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TOPIC: First Time User - Very Basic Questions about ComicRack Library

First Time User - Very Basic Questions about ComicRack Library 4 months 1 week ago #49833

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I'm a complete newbie to ComicRack (up until this week I was using Comical) so please forgive my very very basic questions. I've taken a look at the manual but I'm not sure it has the info I'm looking for (or if it does, I'm missing it)

I'm trying to get my head around ComicRack being a library archive as well as a reader. My collection of CBR/CBZ e-comics are stored on DVD-R. I plan to move them all to an external Hard Drive. Either way, none of my e-comics are actually stored locally on my windows device (laptop)

I understand the library/archive feature on ComicRack to fuction similarly to itunes but I'm unsure if whether the comic books stored in ComicRack are copies/duplicates of the the files or the actual files themselves.

Say for instance I view an e-comic on ComicRack which is stored on (and is being accessed from) one of the DVDR. Does it automatically copy that file and upload it to ComicRack permanently? Or does it rip the file from the disk and store it in ComicRack? Or Maybe it simply links to the file on the disk?

If I remove the DVDR, is the e-comic still on the DVDR and/or still in ComicRack? Same question for the external harddrive ; does it rip the comic (removing it from the hard drive), duplicate the e-comic storing it on both ComicRack and the External Drive or just link to the comic on the drive.

I suppose this will be important to know moving forward as whether or not I use the DVDR or the external hard drive, the original files will not be permanently stored on my laptop.

Does ComicRack do (whatever it is that it does ; rip,copy,link) all of this automatically or do you need to manually do it each time. Can ComicRack essentially function as just a reader if you want it to?

Finally, I know that there is some difference in how CBR and CBZ files are processed/stored (on account that RAR files are not free software). Can ComicRack batch convert CBR files to PDF the same way as CBZ to PDF or are CBR files restricted in this way also?

Apologies for all the questions. I'm not all that tech-savvy, though this seems like a very neat piece of software.

Best,

Jay
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First Time User - Very Basic Questions about ComicRack Library 4 months 6 days ago #49874

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Hi! Welcome to ComicRack! I'm fairly new to it also, but I'm kind of a geek and I've been geeking out on it for almost a year now. There is a pretty good manual for ComicRack that I'd recommend you read. It's enough to get you started, though I had to read it several times to really understand what it was trying to say. ComicRack is a deep, complicated program with a bit of a steep learning curve, but once you're past that, it is completely amazing. It does everything I didn't even know I wanted it to do back when I was a noob to both comics and the program!

I'd be very happy to help you answer any questions that I know the answer to. I still don't know how to work a lot of the more complicated scripts and networking aspects of ComicRack, but there are others here who do. (I'm still using Windows 7, so some of my instructions and potential screenshots might appear a little different if you are using 8 or 10, which I don't have a lot of experience with, so I hope you can translate some.)

ComicRack can be used as basically or as intricately as you desire. It can be a simple reader, where you double click a comic file and it will open it up and read it, or it can be a complete database manager complete with reading lists you can send to your phone or tablet for reading on the go. If all you want is a simple reader, I'd honestly recommend getting a lighter weight program. You really don't need ComicRack just to read comics from files. Where ComicRack really shines is in its database and library management. Some of the key features I use are the format conversion (to convert comics from cbr to cbz), the metadata scraper (which grabs all the interesting information compiled on ComicVine about each issue, including descriptions, characters present, publication information, authors, artists, etc, and then you can use the built in search and filters to find anything you are looking for), and the Reading List feature (which lets you put individual issues into a list and reorganize that list in the order you wish to read it. Very nice for complicated crossovers spanning multiple different books). After you build your reading lists, you can download the Android app of ComicRack (there's a free version and a paid version) and sync any list you want to your tablet and if you got the settings right, it will retain the order you made for that list so you can read on the go.

How to use as a reader: If you have multiple comic readers on your computer and want to open a comic in ComicRack, right click the comic file and choose 'Open With' and then select ComicRack from the list. You might have to browse through your computer's program files to find it if it doesn't show up in the list. If you want ComicRack to be the default program for that file type, check the box beside 'Always use the selected program to open this kind of file' at the bottom of the dialog box, and then click OK. ComicRack will then open the file. It's fairly easy to use the reader, there are some basic controls like what kind of page view you want and what kind of zoom you want. The thing I found odd at first was that clicking inside the area that displays the comic is what takes the reader to full screen. If you want super full screen, you can double click and that will hide the start bar and other stuff as well. To switch between the two views, just double click inside the comic viewer.

