Comparing Linux Photo Managers…Which Is The Best For Your Everyday Use?

When you work with large amounts of photos, it can get tiresome to have to manually manage the file and directory structures. To help resolve this, many people use photo managers such as Picasa, DigiKam, and iPhoto. There are several options for Linux, so we’ve decided to check out each of the major photo management options for Linux to see exactly what each one offers. Today we’ll be comparing Picasa, F-Spot, Shotwell, DigiKam, and Geeqie.

Picasa

Google’s answer to the problem of photo management is Picasa. Some of the notable features include facial recognition, search capability, automatic photo correction, and a reasonable amount of image editing options. There’s even a I’m Feeling Lucky button which does a surprisingly good job of adjusting colors and lighting to improve photos.

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Unfortunately and somewhat surprisingly, Google doesn’t seem to put much effort into the Linux branch of Picasa. Instead of creating a native port for Linux, they bundle Wine, the Windows “emulator” in with the Linux package. Picasa for Linux is essentially Picasa for Windows wrapped in a compatibility layer. Additionally, the Linux version (3.0 beta) currently lags well behind the Windows version (3.5). Even through these limitations, Picasa is still among the best photo management options available for Linux.

F-Spot

The default photo manager in Ubuntu is currently F-Spot. The interface is similar to Apple’s iPhoto so it should be simple to use if you’re a Mac user. Local and camera images are typically imported into the Pictures folder in the user’s home, with the originals left unaltered. You can apply tags to various photos to make categorizing easier. F-Spot also includes some image correction functionality like red eye removal and auto coloring (similar to Picasa’s Lucky button).

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As a native Linux/Gnome app, F-Spot integrates with the system much better than Picasa. For instance, you can set F-Spot albums or favorites as the source of images for the Gnome screensaver or desktop background. F-Spot has the second most web export options of the programs listed here, and includes support for Picasa, Facebook, Flickr, Smugmug, Zoomr, and others.

Shotwell

Replacing F-Spot in Ubuntu 10.10 (and Fedora 13) is Shotwell. It’s got many of the same benefits as F-Spot, but often with improved speed and reliability. Shotwell also improves over F-Spot on editing capabilities, but does not provide as many web export options (Shotwell only supports Picasa, Facebook, and Flickr). It does however have similar support for tags and Exif information.

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Possibly because it does not rely on the Mono framework, some users report that Shotwell runs with greater speed and a smaller memory footprint than F-Spot.

DigiKam

What Shotwell is to Gnome, DigiKam is to KDE, and a whole lot more. Overall, this is probably the most powerful application on the list. It’s got the most image editing capability, the most web export functionality, the most sorting/filtering options, batch image processing, search capabilities, even geolocation. if you’re looking for an extremely robust photo management solution for a large volume of images, DigiKam may be your best bet.

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Tavis, MTE’s resident KDE expert, has written on DigiKam in more detail a few times. If you’d like more info on some of DigiKam’s best features, check out his guides here and here.

Geeqie (Formerly GQview)

On the opposite end of the spectrum from DigiKam is Geeqie. This little app does not take the same approach as the others here in attempting to create an all-in-one photo management suite. Instead, it’s more like a cross between a photo viewer and a file manager. Geeqie does not build new photo libraries or databases, it does not have automatic color correction or web export. What it does well is let you browse, sort, and perform file operations on your pictures. Windows users may notice a resemblance to ACDSee.

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Another of Geeqie’s main strengths is its configurability. For such a small application it’s got a surprising amount of user controls and preferences. Amazingly, Geekie is also the only application in this list that allows you to put an image slideshow on “shuffle”.

Conclusion

When it comes to pure power, it’s hard to argue with DigiKam. It offers just about everything that the others have, and quite a bit more. If you need the most robust and feature-rich photo manager, it looks like DigiKam is probably your best choice. If, on the other hand, you don’t want to worry about tags and libraries and metadata, you may be better off with the likes of Geekie.

What about you? Which photo manager do you use?

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