PS Consultants - ideas & solutions

Thumbs Plus 4.5: internet survivor supreme
September 2001

If you were expecting a review of ThumbsPlus! then forget it – just download and buy a copy; that’s all you need to know. The web is full of software reviews anyway, and you don’t buy this magazine for anything so tedious anyway, do you..?

Once again, the really nice, thoughtful software comes from a quarter not dominated by you-know-who. I have been a fan of Cerious Software’s Thumb’s image organiser since way back at version one, and through a relatively conservative release number system, we are at version 4.5 – and with a generous upgrade policy that suggests that they don’t have the overheads of Microsoft, nor the ego of Bill Gates, and the greed of a million “get-rich quick” stockholders to support. Most other software developers would probably have managed to spin up version 2001 by now, but that’s not Cerious’ style.

The operation itself has a nicely parochial feel about it coming from a relative techno-backwater of the US, and the overall tenor is nicely set by a message on the download page:

<thumbs1.jpg - caption: This is how three of Phillip's kids feel about people who continue to use ThumbsPlus without registering>

Phillip Crews founded Cerious Software in 1992 as a software consulting firm, and in 1994, he decided to develop a retail product for Windows, called ThumbsUp!. He chose to market ThumbsUp! as shareware, because he liked the idea of "try before you buy," and this also allowed him to distribute and advertise with very low costs. In that fledgling business run from his home, cost was a major consideration.

And there are now just seven of them, despite this product consistently getting the accolades of “must have” from guru US hacks like Jerry Pournelle and John Dvorak, and enjoying a customer list that any software publisher would

It’s a wonderful story of achievement in this insane industry, and I commend you all to read and be inspired to start your own business that uses the internet in its originally intended purpose as a tool for intelligent people to create small and efficient businesses that can be effective in world markets. And thereby stick it to all those dreadful bankers and “IPO jockeys” that nearly drove the entire internet scene over a cliff during 2000..

I particularly enjoyed this comment by Phillip Crews:

“… I will do everything I can to ensure that Cerious Software never becomes the kind of place where someone says: "What we need to do is to develop a core of people with a vision for the planning process." (I actually overheard this at a restaurant recently.) …”

And the final piece of this near-perfect plot is that this organisation has the nerve to list all employees and their email addresses that actually get answered. The product manuals are all online; the support scheme uses standard NNTP news group techniques.

The product features are best learned from downloading the Shareware version and just wading through. There are far too many to list, but if you really want to look, then there’s a table of features against versions posted at - and this is also linked into a wonderful glossary of image terms, with a links page that is a treasure house in itself.

Even the awards page is perhaps the perfect directory of shareware and software web sites. It’s where I first discovered the delights of – the antidote to Tucows. It covered Thumbs back in 1997 with this eulogy:

“Today's pick is going to be a massive spooge-fest because Thumbs Plus is one of my all time favorite software programs. Words can't explain how much I like the program (but I guess I better try or this is going to be one big blank page). Thumbs Plus for those of you who don't know what it is, is an all in one image management program.”

So what’s a “spooge-fest”..? Although I don’t think we really to know. Cerious needs to get them to update the entry to cover version 4.5, however.

So would the world be a better place is every major piece of software was created and managed by the same ethos that supports ThumbsPlus..? I really think it would, although I appreciate I will shot to pieces for gross sentimentality by corporate MIS people who have been trained by you-know-who to believe that it’s not corporate to deal with a 7-horse outfit in North Carolina. More fool them.

Cerious software lives at, and the product is represented in the UK by the Thompson Partnership at

Last word to Phillip Crews on the matter of their foray into Mac land: “Unfortunately, due to the constraints of being a small company, we have abandoned the development of the Mac program.” Brilliant. That alone is a good enough reason to support this firm; Apple continues to be its own worst enemy, and the rest of us are relieved to be able to continue to ignore it as a serious source of distraction.

The only bad news is that if al the players in this industry created great products, supported them well, answered email and ran a global distribution business through a single low-rent website with just 7 staff, then most magazines like this would have the legend “The Big Issue” on them, and we hacks would all be out of a job.

So please keep this little secret between us, eh..? Thanks.