How ComicRack manages files: I don't use iTunes, so I can't draw comparisons, but I can explain how ComicRack works. When you open a file in ComicRack, you have the option of adding it to the library. There is no ripping or converting of any sort that happens when you do so, ComicRack simply memorizes the file directory where that comic is located and will look for it every time the program opens, and your file will remain on the DVR, so that is not a concern at all. Every time ComicRack launches, it scans the directories that it has been told to look for comics in and puts what it finds into the library. Since your comics are on DVR's, this presents a challenge, because if you don't have that particular DVR in the computer when ComicRack launches, it won't be able to find it to put it in the library. Instead you'll probably see a big red X where the comic should be, and it will be removed from any list you might have added it to (very important to know about that lists thing, especially if you use them extensively like I do).

For myself, I keep my comics on an external hard drive inside a Comics folder. I have them sorted by publisher, era, and volume, but you honestly don't have to sort them or do any file management at all if you don't want, because ComicRack can do it all for you. You can set up ComicRack to look at specific folders for your library, and then just put everything you want it to find inside that folder, like my 'Comics' folder. If you don't choose to do much file management, you can always find your comic from inside ComicRack by right clicking the comic and choosing 'Reveal in Explorer'. The only time ComicRack will seem to put comics somewhere, is if you click on a comic file on a website and then choose 'Open' instead of 'Save'. The file will be downloaded to a temporary folder, which ComicRack then accesses to open the file. But that's not ComicRack doing it, that's the way Windows works.

To add a directory to ComicRack: Go to Edit, Preferences, Libraries, Book Folders. Click Add, browse to the folder you want to add, and click ok. Now ComicRack will scan that folder for comics every time it launches. You can add as many folders as you want.

A little about comic formats: I guess the main formats are CBR, CBZ, and you mentioned PDF so I'll address that a little too. At its most basic, a comic file is simply images in a compressed archive (rar, zip, etc) that has had its extension changed so the computer knows it is supposed to be a comic. Since RAR is a proprietary format, there are programs that can open and extract it, but not repack to it. That is where CBZ becomes important, because zip is an open format that is freely extracted and packed. The best excuse I have found for why people prefer CBR is kind of silly to me. It was apparently the first format, and people break down the extension to mean Comic Book Reader, although what it really stands for is Comic Book RAR. The reason I prefer CBZ (Comic Book Zipped) is simple. Because it is an open archive format, ComicRack can store the metadata for a comic inside the archive instead of relying solely on the database. This means that if you move or rename a comic, most of its metadata can follow it, because it is inside it. You can't do that with CBR because ComicRack doesn't have the expensive rights to repack RAR files.

ComicRack has built in converters for many different formats, including CBZ and PDF. I don't know a lot about the PDF converter, except that it would make it so you only need a PDF viewer to view the comic instead of a comic viewer. But I don't believe there is any real benefit to using it except for that. And honestly, if you are going to be using ComicRack, you might as well be able to grow into it's full functionality with the open CBZ format rather than a locked PDF format.

Also, if you are worried about disk space (because comics are big), you can use ComicRack to convert the images themselves from JPG to WEBP, which is a format Google invented to reduce image size. The images typically come out to 50-60% of the file size of JPG without a real detectable loss of image quality. The only concern for doing this conversion is that WEBP is a fairly new (2011 I think) file format and is not as widely supported as JPG and so some of the more basic readers don't support that format and wouldn't be able to display the images. Obviously ComicRack and its app wouldn't have that problem.

Well, that's probably enough of a wall of text to get you started. I hope it was helpful. If you have any other questions I'd be happy to try and help! Good Luck!
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First Time User - Very Basic Questions about ComicRack Library 4 months 6 days ago #49878

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Hi there and thank you so much for taking the time to reply in detail.

