Metadata Woes

As some of you might be aware, I’ve been on a search to find the ideal way of managing my library of digital photos for quite some time. Alas, nothing seems to quite fit the bill.

Well, recently, I tried out, and subsequently bought, a copy of IDimager Personal. I thought it was pretty good, even though it is an application in its own right (for me, the ideal library should be built into the operating system and file system, rather like PixVue [Note: PixVue is no longer available, I’m afraid]). In its current incarnation, IDimager supports both IPTC IIM version 4 and IPTC Core, which means that it covers both legacy and emerging metadata standards. Having both was a factor in the decision to buy it, rather than continue to stick with PixVue, which really only supports the IPTC IIM metadata elements with a little nod towards XMP.

However, the 600lb gorilla has now entered the fray, with Photo Info. Like PixVue, Microsoft’s Photo Info extends the operating system and the file system to add support for image metadata. And like PixVue, it really only implements the IPTC IIM version 4 legacy metadata elements, although, like PixVue, it does also copy them across to XMP equivalents. And while it does (unlike PixVue) support the “Location” metadata element, it does not (like PixVue) support the Creator Contact Info metadata fields of IPTC Core.

So, to summarise the story so far… Photo Info is a step ahead of PixVue, but it is not as complete a metadata editor as IDimager. Still, it is free, and it simply extends the operating system and file system rather than being a separate application like IDimager. So, I thought, perhaps it’s worth looking into.

Alas, after a few minutes of trying it out, Photo Info started throwing up error messages. When I tried to open certain image files, I’d get

“A file system I/O error occurred. Please check that files are not locked and that you have appropriate permissions in the folder”

I also noticed that even though I would select a single file, when this error occurred, then Photo Info would report that I have “1,414 of 2,304 files selected”, which is clearly nonsense.

A bit of further investigation revealed that the files that were causing the errors were files that had been edited using IDimager. Other files that had had their metadata edited with other applications (e.g. PixVue) could be handled by Photo Info without problems. So, I thought, it looks fairly clearcut to me, there is some interaction going on between Photo Info and IDimager.

Ah, but who’s at fault? I’m already getting the usual finger-pointing going on (IDimager’s developer says it must be a problem with Photo Info). I await further developments with interest.

Damn, but I hate software when it doesn’t work…

Update: Another user reports that Photo Info apparently does odd things with EXIF metadata:

“the MS Photo Info Tool appears to do some questionable things with the EXIF data when it writes it. After changing the EXIF date on a test picture, I compared the updated EXIF data with the original EXIF data using exiftool. The file that the MS Tool updated was missing a bunch of fields, and exiftool said that the maker notes were not where they should be. So, if it can’t write the data correctly, it wouldn’t surprise me if it can’t read it correctly either. My recollection is that idImager moves the maker notes and updates the offset to point to the new location …  If the MS Tool is not following the spec’s, it probably isn’t looking for the offset pointer to tell it where the maker notes are. That would make the file look corrupted even though it’s not.
So, bottom line: I’d bet the bug is in MS Photo Info Tool, not idImager”.

Update 2: I’ve been in contact with Mike Tedesco, who is a Technical Evangelist with Microsoft for the Pro Photo Community. Apparently he’s working with the Photo Info development team to investigate the issues. I’ve sent him my error report and sample files. We’ll see what happens.

Update 3 (13 September 2007): I’ve been in touch with Robert Wlodarczyk of Microsoft, and he identified an issue with the way IDimager writes XMP metadata. The developer of IDimager agrees that this is the problem, and it will be fixed. Microsoft’s Windows Imaging Component (used by Photo Info and Vista) is much stricter that other metadata tools in common use, and it picked up the error.

About Geoff Coupe

I'm a British citizen, although I have lived and worked in the Netherlands since 1983. I came here on a three year assignment, but fell in love with the country, and one Dutchman in particular, and so have stayed here ever since. On the 13th December 2006 I also became a Dutch citizen.
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8 Responses to Metadata Woes

  1. loren says:

    This is interesting.
    I d/l’d  Microsoft’s Photo Info the other day and I also get the error message that a file I/O error occurred, and that I should check to see that the file is not locked and that I have permission.  The download page doesn’t have any support links, so I’m about to deep six this program. It would have been nice if it worked, but there are other ways to get the ixif data.

  2. loren says:

    BTW I also see that same note that 1,414 of 2,304 files have been selected. 
    Please let Mike Tedesco know that you are not the only one getting these same errors.

  3. Geoff says:

    Thanks, lilewis. I’ve emailed Mike Tedesco with your comment.

  4. John says:

    Same situation for me (1,414,of 2,304, Vista, Nikon RAW codec, etc),  Am using it on Nikon NEFs.  The camera and nikon transfer software both write to the exif/iptc feilds so I guess photo info doesn’t understand it.

  5. John says:

    So I go to the microsoft photo info faqs and find these two gems:

    Q. After installing Nikon’s NEF codec and changing metadata, I can no longer open NEF images in Adobe Photoshop. Why?
    A. Important note to users of the Nikon RAW Codec for Windows: Microsoft has received reports of compatibility issues with Nikon NEF files after installing version 1.0 of Nikon’s RAW codec posted in January 2007. Tagging the RAW files through Windows Vista or the Microsoft Photo Info tool after the codec is installed appears to cause these files to become unreadable in other applications, such as Adobe Photoshop. We have confirmed that these files can still be opened with Nikon Capture.
    Nikon and Microsoft are investigating the issue, and we will post an update when we have more information. In the meantime, Microsoft suggests that you exercise caution with your Nikon RAW files. If you plan on tagging them using Nikon’s codec, make a backup of the file first, and verify that the tagged file continues to work with your other applications before proceeding.
    Tagging the file using Photo Info without the Nikon NEF codec installed appears to be safe.
    Q. Does Photo Info delete "Maker Notes" from my images?
    No. The "Maker Note" tag is not deleted, but it may be relocated in the image stream. In the past, this would cause the "Maker Note" to become irretrievably damaged. WIC, however, keeps track of the number of bytes the "Maker Note" has been moved, and writes this information to a public offset tag. Applications that are aware of this tag will be able to recover most "Maker Note" information. Microsoft is working to inform hardware and software developers of this new feature and encourage them to update their tools.
    "This new FEATURE"!!! Typical microsoft bloody arrogance.  Not an error, not a bug, but by design.

  6. Pingback: Managing Photo Libraries – Part 5 | Geoff Coupe's Blog

  7. Pingback: Managing Photo Libraries – Part 6 | Geoff Coupe's Blog

  8. Pingback: Photo Metadata | Geoff Coupe's Blog

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