powertoy would no longer work. Thus, I set off to change the world (or at least the world of image resizing).

The first step, as any great developer knows, was to see if it had already been done. There were a few other tools out there, but none of them really stood up to the original. I decided to develop it in C#/.NET (mostly I was just curious to see if it was even possible). I immediately hit a dead end. After a few weeks of searching however, I found an article that talked about Windows Shell Extension in C#. The article was bit dated, but using the MSDN articles I was able to get it working.
I decided to post the project on SourceForge.net because of the hard time I had finding examples of .NET Shell Extensions. Well, that and I knew that if I had any chance of it becoming popular, I would need a big name like SourceForge to help. I also knew that to succeed, people had to be able to find the thing. The name, I decided, needed to be as close to the original's as possible. So I took the original, "Image Resizer Powertoy for Windows XP," dropped the "XP" (as it no longer applied), and added the word "Clone" (to avoid getting sued by Microsoft). The final step of the release was getting it to show up on search engines. I posted a Digg article titled Image Resizer PowerToy for Windows Vista to hopefully spark some online gossip. Sure enough, the download counts started growing, and I slowly moved up the page on search results.
A couple months after the initial release, I got my first user-submitted issue. Earthclimate asked me to please maintain metadata. He discovered that, after resizing an image, all the metadata (e.g. date taken, tags, rating, camera type, f-stop, ISO settings, etc.) disappeared. I immediately fixed this and released the bits. Isn't open source wonderful?
The next major spike in downloads, I attribute to a blog post and YouTube upload about my project by PCWizKid. The month Windows Vista - Free Image Resizer was posted, I saw a 200% jump in downloads.
With more popularity comes more scrutiny. Rshelq submitted an issue regarding the application's poor image quality. Together, we optimized the resizing process to produce an image that was, according to rshelq, better than the software which I set out to clone. With the new changes came another 25% jump in downloads. The biggest jump in downloads, however, came in December. From November to December, there was a 100% jump (I know, 100 is smaller than 200 but these are increases in the number of downloads per month, not just increases in the number of downloads). Since December, the project has averaged about one download every six minutes!
One of the most frequent complaints I received was that my application didn't work on 64-bit editions of Windows. After seven months, I decided it was time to tackle the beast. After days and days of digging and hundreds of dollars later (What, I'm not going to blog that I pirated my copy of Windows Vista 64-bit), I decided that Windows Shell Extensions, written in .NET, don't work on 64-bit editions of Windows simply because: the coding gods forbid it. Yes, this is the most logical explanation I have. Despite everything being in place so that it should work, it just doesn't. So I did what I always do when I get stuck on a project: I started over from scratch. For the second version, I decided to listen when they said to never write Shell Extensions in .NET, and I did it the right way -- in good ol' C++. This was a fun experience; it had been nearly three years since I last touched C++, and I had to relearn pretty much everything about the language. I had also never done WIN32 or COM development (cryptic technologies that have been around for ages). However, using my amazing ability to learn new things (or maybe just my amazing ability to sift through pages and pages of dry technical documentation), I was able to get it working. There are still a few things left to do before I consider version 2.0 done (like proper error handling, and scrapping the dependency on MFC which adds nearly 12 MB to the download), but the Beta seems to be flourishing well with over 16,000 downloads (2,500 of which are for the 64-bit edition).
So, in celebration of a great first year, I want to thank everyone who has helped contribute to the success of this little project. So far, the project has been downloaded over 50,000 times! If you're interested in contributing, you can do so by spreading the word (like all those awesome bloggers out there who make my project look sexy), submitting a feature request or bug report, or simply by downloading and using it. The project, which was migrated to CodePlex due to the degrading quality of SourceForge's services, can be found at PhotoToysClone.CodePlex.com. Enjoy, and happy resizing!


Mark said...

That's really great Brice. Congrats on become so popular!

Dale Coop said...


Very good project. Could you add multi-language support to your project, in next releases? (for the non-english users)


Brice said...

Great suggestion, Dale. I was actually thinking the same thing just last night. Multi-language support would be another enhancement that my clone would have over the original.

I have created a new work item on the project's page for this request:

Now I just need to find some volunteer translators...

Anonymous said...

Hi, just wanted to say that after upgrading to windows 7, I was really frustrated with not being able to do a simple resize of pictures I had taken and then add them to emails the way I used to do it. Well I stumbled onto Brice's simple resizer and have been using it almost every day since 10/12/2012. I absolutely love it and want to thank him for giving us non tech people a fantastic simple way to resize. Thank You Brice and good luck in everything you do. Snohomish WA