Three Linux alternatives to iPhoto.

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.

So really, as a new (full-time) Linux user I’m looking more for a replacement for the dearly departed iView MediaPro, which likely went all to hell after Microsoft bought it a few years back.

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!

16 Responses to “Three Linux alternatives to iPhoto.”


  • AC:
    this is quite interesting and timely. I’ve used iPhoto for about 7 years to catalog my photos, and it’s handy having things organized by event or in “playlists” by theme. But I have an issue….

    I’m moving this month, so I’ve packed up the G5 for storage. I was able to move my iTunes folder to an external drive so I can use it on my iBook, but could I move my 5000+ iPhoto library over for the same purpose? Nope. I have always backed up my own photos by downloading them using the OS X photo utility (so I end up capturing them 2x), so I have accessible copies, but unless I want to eat up the 20 GB internal drive, I’m not going to import them into iPhoto on my iBook.

    Ed

  • AC:
    this is quite interesting and timely. I’ve used iPhoto for about 7 years to catalog my photos, and it’s handy having things organized by event or in “playlists” by theme. But I have an issue….

    I’m moving this month, so I’ve packed up the G5 for storage. I was able to move my iTunes folder to an external drive so I can use it on my iBook, but could I move my 5000+ iPhoto library over for the same purpose? Nope. I have always backed up my own photos by downloading them using the OS X photo utility (so I end up capturing them 2x), so I have accessible copies, but unless I want to eat up the 20 GB internal drive, I’m not going to import them into iPhoto on my iBook.

    Ed

  • Re: gthumb storage of catalogs

    Hi!

    This is from the gthumb help manual:
    Catalogs are saved in the following folder: ~/gnome2/gthumb/collections

    The files seem to be basically just a list of locations and filenames of the images in the catalog.

    Cheers, Pierre

  • Re: gthumb storage of catalogs

    Hi!

    This is from the gthumb help manual:
    Catalogs are saved in the following folder: ~/gnome2/gthumb/collections

    The files seem to be basically just a list of locations and filenames of the images in the catalog.

    Cheers, Pierre

  • It’d be nice if they weren’t hidden, but at least I know where they are now… Thanks for the tip!

  • It’d be nice if they weren’t hidden, but at least I know where they are now… Thanks for the tip!

  • I always thought that it would be nice (or just geeky fun) to organize photos in a wiki. But that’s just ‘cuz I have some sort of a boner for Wiki’s for some reason. But, speaking of Wiki’s, our friends over at Wikipedia also mention digiKam which apparently “has been awarded the TUX 2005 and 2008 Readers’ Choice Award in the category Favorite Digital Photo Management Tool” I noticed it has a plug-in for Picasaweb (I use Picasa on my windoze machine) and the screen caps on the web site (http://www.digikam.org/) look interesting. But, other than that, I can offer no practical experience.
    Living my Linux life precariously through you,
    Doug (slugore)

  • I always thought that it would be nice (or just geeky fun) to organize photos in a wiki. But that’s just ‘cuz I have some sort of a boner for Wiki’s for some reason. But, speaking of Wiki’s, our friends over at Wikipedia also mention digiKam which apparently “has been awarded the TUX 2005 and 2008 Readers’ Choice Award in the category Favorite Digital Photo Management Tool” I noticed it has a plug-in for Picasaweb (I use Picasa on my windoze machine) and the screen caps on the web site (http://www.digikam.org/) look interesting. But, other than that, I can offer no practical experience.
    Living my Linux life precariously through you,
    Doug (slugore)

  • Linux l33t tip: apps that have a ‘k’ in their name where there should be a ‘c’ tend to be for KDE-based distrbutions — they’re not incompatible but tend to have a lot more window dressing on their UI.

    More here if you’re interested…

  • Linux l33t tip: apps that have a ‘k’ in their name where there should be a ‘c’ tend to be for KDE-based distrbutions — they’re not incompatible but tend to have a lot more window dressing on their UI.

    More here if you’re interested…

  • Try Digikam. It allows for multiple collections on local drives and removable media and on network shares. It allows you to set where your collection database is stored, just not on a network share.

    Make sure you have the kipi plugins installed as well for lots of extra features.

  • Try Digikam. It allows for multiple collections on local drives and removable media and on network shares. It allows you to set where your collection database is stored, just not on a network share.

    Make sure you have the kipi plugins installed as well for lots of extra features.

  • Sorry I have only just seen your post.

    Try Geeqie. It has few editing facilities, but it does work flawlessly with the Gimp for me. The one editing facility is rotation! I use it for checking my shots out, before editing (if required) in the Gimp. If, like me, you believe in old fashioned methods (get it correct in the camera) then it is all you need.

    It handles RAW files using dcraw and is the fastest way to manage my shots. It saves shots in standard directories and allows tags to be set and searched.

    Simple but it does the job for me. Give it a go. It is available for most distributions.

  • Sorry I have only just seen your post.

    Try Geeqie. It has few editing facilities, but it does work flawlessly with the Gimp for me. The one editing facility is rotation! I use it for checking my shots out, before editing (if required) in the Gimp. If, like me, you believe in old fashioned methods (get it correct in the camera) then it is all you need.

    It handles RAW files using dcraw and is the fastest way to manage my shots. It saves shots in standard directories and allows tags to be set and searched.

    Simple but it does the job for me. Give it a go. It is available for most distributions.

  • Don’t be sorry… Better late than never! 8-)

    Is Geeqie similar to GQView? That’s what I ended up using — for now, anyway…

  • Don’t be sorry… Better late than never! 8-)

    Is Geeqie similar to GQView? That’s what I ended up using — for now, anyway…

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