I have come across the manual (6th Edition, July 2013 ; Is that the most up to date one?) but as you say, it can be difficult to discern exactly what it is trying to say in parts unless you read it a few times. I'm slowly making progress in reading through it but as I didn't see the answers to the above questions straight off (I'm sure that they are in there somewhere) I hoped somebody could offer me a short cut :-)

Thank you also for the kind welcome, by the way :-)

First off, the reason that I've chosen to switch to ComicRack (as a reader) is because I have found that some of the other programs (I'm not exactly sure why) will not open all of my files (when this glitch occurs it is usually with CBZ files). It's not hugely common but frustrating all the same. I get an error message such as 'corrupt file' or 'file missing' etc. This does not seem to happen in ComicRack (I've tested a lot of the previously troublesome CBZ files and they open and display perfectly in ComicRack). Again, I'm not exactly sure the reason behind this glitch but delighted that all of my files open perfectly in ComicRack, I decided to keep it.

I'm not against the idea of using the software as a library/archive (in fact the more you have explained to me about the advantages and opportunities which ComicRack offers, the more interested I am in taking a leap forward with the Library function) I absolutely love the idea of the metadata scraper and the ComicVine info.
I was just somewhat apprehensive in the beginning as I was not sure what would actually happen to my files once I had added them to ComicRack. I do plan to move all of my e-comics to an external hard drive (from my DVR collection) and I wanted the files to remain on the external hard drive and to stay in the folders/order on that drive. So the apprehension behind not wanting to use ComicRack as anything other than a reader stemmed from not wanting the files moved or removed from the actual external drive once I had 'added' them to ComicRack. Obviously I want the external drive to remain a back-up where all the files are safe.

So let's see if I have this right :

Simply clicking the file (or opening the file with ComicRack if it not the default reader) will open and display the e-comic only. Once closed ComicRack will not save the file or remember that you have read it and will not automatically re-open the comic (on the page you left off reading) when next you open the program. This is the simple reader function.

If you want to add a comic to the library you must manually do so using the 'add' function. This essentially creates the library and/or reading lists.

So presuming that I dump the DVR route (which I plan to do anyway) and copy all of my files to an external hard drive ; I manually add the files to ComicRack and ComicRack scans the directory and puts (a link?) to all of the files/comics it finds into its own library. So every time I launch ComicRack it searches for those same files from that same directory and makes them available through ComicRack. If I launch ComicRack and the external drive is not connected, do I lose my ComicRack Library? ComicRack obviously detects that the files are not accessible as the directory is not available to scan but do you mean that it will delete/remove the entire library list permanently? I had hoped that once I hooked up the external drive again, the library would reappear. If the former is correct it would mean that I must never launch ComicRack (even in error) without the connected drive or everything goes? A grim thought.

If you did have the app on your phone/device, how would ComicRack be able to access the files? Say for instance your PC/Laptop is switched off. Comic Rack technically does not have access to the directory. How is ComicRack finding/accessing the files to display them on the device/phone app?

Would I be right in presuming (based on what you said) that there is a function in ComicRack that will convert all of my CBZ (if I wanted to) and export them in PDF format? But that this cannot be done with CBR (because of RAR licensing)? Similarly I wondering If I could (in ComicRack) convert my CBR to CBZ as based on what you have said CBZ is the better format. I'm presuming, however, that CBR cannot be converted at all (either to CBZ or to PDF) because RAR is not open software.

Sorry to bombard you with so many follow-on questions and to be so repetitive. The more I'm learning about ComicRack the more I like the sounds of it.

Thanks again,

Best,

Jay
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First Time User - Very Basic Questions about ComicRack Library 4 months 6 days ago #49879

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Hey, don't worry about all the questions. I had tons when I first started, but I'm stubborn and just waded through stuff until I got it figured out. I'm very happy to help pass that knowledge along.

ComicRack uses a virtual file system, so yes, it just links to the files that you've told it to look for and doesn't move or change them unless you specifically tell it to. Examples of this include when converting files if you've told it to delete the originals once the conversion is finished, moving files with scripts, renaming files with scripts, checking the boxes in the delete confirmation dialog that will delete the files as well as removing them from lists/library. But all this is stuff you have to tell it to do.

