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 And although the interface might seem a bit outdated, the tool is still powerful and useful.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


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


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


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.