14 Apr 2009 picNiche Toolbars

Mashup developer, Bob Davies, creator of the picNiche.com keyword tool, has created two microstock FireFox toolbars. One for microstock contributors and the other for microstock buyers.

Useful Tools

The contributor toolbar is designed to make life easier for microstockers. It automatically checks your earnings, provides an FTP upload tool within the browser, notifies you of sales and image approvals, and partially automates submit pages. Additional features include news updates from relevant microstock industry publications (including this one), a global event calendar, and a killer buyer request facility. Let’s take a closer look.

picNiche Toolbar

Toolbar and Sidebar

Many of the toolbar’s tools appear in the sidebar, which can be hidden and revealed by clicking the picNiche button in the bottom-right corner of the browser window. The regular toolbar at the top can be shown or hidden using the regular methods.

Centralized Notifications

picNiche notificationNotifications for sales, review results, or new posts from any monitored blogs all appear as small pop-up messages in the bottom-right corner of your browser. There’s also a handy log of all notifications when you have the picNiche sidebar visible.

Earnings Updates

At the top-left, the toolbar displays the earnings balance of up to six of the top microstock agencies (supporting: Fotolia, Shutterstock, iStockphoto, Dreamstime, BigStockPhoto, StockXpert and 123rf). You can set which of these agencies are included and how often the earnings balances are updated in the configuration (see below)

Keywording Tool

picNiche Keyword ToolNo microstock utility is complete without its own keyword tool. The picNiche toolbar’s keywording tool uses data from the picNiche website to suggest keywords which ‘may’ be related to the keywords you enter. You can see the results for the word “fish” in the image to the right.

The usual caveats apply – be sure the keywords you include in your image data really do match your photo. Irrelevant keywords hurt your algorithm metrics at most agencies, and can cause your image to be rejected at some.

Used carefully, this tool can be great for finding keywords you’ve missed, or getting your keyword list started.

FTP Upload Tool

FTP Upload ToolThe toolbar also includes an FTP tool. The interface is gracefully simple. You simply choose the agencies you want to include by clicking the button with their name at the top. In the image to the right you can see that I’ve selected the first five of six agencies.

Then, just drag and drop the files to be uploaded into the window. Press the ‘go’ button, and the tool will start uploading each file to each agency you’ve selected.

Workflow Assistance

Submitting photos one by one can also be time consuming, particularly when you’re clicking the same check boxes for each photo. The picNiche toolbar enables you to have some fields automatically checked each time the page is loaded. This accelerates the submit process, but needs to be used with caution. Those fields exist for a reason, so be very sure you understand what you’re doing if you enable this tool. Having the check boxes ticked by a program doesn’t negate your responsibility when you submit a submit page.

Blog Monitoring

The Community Blogs tab of the options window allows you to be notified of new blog post at a long list of popular microstock blogs and resources. You can choose as many or as few as you like.

The Buyer Toolbar

Microstock buyers don’t miss out either. There’s a separate toolbar for buyers with a different feature set. It includes the multi-agency search facility available in the contributor toolbar, plus a simple image log, notifications from both microstock and designer blogs, and a facility to be notified when contributors using the contributor toolbar have new images approved (optional for the contributor).

The Killer Feature – Image Requests

Image Request ToolThe integration between the buyer and contributor toolbars hits a new high with the image request feature. Buyers using the buyer toolbar can submit a request for a particular images directly within the toolbar. Contributors using the contributor toolbar are instantly notified. They can check the details and respond with links to suitable photos in their own portfolios.

While many websites have attempted to provide this facility via forums and other on-website tools, the real-time alert facility of a browser toolbar might just be the killer feature that makes it work.

How it Works

picNiche Configuration windowThe picNiche toolbar uses the passwords stored in the FireFox Password Manager. While this saves you having to enter your passwords into the configuration, you do need to have your browser saving your passwords for most of the tools to function.

The configuration only requires that you enter your username for each agency you wish to enable. The same window allows you to configure how frequently you want the toolbar to update your earnings information.

The toolbar itself is free thanks to the integration of referral links. If you register at an agency via the links in the toolbar and then sell or buy an image, Bob is remunerated in line with the referral program of each agency.