As far as I know, there isn't really a 'simple reader' function in ComicRack. If you open a file with it, it launches the full program to open it. There is a setting somewhere in Preferences that asks you if you want to add files opened this way to the library, and if you don't have this selected, then yes, when you close ComicRack, it will close the file and forget where you were in it. If you do have it selected, it will memorize the file name and apply database information to that specific file name. As near as I've been able to figure out, as long as you don't change the file name, all database information for that file will stay linked to it no matter where you move it. If you change the file name, the database can't link the information to that file anymore though, which is why CBZ is nice, because it can save some of that info inside the comic archive.

I don't know what will happen if you open ComicRack without the hard drive attached. Mine is permanently attached, I never move it. I think that it would just display the missing files as the big X until it can find them again...but I don't really know, I'm sorry. They also might disappear from your reading lists if ComicRack can't find the files when it opens. I know it happens when I rename files. There is a way to export the reading lists, however, so you can import them later with those files still as a part of them. If ComicRack can't find the files in the reading list it will ask if you want to create something called a fileless comic so it's position can be saved.

Archive tools can unpack RAR files, they just can't repack them without the license. So yes, ComicRack can convert CBR to any format that is available in the conversion menu. The conversion menu can be non-intuitive to find. Right click a comic inside the library and select 'Export Books' and then select 'Export Books...' This will bring up the conversion dialog where you can make presets or just do a one off conversion. I do it all the time to CBZ so I can write metadata into the comic files.

On that note, since a CBZ file is just a ZIP file with the extension changed, you can easily fix your glitchy CBZ files with any archive program that handles ZIPS. Just unpack the file and then repack it and rename the extension from ZIP to CBZ. I use 7zip cause it's awesome. I'm wondering if your glitchy CBZ files have WEBP image formats inside them. As I mentioned before, it's a relatively new format and many programs don't support it yet, which might cause those error messages. It would be easy to check by simply changing the extension and looking inside the archive, or unpacking it to see what's there. If that is the case, you can use ComicRack to convert those images back to JPG and then be able to read those comics anywhere.

The android app doesn't access files over the network. The sync will physically copy the comic files to your device for reading anywhere. It also copies metadata and database information, like position read and rating, to theoretically create a seamless reading experience. In practical use, I've found the wireless sync to be incredibly glitchy and prefer to block it and sync only over a cable. It might be because my router is insanely old though and has trouble handling the wireless sync. Lots of people here seem to use it fine. The app has 2 ways of seeing files. If you use the sync feature, it will put the files inside the data folder for the app on your device. You can change where it goes if you want to use an SD card instead of the internal storage (cause comics are big...) but you can't point the sync to a specific folder, it insists on putting them inside an app data folder. You can also set up a folder for non-synced comics and just copy files from your computer into that folder and the app will find them and read them. I don't know if it would read metadata this way, but it certainly wouldn't have access to the database info that ComicRack PC manages. I'd suggest downloading the free version of the app and giving it a try. It's mostly ungimped so you can give all the features a good look through. I believe the biggest differences are the lack of a wifi sync and that you can only sync 50 comics to the free version. Not sure if that's at a time or total, I bought the paid version just a few days after figuring out how awesome the whole package was.

How I use sync: You can only sync lists. So I have 2 different kinds of lists I sync. Some lists I use as folders, just dragging stacks of stuff I want to read into them and displaying them like a folder with the volumes stacked together. Other lists I use as reading lists, where I've organized the comics in the order I want to read them (those complicated crossovers I mentioned are a great example), and if you turn off all automatic sorting options both in the sync menu and inside the app, the comics will display in the order they are in the reading list. Awesome, right? I read and rate and sometimes take notes inside the metadata, and then I'll sync back to the computer and all that metadata will transfer back into the library. I'd be happy to post some screen shots if you're having trouble visualizing all this, just let me know.

I think that answers all your questions for now (that I can), hit me up with some more if you need to!
Last Edit: 4 months 6 days ago by tigerpuffs.
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First Time User - Very Basic Questions about ComicRack Library 4 months 5 days ago #49880

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That's a wealth of information! Thank you so much for taking the time.

