Software

Five apps to help keep your photo collections under control

It's easy to quickly lose yourself in an avalanche of digital images. Here are a few tools to help get things organized.

In a world where digital life has become a guidepost for social networking, family, and business, we all need a way to keep our digital files under control. There are plenty of obvious tools for the management of music files. But what about images? Are you limited to what your operating system gives you? Is your file manager enough? Probably not, when you need such features as tags, ratings, and other tools for proper management.

I started playing around with photography a while ago and decided I needed more than a file manager to manage my photographs. So I found a few tools that meet various needs from various levels of users. Here they are for you to examine and decide whether one of them is right for you.

Note: This list is also available as a photo gallery.

1: FastStone Image Viewer

No, you won't be doing image manipulation, as you might with The Gimp or Photoshop. But FastStone Image Viewer (Figure A) does do red eye removal, resizing, retouching, cropping, and more. FastStone has a full-screen mode, quick access to EXIF information, and a thumbnail browser. It can handle multiple image file formats and much more. FastStone is free for personal use but requires a license for business use. This tool is available only for Windows, but it does offer a portable version.

Figure A

FastStone Image Viewer

2: StudioLine Photo Basic

StudioLine Photo Basic (Figure B) offers some unusual features in the world of image management, such as Geo Caching, image editing, descriptions, archiving, and online albums. It also offers dual monitor support and a built-in auto-update function. StudioLine supports batch processing for the editing features and has an outstanding, user-friendly UI. This Windows tool is free of charge.

Figure B

StudioLine Photo Basic

3: IrfanView

IrfanView (Figure C) is unique in that its manager and thumbnail viewer are two different tools. And although the interface might seem a bit outdated, the tool is still powerful and useful. IrfanView offers multilingual support, vast file format support, Adobe Photoshop filter support, paint option and email options, a built-in multimedia player, embedded print profile support, and scan support, cut/crop, plug-ins, and much more. IrfanView is free and is available only for Windows.

Figure C

IrfanView

4: Shotwell

Shotwell (Figure D) is the open source photo manager for the GNOME operating system. It comes preinstalled with all GNOME 3-based and Ubuntu Unity systems. Shotwell is an incredible tool for the management of your photo collections and includes direct import from cameras or SD cards, automatic grouping of photos by date, tagging, ratings, editing (rotate, crop, red eye reduction, exposure, saturation, etc.), and the ability to easily publish photos.

Figure D

Shotwell

5: Darktable

Darktable (Figure E) is not just an image management tool, but a photo workshop and photo workflow tool. It can manage your photos, as well as work with RAW images. It also offers plenty of powerful filters and tools, helps manage images with tagging, supports color profiles, allows you to search images with database queries (via a plug-in), and offers a full-screen zoomable interface, among other things. Unlike most of the other image management tools, Darktable does have a steeper learning curve. It's free and is available for Linux, Solaris, and OS X.

Figure E

Darktable

Other options?

Image management tools run the gamut from simple to powerfully complicated. On this list of five tools, at least one should help keep your massive collection of photos in check and under control.

If you have a favorite image manager that didn't make this list,  share your recommendations with fellow TechRepublic members.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

25 comments
fcollings
fcollings

Oh and this needs to be achievable on a PC platform. Thanks!

fcollings
fcollings

Hi there, I'm now more confused than ever. I'm a graphic designer with multiple sources of images that I need to collate, tag and manage. I need a large number of staff to be able to access, view (not edit) and download these images. After reading all of these reviews I don't see a simple and easy to use solution to my problem. HELP! 

blavelle62
blavelle62

Where do rate Picasa and its Mutifunction Integration ?

mark
mark

Nice review of image viewers, but the content didn't match the promise of the title...

agentofkaos1
agentofkaos1

Similar to the comments above, I think it's important to separate photo editing from photo management but also to separate photo management from long term photo organisation and storage. Specific to photo management, I think it's a trap to use a specific photo management application or web service and related proprietary databases because they come and go over time. In "iPhoto and Durable photo management" (http://www.agentofkaos.net/2011/09/iphoto-and-durable-photo-management.html) I explain a very simple and durable approach to storing photos I've been using for the last 12 years. I then layer on iPhoto (but take your pick - Picassa et al) on top of it for useful (but potentially transient) features.

grumpusbumpus
grumpusbumpus

I would like add another piece of software to the above list: XnView (http://www.xnview.com/). I use this software every day at work to view and edit photos before uploading them to a web gallery. It's free and installs to windows, with a beta version for Linux and iOS. Also, I agree with unclepete52's criticism: image manipulation and image management are two different tasks, though many pieces of software do both, to a greater or lesser degree. I am very interested in the topic of image management at the organizational level, and I would love to hear about solutions people use at their workplaces for tackling this problem. grumpusbumpus[at]gmail[dot][com]

michael
michael

Irfanview is an excellent manipulation tool. You haven't mentioned its bulk processing capability, which is what I use it for the most, bulk resizing. Management-wise I find Windows 7 is fine for me with its built-in tagging options. I do not wish or need to pay for more complex tools to do these jobs.

