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A little known DigiKam tool: Print Assistant

Marco Fioretti shows three uses for DigiKam's Print Assistant feature and reviews some of the settings.
DigiKam, the KDE photo management program, has so many features that it is easy to miss some of them, even if you have already been using it for a while. As a matter of fact, I had been using DigiKam for months the first time I noticed its Image | Print Assistant entry, and decided to click on it. What I found is a little tool that can be very handy in certain situations.

The DigiKam Print Assistant is a little graphical interface that lets you select how many photographs you want and then place them in the smallest possible number of "pages" (more on this later). Once the pages are ready, you can do (at least) four things:

  • Send them right away to your printer
  • Save them in PDF or PostScript format for later printing
  • Save them as JPEG images
  • Open them directly in the Gimp, to process them in any way you wish

A professional photographer may use the first two options to give her customers printed, or printable, collections of thumbnails, so they can choose which ones they want printed.

Personally, I have found the DigiKam Print Assistant pretty useful in three very different situations. One is printing paper albums, with selections of holiday or family pictures that you can then bind in more or less fancy ways. They make much-appreciated and quickly prepared personalized presents for all those relatives and friends that still prefer to enjoy photographs in that way.

Another occasion in which the Print Assistant helped me was when I needed to create collages of many single photographs to be used as banners or backgrounds for websites or brochures (Figure A was produced in this way). I selected the pictures, chose the Print To Jpeg option and was done. If you do this, remember that the greater the "page" size, the greater the size of the resulting JPEG file!

Figure A

Before I get to my third use case, I'll show you a few more settings in Print Assistant.

As you can see in Figure B, the interface is divided in four panes. The big one on the right shows what the pages will look like.

Figure B

Click to enlarge

The left central pane lists all the pictures selected in DigiKam just before launching the Assistant. You can use that pane to remove or rearrange photographs as you please, but there is more. The most interesting buttons in that pane are the two with which you can save lists of pictures and Print Assistant settings in plain text XML files, or reload them the next time you start the tool.

The lower pane lets you set captions. You can choose text font, color and size, as well as the caption format. The choices here are no caption at all, file name, timestamp, the content of the Exif/digiKam comment fields and "custom". The latter can be any combination of the previous fields plus other shot parameters (e.g. focal length) or custom text. After you have configured the captions, the Print Assistant will give you the possibility to crop each picture, within certain limits (Figure C).

Figure C

Selection of page size has its own drop-down menu above the preview pane.

Figure D

Figure D shows that in the top left pane you can choose among many different page layouts, including irregular ones or special purpose ones, which brings me to my third use case, presented in a corner of Figure E.

Figure E

Besides giving the option to design your own custom table layout, the Print Assistant comes loaded with three different choices for... passport photographs! Thanks to those options, all it takes to have such pictures ready for the whole family is the right number of sheets of photographic paper and a few clicks!

My only complaint with the Print Assistant (at least as it works in DigiKam 2.7.0) is about the lack of two options: one to set page headers and footers, and another to place captions outside the pictures. Apart from this, I'm quite happy about this tool. Sure enough, none of my proposed use cases is a daily or frequent task for me or most other users, but when they happen... the Print Assistant deals with them much, much quicker than other solutions. Do you have other suggestions on how to use this tool? Please let me know!

About

Marco Fioretti is a freelance writer and teacher whose work focuses on the impact of open digital technologies on education, ethics, civil rights, and environmental issues.

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