Review: Recollector Collection Management Software

RecollectorNewEvery so often, someone asks how I manage my collection.  I thought that it might benefit the community at large to share my solution and do a review of sorts.  This will be one of the few post that you find on this site that has nothing to do with Pelikan.  When you get your first pen, you have no need for spreadsheets.  Often times, it’s not long before you add a second pen and then a third.  Before you know it, you have a collection and a desire to keep a better accounting of it.  I think that it is important for any collector to have a record of past purchases with detailed accounts of those transactions.  We’ve all been in a position of having to figure out the best way to do this.  Initially I used Microsoft Word in conjunction with Excel.  This was a very workable solution in the early days but as my collection grew, I felt that this method lacked flexibility.  It became harder and harder to keep track of the variables that I was interested in and data began to become the enemy rather than an asset.  I decided to search the web and see what other solutions might be out there.  I didn’t expect to find something geared for the fountain pen enthusiast but was hoping to at least find a solution that could be retrofitted to that purpose.  I wanted an option that wasn’t too expensive, provided flexibility, and would allow me to have a bird’s eye view of my collection by being easily searchable.  In that quest, I found Recollector, a piece of software designed for the collector of just about anything.

Recollector is put out by MapRecord Publications which was founded in 2002 by Jeremy Pool.  Jeremy is a collector of antique maps and became interested in developing a software solution that would organize and catalog his collection.  I’m sure a fountain pen was never even a remote consideration when Recollector was designed nor any number of the odd things that people collect.  Despite this lack of specificity, Recollector has proven to be a powerful tool and that power comes from its versatility and ease of customization.  When you create a new collection with Recollector, you get a generic template and from there, you can customize it to your heart’s content with fields that are relevant to you.  No computer expertise?  No problem.  While I’m computer savvy, I’m certainly no programmer.  I found the process of adding fields, rearranging them, and creating pick lists very straight forward.

Available for both Mac and PCs, Recollector continues to be actively developed and tested on both platforms.  Updates and bug fixes have been regular occurrences and Jeremy is very responsive to user feedback and new feature implementation when deemed appropriate/feasible.  There is an online user guide, video tutorials, an online forum, and direct email/phone support when all else fails.  All of the support materials are thorough and easy to understand and follow.  When first setting up your collection, there is  a wizard to walk you through the process.  Going through the wizard will establish a collection name, a template, pertinent fields, units of measure/currency,  and where your collection will be stored on your computer. There are a few templates but I found that a heavily customized general template worked the best for my purpose.

Recollector New Record Screen

Add new record screen. All fields and pick list were custom created by myself (click to enlarge).

 

Once you have run the wizard, it is easy to begin adding items to the database.  Forgot a field or came up with something to add later?  It is a very painless process to add additional fields at any time, even after you have entered your entire collection.  I particularly like the option to create pick lists which creates a pull-down menu of options that you’ve pre-specified.  For instance, nib sizes are fairly standard so you can have a menu where you simply select EF, F, M, B, etc.  You can make pick list for any field that requires simple text input.  If you happen to have a lot of pens of similar size or other characteristics, the input process can be sped up by copying fields from one entry into another.  This has been invaluable to me in filling out general information such as dimensions for a lot of similar models that may only vary in color but not size.

Once you have entered all of your data, the real flexibility of the program shines through.  You can view your data either in a list format, as an image gallery, or as individual entries.  These views are easily sortable by a variety of criteria giving you a lot of control as to how you view your data.  This is great because not everybody values the same variables when evaluating their collection.  The search function is powerful and allows you to search the entire database or just a certain field.  Taking that one step further, you can actually create subsets, either on the fly with a search or as a standing grouping that can quickly be accessed.  For instance, you could create a subset of just piston fillers or of a certain model.  You may have hundreds of pens but if you only want to see your red ones listed, the list can be instantly adjusted to just that subset.  This is one of the things that puts Recollector well ahead of the Word/Excel solution.