I think I need to tinker with it a little. Check what happens when the drive is disconnected and then what happens once it's reconnected. Perhaps the lists/library will remain. Perhaps not. Once the files remain on the original drive, it's not the end of the world. Though, If I have gone to the trouble of adding all the extra metadata and database information to each of the comics, it would be very frustrating to lose it all and have to start all over again. When you say that the metadata is saved within the CBZ file, I presume you mean within the actual file on the hard drive (thus changing the original CBZ file). If this is the case, I would want to convert my CBR files to CBZ as I would not want to risk losing all of the metadata and database information if I launch the program without the directory being accessible. At least if it were saved within the file, all that work would not be lost.

I suppose it will be the same result if I ever switch computers or when I upgrade to a new one ; the lists/library will be gone and I'll have to set it up/add the comics all over again. Shame that there isn't some sort of user ID that would save your settings in the Cloud. This is (I believe) how Itunes works. You could download ComicRack on a second/new desktop and once you sign in with the same ID, it would have saved the settings/lists and library. The new computer would then simply search for the same directory. That would be neat!

In the absence of the above (a username/ID), I'm still trying to visualize how it syncs with another device but I'm presuming that you literally hook the Android/Iphone (does it work for Iphone?) up to the desktop and it manually copies the folders and settings. This of course means that any updates would also have to be manually synced.

My questions are so basic but like anything, I'm sure I'll get the hang of it.
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First Time User - Very Basic Questions about ComicRack Library 4 months 5 days ago #49881

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I would encourage you to play with it and figure it out before you invest serious time into building your library, yes. I'd be interested in hearing what you find out, just for my own information!

Umm, there is a distinct difference between metadata that is stored inside the cbz file and the database data that is stored on the computer. I believe there are ways to move the database if you ever need to move computers or reinstall your current one, but that's not something I've gotten into.

I'm not sure exactly which fields are saved inside the cbz, but I know that tags aren't, and I think I remember that the release date isn't. But main fields like series, title, contributors, format, published date, description etc are definitely saved. The types of data that is saved in the database are things like bookmarks, position read, whether it's been read, date added, date opened, rating, etc.

Syncing is via local wifi or cable only so there's no need for a login, and it isn't really all that complicated. There is some initial setup that isn't difficult with each device you want to sync, and after that ComicRack knows which device is what, and you can set up which lists you want synced to what device inside ComicRack PC before even connecting the device. If you've ever used Calibre (for ebooks) you need to throw everything you know about it out the window for ComicRack. It's completely different. Basically there are lists you set up to sync, and anything in the list syncs when you hit the command to sync. If you are using wifi, there is no setup after the initial one, and if using a cable it's as simple as just plugging in the USB and waiting for the computer to register that it's been plugged in and then you can hit the sync button and ComicRack will find the device and do its thing. Just play with it for a bit and you'll figure it out. It's kinda hard to visualize I think, and for myself because I'd been using Calibre for ebooks for so long, I really didn't understand ComicRack's system until I'd used it for a while.
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First Time User - Very Basic Questions about ComicRack Library 4 months 5 days ago #49893

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I'm looking forward to it. I will of course take it slow and tread carefully before building a serious library. I have nearly 2TB of e-comics so I imagine it could become somewhat overwhelming quite quickly if I jump straight in.

I'll have a good read of the manual. The one I have is the 6th Edition (2013). Is this the most up to date?

I've just read somewhere that the program is no longer supported. That is a huge shame. Will it mean that (as Windows updates) ComicRack could potentially become incompatible? I have Windows 10 and it seems to work fine. It would be a huge shame for such a sophisticated program to become defunct.
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First Time User - Very Basic Questions about ComicRack Library 4 months 5 days ago #49896

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Yeah, that's right. The creator, Cyo hasn't been seen in these parts for several years from what I understand. The program isn't updated anymore, and neither is the android app. So I do think it will slowly get defunct after a while. However, it's completely useable right now, and there seem to be a few people working on a real replacement that would be open source. I don't know if people have tried to contact Cyo about releasing the source code for both the PC and apps. Personally, I've decided to keep using it for now because I haven't found anything even close to it in functionality, and if needed I can eventually export my reading lists as csv, and since I use cbz and embed metadata, I won't have lost a huge amount of work if I have to abandon CR at some point. Unless they significantly change the architecture of windows and android, I think they will be usable for a long while. And if nothing else, there's always the possibility of running a Windows virtual machine with the system properties needed to run it. There are quite a few people around here who have mentioned doing just that on a Mac or Linux machine.
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