How Well Does it Work

The toolbar is being launched today bearing the forgive-everything “beta” markings. It has come a long way from the early versions, thanks in part to some ruthless beta testers. The functionality has all come online and the bugs fixed.

While the release versions of both toolbars tested fine for me, today’s beta release will expose them to more testing environments. If you experience a bug, be sure to let Bob know so he can fix it right away. If the bug is post-installation, you can send feedback from the About window, accessible from the drop-down menu on the right-most end of the toolbar. For installation support, see the picNiche About Us page.

Microstock Mash Market

Bob’s toolbars are the latest product from the small but active mashup development community focussed on microstock. Microstock agencies often resist such tools for various reasons. Some tools consume a disproportionate quantity of website resources the consume. Others present data in a way that can be misused and/or misunderstood. Bob reached out to agency heads during development of the picNiche toolbar, explaining his intentions and requesting feedback on how the toolbar could play nice with the agency websites.

Get the picNiche FireFox Toolbars

You can download the picNiche toolbars directly from the FireFox Extensions Website: contributor toolbar and buyer toolbar. Until they can be reviewed by the Mozilla FireFox team they’ll only be available in Experimental Mode, which requires a Mozilla account to download. Bob also has an official website for the toolbars complete with user-guide. You can also follow Bob on Twitter, where he tweets about picNiche, microstock and the life of a microstock mash developer.

  • Rahul Pathak
    Posted at 23:47h, 14 April Reply

    Bob – congrats on the launch and this is an impressive accomplishment. I agree with Lee – the buyer/contributor linkage has a ton of potential!

    Lee – a thorough, thoughtful review, as always!

  • mystockphoto
    Posted at 12:13h, 15 April Reply

    Hi Lee, Rahul and Bob, great tool indeed! I’m testing it with satisfaction and I’m sure the toolbars can be a successful add-ons.

  • Komar
    Posted at 14:13h, 15 April Reply

    Wow it’s so useful. I need a bigger laptop screen though.

  • rodho
    Posted at 23:16h, 19 April Reply

    Great job!

    After intalled at Saturday,I’m testing the tool for microstock contributors two days, it’s very useful to contributors.

    A small question,the tool ask to save info in Firefox secure password manager first, is it possible to change to use cookies in FF instead of secure password manager in th further ? for security reason, I would like to use cookies , 🙂 🙂

    Thank Bob and Lee!!

    • Bob Davies
      Posted at 02:07h, 20 April Reply

      Hi Rod

      I’ve dropped you an email which should help solve the issue with logging into Fotolia. I’m still having some minor issues when using non-english sites. but working on it 🙂


    • Lee Torrens
      Posted at 02:08h, 20 April Reply

      Rod, I’m not an expert on the security of FireFox, but I think you have it backwards. Cookies are plain-text files in the normal file structure, which is very open. I presume the password manager is an encrypted database. Someone more knowledgeable can correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think there are any security reasons which would have you use cookies in preference to the password manager.


      • Bob Davies
        Posted at 03:00h, 20 April Reply

        Lee you’re right, cookies have no real security basis. In theory they are only readable by the domain which created them, but there are a variety of workarounds for this constraint which make them comparatively insecure.

        Technically, It would be possible to have the tool retrieve the stats only when there is an active stored and logged-in session, however, given the difference between the way the agencies work, along with the number of ways, and reasons for firefox, or third-party addons, or preference resets and such to close these sessions unexpectedly, it would make the timeliness and accuracy of the retrieved data practically useless, thus the requirement to use the password manager.

        There are some problems with the password manager (mainly that any addon can read it, and thus everybody should only install addons that they trust (addons are VERY powerful)), and it’s a little more fussy to access (which is where the problems logging into non-english sites currently lie), but on the whole it’s significantly more secure and predictable than any other method.

        Hope that helps 🙂

  • rod
    Posted at 05:53h, 20 April Reply

    Thanks Bob,logging to Fotolia is ok, 🙂 🙂 🙂

    Firefox 3.0.5 for Chinese used .Accroding your mail, I access the login page(https://www.fotolia.com/Member/Login) directly and save the passsword again,everthing is ok. 🙂 🙂 🙂 .

