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Coolect’s $40 price tag may sound steep in an era when one expects free software, like Picasa. But people with a lot of material to document and browse – family histories, antique collections, home video libraries, and scrapbooks – will find the investment worth it.

In another, related arena, a new and compelling set of online media-sharing services is emerging. They’re led by Flickr, a Yahoo-owned site where photographers can upload their images, network with other members, and “tag” their images with keywords that allow others to find them more easily. Given the speed with which Web-based software is overtaking PC-based software in other areas, I expect that services like Flickr and the blogger-building site Blogger will soon begin to merge with desktop programs like Picasa and Coolect, making it easier to share personal media collections with others and enhance online identities.

One thing’s for sure: we’ve come a long way since the time – not so long ago, most of us would have to admit – when we squirreled away our old photo prints and negatives in shoeboxes or fading, plastic-covered albums. Today’s photo software helps anyone organize and enjoy personal images, and, if one likes, assemble them into an ever-expanding digital life record. Today, we may have to deal with an overload of images. But increasingly it’s a worthwhile tradeoff.

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