This is a followup to my previous post. I’ve been taking a look at some other software applications for organising libraries of photos. This time I’ll write about ACDSee7, ThumbsPlus 7 and Adobe’s Organizer (included as part of Photoshop Elements).
First, let me state a groundrule that I have adopted: I insist that any organising software will respect any EXIF, IPTC and XMP metadata that may be stored in the image file itself. I am not interested in any image metadata being stored away in a proprietary format in the organising software itself. That way lies painting oneself into a corner down the road… However, I will accept an organiser that copies metadata from image files into its own database for performance reasons, so long as the database and the image files metadata content are kept in sync transparently (i.e. it takes no effort on my part).
So, with that groundrule in mind, I can instantly reject consideration of ACDSee 7. Yes, it can read and write EXIF metadata, but does not handle either IPTC or XMP. Instead it stores keyword metadata only in its own database. Sorry, guys, but ACDSee is not for me.
Next up is ThumbsPlus 7 from Cerious Software. I’ve actually been using ThumbsPlus 5 for years – since the days of Windows 95, when image handling by the operating system was in its infancy, and needed a boost from applications such as ThumbsPlus. Now, I quite like ThumbsPlus – it’s fast and flexible, but on balance I don’t think it’s for me. The reasons are that the program has “grown like Topsy” over the years, and now it has so many bells and whistles that I have no use for. It’s as though I can no longer see the wood for the trees. In addition, although it can read and write IPTC metadata, it does not use IPTC keywords by default, but stores user keywords in its own database. It is possible to set up synchronisation of these internal keywords and IPTC keywords. However, if you want to search on other IPTC metadata, then you need to define your own user fields in the ThumbsPlus database, and set up mapping between these and IPTC fields. While this can be done, it’s not very convenient, and it means that right from the word go, I’m having to delve into an application instead of concentrate on the task at hand. In addition, it does not yet support XMP metadata at all. So, close – but no cigar.
And then we come to Adobe’s Organizer. First, the good thing: the editor in Photoshop Elements is excellent, so for manipulating your digital images, it is likely to have all the power that most people are looking for. But I actively hate the Organizer with a passion. I find it an appalling and clunky piece of software. Adobe should be ashamed of themselves for releasing this on to the market. And they have no excuse, it’s not as though this has been their first foray into this area. It’s clearly meant as Adobe’s Photoshop Album on steroids – but instead they have created a Frankenstein’s monster. Why don’t I like it? Let me count the ways:
- Browsing through the library.
Scrolling through a library of thumbnails should be as smooth as silk. Indeed, on my PC, that is exactly the experience I have with Picasa 2. Rolling the mouse thumbwheel produces a smooth scroll of the thumbnails. With Organizer, on the other hand, it’s like strobe lights in a disco. Everything jumps around wildly leading to a deeply frustrating experience. There is no smoothness at all.
- Integration with the underlying Folder structure of Windows.
If I rename a folder with the Windows Explorer, it’s instantly reflected in Picasa. Organizer remains blind to any changes – and I still haven’t found any way to update the Folder structure within Organizer to match the underlying Windows structure. Please don’t tell me I’ve got to delete the catalogue and recreate it. I do have folders being watched in Organizer, but this seems to mean “watch the contents – and ignore any changes to the folder names”.
- Integration with the underlying Windows platform
Organizer totally ignores the Windows Regional Settings. To get the European date format of dd-mm-yyyy (which is how I work), I have to press CTRL-ALT-SHIFT-D. Hello? What planet are Adobe’s developers from?Even simple things like respecting the Windows GUI guidelines would be nice. Example: I come back from a day’s photography with a hundred photos on my compact flash card. Plug it into my reader, and the Organizer shows me the photos and asks me to select the ones I wish to import into Organizer. Ah, I think, I can Shift-Click to select them all – no, says Organizer, you have to select every single one individually. Screw you, I say…
- Backup of the library
The Organizer’s idea of making a backup is to take a hierarchical set of folders and their contents, copy and rename every file into a flat structure (bang goes your carefully constructed folder hierarchy) and toss in a copy of the catalogue database. What is this? I call it totally braindead.Picasa, on the other hand, deals with CD/DVD and Server backups in a totally logical fashion, recreating the folder structure and copies of the content on the selected backup medium. Wonderful, simple, works.
- Dealing with IPTC/XMP metadata
Editing the metadata with a tool such as PixVue is instantly reflected in Picasa. Organizer remains blind to any changes. Once again, I have no idea how to kick Organizer into recognising that something has changed outside of its own little world. I also have the uncomfortable feeling that Organizer’s tags are just copies of some of the original IPTC tags when a file is first imported, and it’s not a complete mapping. For example, origin data such as sub-location, city, state and country data seem to be ignored.
As you can tell, I am really not impressed with Organizer 🙂
So where does this leave me? No tool I’ve looked at so far is perfect from my perspective, but the combination of Picasa 2 (for organising and searching – it searches IPTC/XMP metadata) and PixVue (for editing image metadata) is looking to be the front runner. And both tools are free software.
Picasa 2 does have bugs, and its biggest current drawback is that while it will list all folders, it will not display the folder tree. This is in keeping with Google’s philosophy that folder trees are “a bad thing”. However, judging by the anguished screams from Picasa users in the support forums, I suspect that Google may reconsider this. I certainly hope so. At the end of the day, it comes closest to what I’m looking for.