First, a bit of a disclaimer: I never liked Apple’s iPhoto. The first versions of it bloated your hard drive by a factor of two, copying each and every one of your precious photos to a different directory and converting them to PDF files (?!) without giving you any say in the matter. Even today it still requires some kind of proprietary database to run. If something happens to that, you’re screwed — even if your photos themselves are fine.
My requirements for a photo manager are fairly meagre — all I really need to do is:
- Organize photos into separate catalogs;
- Rotate them as needed and have the results saved;
- View a variety of file types, specifically PNG and Camera RAW.
Here then, are three contenders that I tested on my Linux Mint install:
Shotwell was up first — it seemed very responsive and full-featured, with two notable exceptions. First, it imports all photos into a single collection (you can separate them by date) and second, it doesn’t seem to have any built-in support for PNG graphics. As I collect a lot of screen grabs from my various computers and mobile devices this made Shotwell a non-starter for me.
F-Spot is arguably the most popular of the three apps I tested, with enough features to make it encroach upon more heavyweight photo editors like the GIMP. This might also be its downfall, however, as it seemed to me the least responsive — certainly not pokey enough to be unusable, but enough that it was noticed.
Oh, and it doesn’t have multiple catalog support either.
Even more popular than F-spot is Google’s Picasa — I didn’t test that, partly because it runs under Windows emulation using Wine, and partly because I’ve a particularly awful Google handle that anyone looking at my online Picasa gallery would see. I’m vain that way.
gThumb hits that sweet spot of giving me almost everything I need and little more. Plus it was the only app I could find with support for multiple photo catalogs.
A bit surprising for yours truly was that all three of these solutions support Camera RAW files — at least the ones from my Canon DSLR — with no extra plug-ins required.
But none give me the ability to save a catalog to a specific location on my hard drive. On each of these apps such things are stored invisibly somewhere in your user space where you can’t easily get at them — just like iPhoto. And that’s not necessarily a good thing, at least for me.
Thankfully there are lots of choices for Linux photo managers — click here for some more ideas. And if you know of an app that supports portable catalogs (ones I could back up to another disk), hit me up with a link below!