tom
tom

According to the download page of their website StudioLine Photo Basic also needs a licence for business use, and IrfanView's forum also says that it is only free for non-commercial, educational and charity use. When talking about "free" products shouldn't every writer automatically tell us when product is, or is not, free for business use? In this article it is mentioned for one product but not the others.

jm2
jm2

I need a management tool that can hopefully tag and annotate without my having to laboriously go through and hand id 100s of photos each time i return from a trip. where are these tools?

dpickles53
dpickles53

These tools are ok if you want something to get you past your OS' file manager, but you will quickly bump into limits. For a step up from these solutions, consider Photoshop Elements. The organizer offers multiple ways to tag, store, collect and search for your images. It offers Adobe's Camera Raw processor for handling RAW files with more capabilities than the above options. It is true that once you get into the photo editor, a learning curve must be climbed, but with powerful layer processing and impressive tools, you can take your photos to places you can only dream about with a simple basic editor. This tool provides much of the capability of Photoshop CS5/6 but is a little easier to learn and whole lot less expensive. It is often on sale for under $70. There are direct interfaces to web social sites, and the ability to create unique creations such as calendars and the like. The Slide Show capability is very nice as well.

veermae
veermae

why do computer-bloggers try to write about everything ? all these are simple image browsers, NOT image collection management tools. image collection management tools are image databases, like thumbs plus, light-room, bibble (advanced amateurs should know them) etc.

busi2ness
busi2ness

You mentioned some I wasn't even aware of. Tagging and zooming does not qualify as "control" anymore in my humble opinion. Photographers need way more than that. Having said that, I reckon Faststone to be one of the best low ends - no hassle, simple and fast. Thanks for the article, it remains one of my special interests!

SportsShooter
SportsShooter

I am a professional photographer and could not do my job without PhotoMechanic. A fantastic tool, very fast and easy to use, with tons of Flexibility. Go to: http://www.camerabits.com/site/index.html to download a free full version trial. It is simply the best tool out there in my opinion.

alliancemillsoft
alliancemillsoft

I couldn't say if it's the best but I've been pretty pleased with XN View, which can handle raw images, whole libraries, tagging, some photo editing, scripting that allows you to create things like web images from a folder of full size images, renaming, etc. It's also cross platform if that's important to you .. http://www.xnview.com/

rblinlv
rblinlv

I too was not looking for manipulation as much as management. I literally have hundreds of thousands of photos from hundreds of sources on hundreds of topics, plus thousands of video clips, and am in desparate need of a solution broader than "windows folders". I am experimenting with Picajet but before I buy i wanted to see it EXIF and geocoding features as their trial version and marketing of the features leaves a lot of unanswered questions.

nick
nick

These are manipulation tools not management tools. I use Fastone Image viewer daily, but it is not an organiser.

Gopi Krishna Nuti
Gopi Krishna Nuti

Dude, really? All these are photo editing tools. They are useful but don't really fall under collection management tools. When I manage my photo collections, I look for features very similar to file managers but more tailored towards images. I won't categorise the above tools as photo collection management tools. They are for managing the photo's contents.

unclepete52
unclepete52

Photo management falls into two areas - editing and management. For editing (ie manipulation of an image), there are many tools - you've mentioned several including gimp and photoshop. This is a huge topic and 'best' is dictated by many factors, not the least of which is the intent of the image - commercial, art, craft, personal album, etc. It's a personal choice. Management is another topic. As your photo collection expands, you need to collect, collate and identify images. This requires strong capabilities in keyword tagging, geographical tagging, categorising, etc. Other features that allow group conversion and distribution (eg "Hey, Dad, here's the photo's of your birthday") are essential. Shotwell has some of these features, but I prefer Picasa for it's organisational and management features. For instance, I can come home from an event, unload my photos (in RAW format), tag, geolocate, add descriptions and create an auto-loading slideshow CD of the best shots in jpg format with minimal effort. Uploading to web albums is also simple.

dregeh
dregeh

Surely you have something to offer besides criticism.

dregeh
dregeh

XnView's portable version is powerful and allows me to install it to my Dropbox folder - this way, I can run it from any PC on my current set of photos I need to prep before sending to my online photo album. Definitely worth a look.

SKDTech
SKDTech

I have been using ACDSee for years as well. Definitely worth the cost in my book.