Recollector List View

List view (click to enlarge)

 

Recollector Gallery View

Image gallery view (click to enlarge)

 

Recollector item details view

Item details view (click to enlarge)

 

One of the issues that challenged me previously was how to take my collection on the road, particularly when at pen shows or at brick and mortar shops.  Previously, I would put my *.doc or *.xls files in the cloud and then view them when needed.  This became a very inelegant solution as the collection grew.  Recollector solves this with a companion app for both Apple’s iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch and Google’s Android platforms.  This is a read only program that piggy backs off of Dropbox to upload the Recollector database for mobile viewing on the go.  I love being able to have all of the details of my collection within the palm of my hand.  I have found this invaluable as I now have all of the fields of the desktop version with all the same searchability.  Other features of note include the ability to import/export Excel or CSV files, create a collection via a wizard for upload to a website, and the ability to generate printable reports.  The report feature is particularly nice as you can choose which fields get included in the output as well as what order those fields are listed.  The file is a PDF and can even include an automatically generated index as well as a total cost if you’re brave enough to look.  Finally, it is easy to create a backup of your data as well as place a password on your collection to keep out the prying eyes of significant others.

Recollector mobile app (iPhone)

Left panel: Initial screen when opening the Recollector mobile app. Right panel: List view of the database with individually selectable entries. Fields displayed and sort order are user customizable.

 

Recollector mobile app (iPhone)

Left panel: Item details view which is scrollable. All fields from the desktop software are included. Pictures can be thumbnails or full-sized images that can be expanded. Right panel: The mobile search screen.

 

Recollector is very versatile and easily customized.  While not designed specifically for fountain pen collecting, it is fountain pen friendly.  It’s a great cataloging tool though it does lack some polish as far as the graphic interface goes.  That’s fine by me as I’d rather have a piece of software that works over one that looks pretty.  The program is offered as a free trial which allows you to create and save 25 records before requiring a license.  The cost of that license is a one time price of $49 which gets you both the desktop and mobile software along with free technical support and unlimited updates.  Given what this can do for your collection combined with the ongoing development and responsiveness of the developer, it is money well spent.  I have used the program for several months now and highly recommend it to anyone looking for a collection management solution.  Recollector is not the only software out there but it is the one that meets my needs and that’s the most important aspect of any software.  Consider giving it a try if you’re looking for a solution and see if it can help you too.

Recollector report example

Example output from the report wizard (click to enlarge)

 

Pros:

  • Easily customizable fields with pick lists
  • Ability to create and save subsets or make them on the fly
  • Very little technical savvy required
  • Reasonable price considering all that your purchase buys
  • Very responsive tech support from the creator himself

Cons:

  • Mobile app is read-only and does not allow data input
  • Mobile app requires a separate (free) Dropbox account
  • Graphic interface is a little lacking on polish

Recollector can be found at Collectingcatalog.com
Download my Pelikan Fountain Pen Collection template for Recollector (*.xml file) and follow these instructions for use

Evaluation Platforms:

  • Recollector for Mac version 1.6.10 & Recollector App for iOS version 1.17
  • MacBook Pro Retina (Late 2013) with OS X El Capitan version 10.11.6
  • iPhone 6 with iOS 9.3.3

*I have no affiliation with the vendor or the creator of this software.  I am simply a satisfied customer.  The views expressed here are my own and free of any undue influence.

22 responses

  1. Great review, thanks a lot for sharing this. This software is exactly what I needed.
    My collection grew a little faster than anticipated 😉 (from 1 pen to 70+ in 1.5 years) and I was having trouble keeping track of it with Excel. I’ve already bought the software and started to enter my collection: it is really easy to use.
    Cheers.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s a rapid growth indeed. Funny how it seems one pen can become 20 almost overnight. I’m glad that my post was helpful to you. Would love to hear your experience with the software after you’re up and running.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I have already entered all my collection and now I’m just fine tuning the file (I wish I had seen before that you made your template available). I also created another file for my rapidly expanding collection of inks. My opinion of the software is similar to what you wrote in your article: it is very flexible and easily customizable. It is also very user friendly and in half an hour I was able to do all I needed (and I’m usually not in good terms with computers…). I still have to take pictures of my pens to enter in the catalogue, but I ran some tests and it is also very easy to deal with photos and I found the interface adequate (but with room for improvement). The only (minor) bug that I’ve found so far is that if you make some changes, forget to click “ok” and open the “copy fields”, the software freezes and I had to close the file and reopen. Overall I am extremely satisfied with it. Once again, thank you for sharing this.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I’m glad to hear that you’re getting along well with the software. If you do find any bugs, please report them to Jeremy Pool via his website. He is very responsive and usually has a patch out in a day or two when he can find and fix the bug. I was thinking of doing a separate one for inks myself but haven’t gotten around to that one yet.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Appreciate the sharing of experience and files. Would Luis be willing to share his ink template? My immediate thought was, oh…pens. Then inks. Then paper–although it’s such a consumable, worthwhile keeping track of what works well.