  • plrang
    Posted at 09:11h, 21 April Reply

    Good news and timesaver, now i can just wait for extreme numbers raising;)

  • Borg
    Posted at 17:45h, 21 April Reply

    I can’t get any data from agencies with this toolbar…

    All my usernames and passwords are in “FireFox Password Manager “but whole time I am getting this message: “No username match found for “agencie” in firefox manager.Configure a valid username, disable the poller,OR click here to goto Login or Signup”…

    Also I putted all combinations of my usernames in Picniche options

    Does anybody knows how to solve this problem!?

    • mystockphoto
      Posted at 18:00h, 21 April Reply

      Hi Borg,
      I had the same problem and Rob suggested me to:
      “Try Tools/Options/Security/Saved-Passwords and clear your current FOTOLIA saved password, then try saving password when login at https://www.fotolia.com/Member/Login
      Hope is good for you.

  • Borg
    Posted at 07:26h, 22 April Reply

    Thank you Roberto, but problem is still here…

    I have firefox 2.0, maybe this is problem…

    • mystockphoto
      Posted at 07:28h, 22 April Reply

      Consider also that it’s just released vers. 1.0.9 with Fotolia login fixed. Cheers.

      • Bob Davies
        Posted at 13:09h, 22 April Reply

        Wow, I’m surprised it let you install on FF2.0, will make sure I block it below 3.0 on next upgrade, thanks for the info 🙂

        And thanks very much Roberto for the response to Borg (Have such a silly picture in my head of a Star Trek Borg drone trying to submit to microstock using Firefox and getting all frustrated logging in… Resistance is futile and all that Jazz 😀 ), anyway…, hugely appreciated 🙂

  • Borg
    Posted at 07:57h, 22 April Reply


    I installed Firefox 3.0.9. ,now everything look and work normal…


  • Borg
    Posted at 17:03h, 22 April Reply

    Bob we are in! In Microstock! We are drones…

    “Strength is irrelevant. Resistance is futile. We (read agenices) wish to improve ourselves. We will add your time,ideas, pics,style and technique distinctiveness to our own. Your eyes will adapt to service ours.”


  • bradradley
    Posted at 17:18h, 29 April Reply

    Very Impressive Looking. An all in one tool for the photographer on the go…
    Are you guys at Microstock diaries using or just beta testing?

  • travis manley
    Posted at 17:50h, 29 April Reply

    Hey thanks! This is just what I have been looking for. Any chance on being able to add more sites that arent in this list? Sites like Panthermedia, cutcaster, crestock, canstockphoto, etc.

    • Matt Antonino
      Posted at 21:51h, 02 May Reply

      I LOVE the toolbar. I’d love to see other sites added but don’t really care much – to me it’s either these 7 or ALL of them with our choice what we enable. I use some obscure ones as do most people.

      I love the “approved update” and everything about this. Thanks Bobbig.

  • Borg
    Posted at 18:29h, 29 April Reply


    I can’t live without this toolbar…
    Excellent job!


    Sinisa Botas

  • Luis Santos
    Posted at 07:50h, 08 May Reply

    I have problems using toolbar, i cannot see and work with this application :// keep me saying that username is incorrect etc…!

  • Luis Santos
    Posted at 08:22h, 09 May Reply

    now it’s working thanks Bob! 🙂

    i saw a minute ago about post from bohemian!

    when can we see other “less” important agencies?

    thanks and good weekend

  • Ivan Paunovic
    Posted at 16:55h, 03 March Reply

    It won’t login properly to Zazzle, Alamy, and Vectorstock, but that is not so important to me. Otherwise, great, great tool!
    Thank you! 🙂

    • Bob Davies
      Posted at 18:48h, 03 March Reply

      Heya Ivan
      Aye, the custom pollers are not allowed to login to sites on your behalf. They’re restricted from accessing login data to prevent any potential security problems. They’ll just open the login page if they’re unable to parse a value properly. Closing the tab opened for the login page once you’ve logged in manually should cause the poller to re-request the correct info.
      As they’re user-contributed they may not work for all people, it depends on a bunch of different factors such as site language and/or currency or other localisation.

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