Current Version as of 11/16/07 = .5

[This is one of my early programs and really isn't done, but I thought I'd post it in case someone had a use for it. Most of the issues are overcome by simply restarting the program between searches.]

PictureThis is a goofy little program I wrote to downoad and make collages out of images people post on Craigslist. Glimpse into the collective unconscious as channeled by the users of Craigslist... Karl Jung would be proud.

The collage making process is intentionally slow so you can watch the images being placed on a fullscreen canvas. Make sure to experiment with the fullscreen views...

I've since added the ability to make collages out of pics on your harddrive or pics on Google Images. And it can make movies out of the collage making process, because we're cool like that.

How to use it:

Download it, install it, run it, and you should be looking at something like the window below. To search Craigslist, choose the city you'd like to search, the category (leave it blank to make it random), what search terms (leave it blank to search the whole category), and how many ads you'd like to search. And note the checkbox at the bottom: craigslist is awash in pictures of erect penises, checking that attempts to spare you the horror. (Note: I just realized it's not working very well and restricts too many pics, so be aware that it might cut way down on your search results). Click the screenshot to see it at full size.



In the above example we're searching the first 300 ads of the ever-interesting Rants & Raves category in San Francisco. After you you click Go it starts downloading pictures and you should see the image viewer screen, which looks like this:

I know the interface needs work, but one thing to note: that slider thing above the picture isn't a progress indicator, it's more of a jog wheel type thing that navigates through the pictures. Put it at dead center and the pictures pause, put it a little to the right and they start to go forward one by one, put it left of center and they go backwards one by one. The farther from center, the faster the images go. And you can use your mouse wheel to control it too. Once you get the hang of it it works well. And note that you can click the picture to open the ad it came from.

Also note that all the pictures are saved to a folder called /pics. So if you installed PictureThis to c:\program files\picturethis, which is the default, you can find all the pictures in c:\program files\picturethis\pics. Secret tip: if you're ever looking at a pic and want to know what ad it came from, look at the jpeg comment or exif data...


After each picture is downloaded it's also added to an on-the-fly collage. In the screenshot above note the "Show Collage on Monitor 1" button... Click that to launch a fullscreen window that will look like this (and click ESC to close the window):

As new pictures are downloaded they're added to the collage, all nice and purdy like. All the collages are saved in a folder called /collages. So if you installed PictureThis to c:\program files\picturethis, the collages would be at c:\program files\picturethis\collages.

If you have more than one monitor you can launch the collage as a full-screen window on one of those other monitors. And extra super coolio feature: under Preferences note two options: "Make Multi Monitor Collage" and "Launch Collage Spanning All Monitors". This is experimental, but what it does is create a collage that's as big as all your monitors, and when you launch that collage viewer it will try to be full-screen on all your monitors. Tip: works better if all the monitors are set to the same resolution.


Since the collage building process looks so cool, PictureThis can also convert the whole collage creation process to an AVI movie when you choose File --> Convert Collage to Movie. Note that you have to let the collage build up for awhile first since it creates a movie out of whatever has already been downloaded. Here's a movie of the above collage being created. If you don't see the video you'll need to install the free DivX codec. And warning, definitely some un-worksafe images in this video, maybe even unsafe in general.


You can also search google images, pretty self explanatory, works just like searching Craigslist. I know I need to add more options here, but such is life.


Yes you can also make collages of pics on your harddrive. File --> Add Directory of Pics to Collage Queue. Note that if you're already collaging something else, it'll mix the pictures on your harddrive with the pics from the web search. Also note that by default it searches all sub-directories for pictures as well, so it can take a moment to find pictures, which will freeze the gui temporarily. And goofy quirk: when choosing a directory, you have to click a file in that directory before clicking "ok", you'll see what I mean.

Here's a movie of a bunch of Photoboof pics being added to a collage.

