Looking for a Photo a Tagging Application

Here are my notes that I took while I was looking for a photo organizer program. What I have here is a bunch of links for programs I tried out and a couple sentences of what I thought about them. There were some very specific features I was looking for, so my dislike for a particular program is in the context of my needs, not necessarily a criticism of the program overall.

Since I’ve been accumulating gigabytes of photos, I do have method for sorting them. It usually consists of just creating a folder in the format: “YYYY-MM-DD Description.” Some photos get further categorized by subject (like one of my two daughters, family photos, etc.) But, it’s getting overwhelming and difficult to go back and find what I’m looking for. So, I decided it was time to investigate photo tagging.

I had a few criteria in mind while looking for an application to do this.

  1. Free
  2. Supports IPTC / EXIF data
  3. Recognizes Orientation Sensor Data
  4. Quick performance
  5. Easy, Easy tagging
  6. Easy to search find and sort photos based on tags
  7. Needs to be very standards based. All my tags must be stored in the IPTC or EXIF data in the file. I don’t want to be locked into a specific app in the future.

So here’s a list of apps I found, by no means comprehensive, and the one or two line review is far from comprehensive, but you may find it helpful when narrowing your search.

Picasa – Seemed like a logical first choice, but it doesn’t completely support the standard properly and it only stores captions in the file, not any of the tags (or keywords.) It’s not really possible to display/search/sort photos based on IPTC data.

IDimager – This seemed to really run slow and did not include an uninstaller.

iTag – Using this it was too difficult to navigate photos and it didn’t use a standard directory tree for browsing.

IrfanView – Too much of a pain to use for anything

XnView – The workflow is just not there for tagging photos. You can do it, but it’s not designed to do it easily at all. You need drag and drop the photos to tag, then you loose the file view, forcing a lot of extra clicks to get back where you were.

Mapivi v0.9.1 – GUI is horrible, yes, it’s cross platform but Perl/Tk? Yuck.

Exifer v2.1.5 – Again work flow is not there for tagging. To many steps to edit, not intuitive. Hasn’t been updated in almost 5 years.

Image Tagger – Java swing based app. This seemed to come pretty close as far as making it easy to tag, but as the author claims, it’s not designed to be a library program. So it only gets me half-way to my goal.

Now, I started to looking into commercial applications…

StudioLine PhotoBasic 3 – Kind of a resource pig, requires activation within 30 days, tries to get out to the internet right away. It’s possible add “descriptors” fairly easily, but can’t easily search or view by descriptor.

PicaJet – This by far looks like it does what I want. You need to bring up the “Group By” Pane (Window -> Group By), then you can show by location. It also does drag and drop. It Does basic cropping, brightness, contrast. In order for it to actually write the data out to the files, you need to register and pay for it. The trial version just stores the data in a database.

I haven’t bought it yet, I’m still looking around. If anyone has suggestions PLEASE leave me a comment. THANKS!

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14 Responses to Looking for a Photo a Tagging Application

  1. I was looking for something awhile back to do this too and found that digiKam (already installed on my Suse box) did the job adequately, but no idea about the standards thing…

  2. Jason says:

    Thanks Jeff! digiKam looks to do EXACTLY what I want! Regarding the standards thing, I just searched through the docs and found this:

    “Tags are stored in a database for fast access, and, the applied tags are written into IPTC data fields of the image (at least for JPEG). So can use your tags with other programs or, on case of loss of that data in the database, the tags will be re-imported when the image is noticed by digiKam.”

    I’ve got SUSE running on a VM, so I’ll give it a try.

  3. Kent says:

    Just wanted to confirm your choice of PicaJet. I, too, want a standards-based tagging system so I can share photos with others.

    I bought PicaJet and after a couple of days, I’m pleased with the results. I’m still trying to figure out the best way to embed metadata to cover tags (aka keywords) and put a caption (aka Title or Description) on the photo. PicaJet does a great job with keywords and appears to support all the metadata caption fields as well.

    For example, it seems that EXIF metadata might be the best place to put a picture caption, since Adobe Photoshop, Microsoft Digital Image Suite and Picasa can read EXIF data. IPTC isn’t as well supported and then there is XMP from Adobe that I can do without.

