First, I'll mention some issues with jBrout so that we can focus on the good parts later. To begin with, jBrout can only manage pictures in jpeg format, but that shouldn't be a problem for people who only have smartphones or basic cameras that don't produce other formats anyway.
Secondly, jBrout documentation and downloads are not always up to date (more on this below), and they're still scattered among the official web site, the old web site, and the project home. This makes finding the right package and information harder than it has to be. Finally, the jBrout feature I like the most (also explained below) isn't really well-documented or stable, at least in the 0.3.359 RPM version that I was able to test.
Despite these issues, my opinion about jBrout remains that it's a nice, very simple photo manager that you should at least give a try.
jBrout feature tour
jBrout has a clean interface (Figure A), and its albums appear as simple folders and sub-folders on your hard drive. The first time you launch jBrout, it will ask you (among other things) if you want to auto-rotate your pictures and rename them according to their timestamps. Unless you've already done that, I think you should answer "yes," at least to the second question. As I said in my very first post on TechRepublic, consistent naming -- based on picture creation time -- is essential in photo archiving.
jBrout has a clean interface.
jBrout can launch several external programs to process the photographs in its albums. The only way to customize this part of its interface is to open the configuration file by clicking File | Edit external tools and edit it manually. You can enable or disable each of the Operations from whole albums or single photographs from the File | Preferences panel (Figure B). It's also possible to add tags, categories, ratings, and comments to the pictures. The search function can filter by all those parameters, plus orientation (Landscape or Portrait), and time range.
The jBrout virtual Basket is very handy whenever you need to perform the same operation (e.g. applying a common tag) on pictures scattered across several albums. Select those pictures, put them in the Basket, then open it and start working.
Share your pictures
jBrout makes sharing pictures easy. I couldn't test it myself, but there is a media share function to make pictures easily available on UPNP/DLNA digital TVs and media centers.
In addition to that, if you select some pictures, right-click them, and choose Export to, you'll get the panel that you see in Figure C. From there, it's possible to email your pictures or upload them to Picasa or Flickr, removing all their metadata first. For reasons why you may really want to do that, please (re)read the last of my photo archiving tips.
The HTML Gallery option of the same panel creates static galleries (Figure D) that you can upload on your own web site, instead of Flickr or Picasa, or copy on a DVD.
The jBrout web server
The Operations menu of jBrout has another entry called Web Share. If you click on it, you'll start a mini web server in a pop-up window (Figure E). This will make all of the pictures that you've previously selected accessible with any web browser from (at least) all the other computers on the same local network (if they use the right address).
The corresponding jBrout documentation says that, once the server has been started, users of those other computers should type http://ip.of.jbrout.computer://8080 in their browsers to see the galleries. However, this is not correct. After some trial and error, I found out that the right address should have this format, instead: http://192.168.1.6:8080/index?a=0&p=0 (the IP, in this example, is 192.168.1.6)
Local Web serving is the jBrout feature I like the most. With a few clicks, a jBrout user can let everybody on the same local network browse selected pictures from his or her computer without installing any software. The first scenario where this may be useful is a class, but even friends or family meetings may benefit from it.
In my experience, this feature only works well with pictures from one
album. When I selected several albums, I got pictures in some
cases and error messages in others. Even as is, however, jBrout can be a decent photo manager. Have you tried jBrout? Share your experience in the discussion thread below.
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.