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.


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.


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.


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).


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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”.


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?

Joshua Price

Josh Price is a senior MakeTechEasier writer and owner of Rain Dog Software


  1. Last I tried, DigiKam has read (but not write) support for EXIF info. I'm not in a place where I can test right now but unless it's changed somewhat recently, you can only read.

  2. I really tried to like F-Spot. I've used it ever since I switched OSes almost 3 years ago, but I just can't get used to it.

    It still has the same timezone bug it had back then, and what's worse, is that if you don't set it properly, it *will* change the dates in your photos on import. It took me a while to discover that, and it became worse when I had to reimport everything again because of a F-Spot database crash. Now I have holiday pictures dated early December. I still use it, but I sure don't like it.

    Shotwell is not ready yet. There are too many missing features – one cannot (in the version I have installed) select a photo and export (copy) it into another folder. You have to take note of the path, and then navigate in Nautilus to retrieve it. I suppose those things will come somewhere down the line, but I really wanted to throw F-Spot out, and Shotwell doesn't allow me to do just that. Yet.

    I didn't try DigiKam in the last 2 years or so, maybe I should. Is there any way to edit the EXIF dates in DigiKam? Batch edit would be nice, as I have a lot of photos to re-date correctly now. Thanks F-Spot.

  3. F Spot is too bland, and it copies your pictures to another directory. I don't need duplicates!

    I like Picasa on Windows, mostly for the face recognition. I can't seem to find that feature on the Linux version.

  4. I've been digging on Shotwell. I really like it. Just enough tools to do the small stuff but not so much that it takes a decade to load. If I want serious tools I pull up Pinta or GIMP. Shotwell is good enough for me.

  5. Picasa is what I used, but the fact that is closed source and has to run through wine pissed me off eventually. The next best thing that I found after a long search is Gwenview.

  6. I use Gthumb. I'm really surprised it hasn't made it to the list, but oh well. It's got good intuitive interface and nice batch resize options. It's got easy access to metadata. Since I use my Linux machine for work, all these matter.

    I'm told you can resize, even batch maybe? in Shotwell too, but in some complicated unintuitive way… didn't have time for that.

    Also, does Picasa still come bundled with Wine? Pfffff.

  7. On Linux you can install Picasa 3.6 (the latest). There are many howto's available.
    Works great for me, including face recognition.

  8. When DigiKam truly is cross-platform and has serious support for import/syncing of Picasa webalbums.. I'll start using it for sure, it's a great app.
    For now it's Picasa.

  9. I miss gthumb but I compiled shotwell-0.5.2 and have been using it comfortably for a while now. Still gthumb has the features…

  10. Just tried editing some date EXIF info on DigiKam 1.2 and I did so without problems. You can batch edit as well, eg changed year on all selected photos. DigiKam 1.2 is what's currently available in Ubuntu 10.04.

  11. Thanks for the tip, I'll try DigiKam and see if it works better for me. I have discovered a few things about Shotwell though: you can in fact edit EXIF data – at least the function is there, but I didn't have the time to test it yet.

    You can also export pictures to another directory, but you have to go through the export's resize dialog to do so, and there doesn't seem to be any option to always select “Original” there. Minor inconvenience, but still.

    I'll try to compile 0.5.2 to see if things have changed. But I have to admit that Shotwell is the fastest so far.. :-)

  12. '”I can't seem to find that feature on the Linux version.”

    Google has some real issues with Linux it would seem. They seemed ok with it as they paved their road to riches with it but other than that, we are the proverbial step-children. It's still usable in Linux but with the wine layer…it just doesn't feel right. I'd rather use a Linux native app rather than encourage the use of Picasa.

  13. yeah…gthumb has always been my favorite. Of course I don't have to use the advanced features found in Digikam or others like it. Gthumb simply seems to get the job done without the drama….at least for me.

  14. I like gthumb. Pretty light-weighted and does most of the wok which a simple person wants to.

  15. It might have been worth including Phraymd as an example of a minimalistic approach. I use it to add tags and edit exif.

  16. FYI – Digikam like all KDE 4 apps is cross-platform. it is available for Window and Mac besides *nix. You can also export to Picasa and facebook – a feature I use often. I don't usually need to import from the web so I cant talk to import.

  17. I love digikam since it has excellent RAW file support( I shoot Nikon). It compares well with Capture NX that Nikon sells for $180 (only Windows and Mac).

    Apart from that a couple of features i like is that light table, that let me compare 2 photos at a time. when i zoom or move one the other view moves in sync. this lets me make comparisons and decided which photo to keep.

  18. FYI – Digikam like all KDE 4 apps is cross-platform. it is available for Window and Mac besides *nix. You can also export to Picasa and facebook – a feature I use often. I don't usually need to import from the web so I cant talk to import.

  19. tried to run photo manager (F-Spot) and it won’t open did it not install when i installed gnome?

  20. Shotwell lasted 5 mins on my computer – you have to import files into its library you cant browse normally – So I tried Gthumb and I am happy. It’s very quick.

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