Here's a screenshot of the File menu:

"New Session" = create a new session, which means create a new folder for your pictures, a new collage, clear the download queue, and put you back at the search screen. You don't need to do this every time you launch PictureThis since it does that automatically when you first launch it.

"Show Pics Directory" = show the directory where all your pictures are being saved.

"Show Collages Directory" = show the directory where your collages are saved.

"Show Movies Directory" = show the directory where your movies are. It'll be empty if you havn't manually created any.

"Add Directory of Pics to Collage Queue" = add a folder from your harddrive to be collaged. Note that by default it searches all subdirectories too. And small bug: it freezes the gui while it's adding pics because I'm too lazy to move the process to a separate thread.

"Clear Collage Queue" = clears the list of pics to be added to the collage. Especially useful when adding a crapload of pics from your harddrive, which can create quite a long queue.

"Clear Download Queue" = if there's a lot of pics queued to be downloaded, this clears it.

"Convert Collage to Movie" = creates a DivX movie of the collage process thus far. Note that it only creates a collage based on files that have already been downloaded, so you should let it accumulate some history.

"Exit" = not tellling.

Here's a screenshot of the Preferences menu in its default state:

- "Rotate collage pics" = randomly rotate the pics as they're placed in the collage

- "Resize collage pics" = resize the pics as they're placed in the collage. Note that you can turn these two on and off while building the collage.

- "Randomize collage queue" = place the pics in the collage in a random order, or in the order they were downloaded

- "Randomize download queue" = download the pics in a random order, or in order of search results

- "Include subdirectories when adding pics from harddrive" = pretty self-explatory. Will search all subfolders for images too.

- "Make multi monitor collage" = if you have more than one monitor, will make a collage the size of all your monitors

- "Launch collage spanning all monitors" = if you're making a large collage, launch a collage viewer window the size of all your monitors. Experimental.

- "Delete pic from collage queue after use" (added since the screenshot) = lets you choose to not remove the pic after adding it to the collage queue, meaning the collage will continue building infinitely.

- "Keep collage history for making movie" (added since screenshot) = lets you choose not to save each step of the collage process to a separate image file. The way PictureThis makes a movie out of the collage creation process is it saves each step of the collage to a separate JPG in the /movies/temp directory, and that folder can get pretty huge, especially if you're not deleting pics from the collage queue after use. I know I should add an option to keep the directory to, say, 2 gigs (about 40 minutes of movie), but for now this is the way to do it.

Here's the View menu:

- Collage Viewer Montitor 1 = show the collage viewer on monitor one. (I bet you didn't see that one coming). If you want to place it on a different monitor, use one of the other options.

- Close Collage Windows = close all collage windows. You can also do this by pressing control-X, or ESC.

- "Status Message" - checking this shows you the status messages, such as what picture was downloaded, where it's downloading it from, etc. It looks like this:


It's buggy, I know that. I made it as a goof, it has a few problems, I probably won't fix them though because it's turning into more of a time sink than I want to deal with. It works alright, especially if you restart the program between searches. But it's big issue is when you click "New Search", sometimes it doesn't behave. Just restart it. Also I know I should add more parameters to the Google Images search, like "safe search" (which is off by the way), limit the number of results, etc. And I know I should make it so it can search Flickr. And I know I should make it so it can search the internet in general. And I know I should make the preferences persistent, so you don't have to change them every time you launch PictureThis, but have I mentioned that I'm lazy? It works well for me, and that's mostly who this is built for.

And also note that it saves the collage history, so keep an eye on c:\program files\picturethis\collages if you're using the program often, since that directory might get huge.



Here's a collage of the San Francisco Rants & Raves section a few days ago (click to see full sized):


Meanwhile, over at Women seeking Women (click to see full sized):


Items for sale (click to see full sized):


Erotic services... (click to see full sized)


All Personals (this picture could really use a blue dot or two):


Women seeking Men :


And my personal fetish, RVs:


Email questions / suggestions / interesting collages / death threats

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