Photo Management on Linux - Part 2

When I am looking for a photo management program, I want one which meets most or all of the following requirements:- Allows me to store my photos where I want on the disk. I don't want the program to "steal" my pictures and squirrel them away somewhere that I can't find, access or recover them without assistance from that program.
Written by J.A. Watson, Contributor

When I am looking for a photo management program, I want one which meets most or all of the following requirements:

- Allows me to store my photos where I want on the disk. I don't want the program to "steal" my pictures and squirrel them away somewhere that I can't find, access or recover them without assistance from that program.

- Allows me to catalog, categorize, tag or otherwise group pictures independent of how they are stored. I tend to do the bulk storage of my pictures by years, but I want to be able to look at them not only by years, but in smaller groups within a year (Thanksgiving 2008), or in groups which span years, and thus span storage folders (all Thanksgivings).

- Includes minimal image manipulation capabilities. All I really want to be able to do is rotate pictures as necessary, resize them for sending in email and such, and perhaps fix red-eye problems.

- Has at least full-screen picture display, and preferably slide show capability.

That's not a lot, I know - and that has been the problem. If I want to do more sophisticated things, editing, creating collages, whatever else, I will use GIMP on Linux, or something like Photo Shop on Windows. But I don't want the overhead or the complication of those programs when all I am trying to do is download pictures from the camera, look at them, or show them to someone.

So, working within these expectations, here are some of the programs that are available on Linux.

F-Spot Photo Manager: Perhaps the best known of the Linux programs, simply because it is the "standard" that comes on Ubuntu and openSuSE, and is activated whenever you insert a memory card or connect a camera.

- It will download pictures from your memory card or camera (unfortunately storing them in its own photo hierarchy, but at least they are still standard Linux files and directories). It detects duplicate pictures, so if you insert the same card several times without clearing it, you don't end up with multiple copies of every picture - and this is not based only on duplicate file names.

- It maintains the original file name, which I particularly like, as it helps me see very easily which pictures came from which of our cameras.

- You can specify catalogs and categories for groups of pictures as you download them.

- It has a nice sidebar with lots of image information, meta-data, comments if you have added them, and even a histogram of the image data. I suspect that latter is part of how it detects duplicate pictures, by the way.

- It has rotate/flip, red-eye fix, color and crop options, but no resize that I can find - one of the few failings I have seen in it.

- It has a nice full-screen view with next/previous and "start slide show"

- You can "export" pictures to a CD (nice if you want to burn all of the Thanksgiving pictures to give to others), as well as various web photo share services.

- Perhaps the most impressive feature is the "loupe", a magnifying glass you can move around the picture with your mouse. This is worth lots of "gee whiz" points.

gThumb Image Viewer: This is the program that is activated on Fedora 10 when a memory card or camera is connected. It is much less abitious than F-Spot, leaning a lot more in the "simple image viewer" direction rather than the "complete photo manager" direction. However, that suits me just fine, as I am looking for something minimal, and this is currently my program of choice.

- Downloads the pictures from memory cards and cameras, and stores them in the folder of your choice. It can change the file names if you want it to, but it will leave the original name intact if you tell it to. Unfortunately, it doesn't appear to detect duplicate pictures, even by file names.

- You can assign a category to the entire group as it is downloaded, but you can not assign them to a catalog (there's a significant difference).

- Pictures can be viewed by folder (storage location) or catalog (which you can assign to them). One picture can be assigned to multiple catalogs.

- Includes rotate/flip, red-eye fix and resize

- Has both a full-screen view with next/previous controls, and a slide show which appears to be simply the full screen mode with automatic advance and a pause button.

Eye of Gnome: It is too much of a stretch to call this a "Photo Manager", but it is a quite nice Image Viewer. This is what comes up when you double-click on an image file under the Gnome desktop. It doesn't know anything about downloading or transferring pictures, it simply presents one or more pictures from within a folder.

- Includes very basic image maniuplation - rotate and flip.

- Full Screen mode with an optional toolbar across the top and an optional film strip of all images across the bottom. Keypad arrow keys move to the next/previous image.

- Slide Show mode, also with toolbar and keypad arrow key control.

digiKam: This is the "luxury" model of the programs I looked out, with all sorts of bells and whistles. It is typically installed on systems with the KDE desktop, such as Mandriva and MEPIS. As I mentioned in part 1, it is undergoing a change along with the transition from KDE 3 to KDE 4; I have only been able to really look at the older 0.9 (KDE 3) version, which I have on MEPIS. First, Mandriva 2009.0 didn't have digiKam installed, and after I installed the 0.10 (KDE 4) version, I can't get it to do much other than crash.

- Downloads pictures from cards and cameras into digiKam "Albums", which are Linux folders.

- Includes all the usual category and tagging features, and displays the complete image information and meta-data for each picture.

- Has nice full-screen and slide show modes.

- Extensive picture editing capability - this is where it really starts to excel, if you are looking for this sort of thing. Rotate, flip, resize and all sorts of color adjustments. WAY more than I would want, but this matters to a lot of people, and it's much more capable than F-Spot.

- Filters/Decoration/Borders. Wow. Lots of fun stuff here. You can put all sorts of frames around a picture, make it look like a charcoal sketch, overlay patterns like decorative paper, and all sorts of other effects. If you have a lot more imagination than I do, and like to "play" with your pictures, this should be a wonderful playground for you.

showFoto: This is sort of the KDE 3 equivalent of the "Eye of Gnome", it is what you get by default when you click an image file under KDE 3 (at least on MEPIS). It is, however, considerably more powerful (and complex) than Eye of Gnome - it is more like "digiKam light". It will do almost everything that digiKam does, with the exception of downloading and cataloging images. In particular, picture editing, filters, decoractions and borders are all the same as in digiKam. It also has full screen and slide show modes.

Gwenview: This is yet another Image Viewing program, and is the default for KDE 4 (at least on Mandriva 2009.0). Gwenview underwent a substantial overhaul between versions 1 and 2 (corresponding to KDE 3 and KDE 4), and the newer version seems much nicer to me. It is better designed, much more focused, the user interface is much cleaner and more intuitive. The following description refers specifically to Gwenview 2.

- As with showFoto, the one thing Gwenview is missing that would make it more like a complete "Photo Management" program is the ability to download images and assign them to catalogs and/or categories, or to write them to CD or otherwise "export" them.

- Gwenview either displays a single image, or a browse view of all images in a folder.

- It has very nice full-screen and slide-show diplay modes, with a flim-strip view of all available images across the top of the display.

- Basic editing capabilities - rotate, flip, mirror, crop and resize... everything I need!

- It can display complete image information and exif metadata in an optional sidebar.

So, there you have it - that's quite an assortment of photo management, viewing and manipulation programs! Of course, the best news is that they are all freely available, various of them come preinstalled with the popular Linux desktop distributions, and if the Linux version you are using doesn't have one that you particularly like, or that sounds interesting to you, it is always possible to download and install them.

jw 25/11/2008

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