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Sep
21

Photo managers super test

by Rob Zwetsloot

Sort and edit your photos, from holiday snaps to hardware shots, as we find out the very best photo-managing tool on Linux

In the digital age we live in, with camera-phones, prosumer photographers with their DSLRs and everything tagged on Facebook, there are a lot more photographs flying around than there were in the days of Kodak film being developed. Organising your photos can be a huge task, with a wealth of metadata and tagging that you can edit on your images to aid with album creation and searching for specific events or items in your photo stream.

There are a lot of powerful yet easy-to-use tools around to help touch up and enhance your photos, but going through GIMP with each individual photo for some basic edits can get tedious. A few of the photo management apps we’re looking at today also include editing functions that allow you to perform simple, batch processing tasks like colour correction on a selection of images rather than one at a time.

We’ve chosen the best and most popular applications for comparison here. Others that didn’t make the cut include Fotoxx, Darktable and showFoto, the last two being more about image manipulation than photo management.

Shotwell

There's only a thumbnail view for photos
There’s only a thumbnail view for photos

Shotwell is the one application on our test that is used by default in the likes of Ubuntu or Fedora. It’s popular in GNOME- based distributions and other GTK desktop environments, although of course it works fine in KDE and the like. It’s a straightforward photo manager that requires little configuration and is fairly lightweight to begin with, much like the other Yorba applications.

When we say the interface is straightforward, what we mean is that there’s only a simple thumbnail view of your pictures. While you can increase the size of the thumbnails in this view, this of course reduces the amount of images you can see at once, and is not a true preview like you would get with something like a filmstrip view – that kind of view is great for quickly scanning through pictures for either yourself or showing off to others, so its absence is a bit odd.

The interface does have its perks, though, allowing you do a few batch operations such as tagging, placing in events, and using the ‘enhance’ button to do some autocorrection on lighting and colouring – it won’t instantly make things look amazing, but it’s subtle enough that it doesn’t overdo anything. Events are treated like albums in the interface and you can only assign one to a photo, while multiple tags can be assigned. This is enough to differentiate their usage, as you might have hundreds of tags but only a few events.

Image editing in Shotwell is also very basic, allowing you normal things such as cropping and rotating, along with red-eye removal and a manual colour balancing tool. That’s about it, though, and if you want to do some other effects or manipulations you’ll need to fire up the GIMP.

Shotwell is a very serviceable photo manager, doing the semi-basics well enough so that while it might be easier to use other apps in this test, you’ll be able to get the job done. It does come with a great function that allows you to publish photos online, though – this includes posting to Facebook or Flickr accounts, and is a good way to sort out all your photos before uploading them.

Score

7/10

A decent photo manager that can do all the basic tasks you’d want from such an application, but not much more.

gThumb

gThumb lets you navigate the directory structure
gThumb lets you navigate the directory structure

We were actually a little surprised by gThumb, especially as it’s a GNOME-made application. With the recent move to simplifying all parts of GNOME, we were wondering whether its popularity was misplaced; however, it looks like all the changes to the GNOME Shell haven’t affected the way gThumb works.

It’s not to say it’s a super-advanced, though – it features a fairly straightforward interface that we’d want from a photo manager. By default, it’s a thumbnail view, displaying the Picture folder in the home directory. Instead of importing photos from specific albums, you merely navigate through the directory structure. This means that instead of having specific albums to create, you’ll need to organise those photos yourself in a file manager or terminal.

Clicking on the Edit file button in the top right opens up the image editor, and a sort of limited filmstrip view as well. You can click between photos in the stream on the bottom to edit them individually, although you can’t move between them with arrow keys. The editor is a little more advanced than what you get with Shotwell, allowing for more manual colour and balance corrections, as well as anti-blurring, desaturation and negative filters. There isn’t any red-eye removal, though, and no paintbrushes or anything to do that, meaning you’ll need to open GIMP for those kind of operations.

You also can’t do batch autocorrection for the images, but you can do batch tagging. You can drag a box over the images to select them, or press Ctrl/Shift with click, and you’ll be able to add, remove or assign tags in batches. You can edit information in batches as well; however, you’ll likely want to do that individually. Images that have been edited in this way get a date added to them, letting you know when they were last modified by gThumb.

Like Shotwell, gThumb also has online publishing tools, with similar services such as Facebook, Twitter, Flickr etc. It’s nice that these tools exist, as these services don’t have touch- up options, allowing for mass uploading of holiday photos and the like.

gThumb is a great little application and while it doesn’t quite have everything we want, it’s definitely a step up from Shotwell.

Score

8/10

A very strong showing from gThumb, a photo manager with plenty of features, although it could do with some batch image touch-up options.

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    • mcraia

      Well, for many Linux-distributions, installing Digikam unfortunately still means installing a load of dependencies from KDE.

    • Manja

      Digikam is definitely the best. Far ahead of others.

    • gazhay

      Latest update of digikam just moved all my photos to the trash and replaced the folder with an sqllite file. That pretty much disqualifies it from any serious use whatsoever.

    • Artur Oliveira

      XnView MP work go for me (Mint Maya XFCE) ;-)