          Liked by 2 people

    • Jeremy, thanks a lot for fixing the bug, I’ll download the latest version later. Now, that is what one calls great customer service: solving my problem even before I bring it to your attention! 🙂 Congrats on the great product that you have.

      Laura, I would be happy to share my template (it’s nothing fancy, mind you).
      Perhaps the easiest way to do this is if you PM me on FPN (I’m assuming that you use FPN). My username there is Lam1.

      Joshua, thanks again for sharing this information. It is very useful to be able to share it in the phone too: my wife is on a trip and I gave her a list of ink brands, she is supposed to buy any of those not listed in the Recollector file and as many as she can carry 🙂 ! [Pens I don’t need to tell her which ones to buy: any Pelikan SE will do 😉 ].

      Liked by 2 people

      • You’re welcome! If you have a template that you think might be beneficial to the community, Jeremy does have a spot on his site where he hosts templates that users have made. If you have an ink template, it may be worthwhile to email him and see if he’d host it on his site for others to download and benefit from.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Excellent write-up, Joshua. I’ve been using the Word/Excel/Google Docs method, too, but now that my collection has grown to 200+ fountain pens (not all are Pelikans) I think I’m ready to up my game. Had to chuckle at the password protection bit… 😉 Also, noted that you’ve yet to ink your Raden Sunrise… ha!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! That’s a good sized collection. Seems like Word/Excel anecdotally is the go to for a lot of collectors. That’s why I was hoping to show people that there are other options out there. The Raden does remain un-inked but it will get there. Just need the right ink and the right occasion. That inking needs to be special.

      Liked by 1 person

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  6. I’ll try to be succinct, because you have me almost sold after years of searching. (1) Does the ID # get automatically generated as you are entering data, or do you enter that yourself and, therefore, have to keep track of them somehow? I have thousands of pens. (2) How do you connect the ID # to the actual pen? For instance, I have a dozen Rappens in various conditions and nibs. Do you put a number on the pen? (3) What do you do with your boxes? Put the same ID # on the box, because you have put the pen in a case for taking with you?

    Thanks, Joshua.

    Tom

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the query Tom. 1) The ID# can either be manually input or automatically generated. I use automatically generated IDs which is easily done with the touch of a button when adding an entry. 2) My collection is not nearly as extensive as yours and therefore I have less need of the unique identifier. At this time, I’m not using it to track individual pens. What I would do, if I were, would be to have a small piece of index card type material and place that under the pen’s clip with that identifier. 3) Where I see the ID# useful for me is by taking a sticker with that pen’s ID and placing it on the box to keep track of what box goes with what pen. This is perfect for me since I don’t keep my pens in their boxes. I’m sure other ways could be thought of to put it to use and better track your collection.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I should have added this question, which I actually wrote to Recollector Support:

    I have multiple Macs and multiple PCs. I read about using the thumb drive. Can I use a cloud drive such as iCloud, Google Drive, One Drive, or Dropbox? Today I would like to edit and add records from my Mac, tomorrow from my Windows 10 machine, the third day from my WIndows 7 machine, and then back to my Mac, all depending upon where I am and which hardware I have with me. Just leaving it in the cloud would not only be very convenient, but also provides a form of backup.

    Tom

    Liked by 1 person

    • This is a technical issue that I will defer to Jeremy to answer. Hopefully he has already done so. The collection file exist on the local machine as does the image directory that it points to. You can choose where those files are stored on your computer and I suppose a Dropbox or other similar folder that is synced to the cloud would be a reasonable location. I’m not sure about the compatibility between MAC and PCs but hopefully Jeremy can answer that. Please do report back what you find out. I hope that this becomes a workable solution for you and your amazing collection.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thomas had shared this info with me after you replied and I read your explanation with interest. It’s not something that I need personally but it’s neat that this type of flexibility and compatibility across platforms exist. Continued thanks for the excellent software support.

      Liked by 1 person

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