    One interesting thing about PicaJet: when I download tagged files, it doesn’t put anything in the caption, but there is a command to create a caption from one of the metadata fields.

    I’ve tried Picasa to share pictures, but I can’t share video clips on Picasa without using the Picasa app. My camera does a great job with stills, still sequences (rapid fire shutter) and video clips in AVI format.

    I’m going to try the Fotki service that PicaJet supports and see if I can share video clips as well as stills.

    I submitted a suggestion to the PicaJet folks to put captions in multiple EXIF and IPTC fields, so that anyone else who downloads the photo has a good chance of getting my caption.

    Thanks a bunch for the decrapifier.

  4. C Jones says:

    I suggest Pixvue v 1.1.0. I went thru the same experience a few years back. Unfortunately Pixvue seems to have dissappeared, but I searched and found here: http://www.softpedia.com/progDownload/PixVue-Download-16160.html

    Good luck, crj

  5. Ed says:

    Check out Fastone Image Viewer (http://www.faststone.org/FSViewerDetail.htm). Freeware and might meet your needs. I use it as my image browser but Downloader Pro (http://www.breezesys.com/Downloader/index.htm) for embedding base IPTC info, file renaming and directory creation. Shareware. This combo works well for me.

  6. Kelly Roon says:

    I third voted for PicaJet (http://www.picajet.com). I bought it after reviewing a numerous of free and non-free photo organizers.

    Here is also a useful list of the photo album software titles for anyone who still don’t yet selected his photo organizer:

  7. M.P.W. van de Kraats says:

    PixVue 2.0.1 can be found at: http://www.aplusfreeware.com/categories/mmedia/PixVue.html
    I didn’t try it yet, however will do after a bad experience with Magix Foto Manager (http://www.magix.com) looked good, though after starting the app, and selecting a shown picture, the app started opening IE instances, one after another without end. I had to use ctrl alt del to stop it.

    So after I have some experience with PixVue, I will come back and post my results (I am not so much into standards, but looking for a simple pictuire organizer with simple straight access to picture tags (without all the menu steps in between))

  8. M.P.W. van de Kraats says:

    Magix Foto Manager:
    After (despite earlier experiences) another try with Magix,
    I must say that this app does appeal to me.
    The look and feel is great, and it is available in most European languages.
    It handles good and has a lot of additional options in house, even face recognition, which can be used to search your pictures for a familiar face.
    (Freeware version is limited to max 5 faces)
    I couldn’t make out from the app help what the standard is for tagging.
    It has a handy workflow and build in automatic picture correction options that give a nice result, even for people that don’t have knowledge here. (like nice option “horizon balance” : will tilt your picture to mach a horizon, which you draw over the picture)
    I’d say: Magix Foto Manager is worth a try after all.

  9. Yaakov says:

    I was surprised to not see ACDSee mentioned–this is what I have been using, powerful though with some quirks. What is your experience with this program, esp. as compared to the other programs mentioned and reviewed here?

  10. M.P.W. van de Kraats says:

    After working with Magix Foto Manager for a while, I moved on to other apps.
    The Magix app is based on a database organizer. It installs a database app as well next to the Foto manager app.
    The downdraft is that Magix offers all kind of goodies in the menu’s, where you get a mesage that if you want to use such option, you have to buy some additional software. That bores after a while.

  11. M.P.W. van de Kraats says:

    Freeware for non-commercial use
    This is also a database driven system.
    It looks realy beautiful, and is a treet to work with.
    Drag and Drop to albums and a very nice interface
    Has EXIF tagging, Geotagging
    Also handles video.
    There is a nice demo movie on the website.
    It is realy great in graphic 3D effects in the GUI

    However requires a 3D graphics video card,
    and is quite heavy on your PC.
    I cannot recommend this for older machines.

  12. M.P.W. van de Kraats says:

    Stoik Imagic Free browser
    Free organizer.
    Quite extensive features.
    Supports also RAW format
    Works with Custom tags and edits EXIF tags.
    Offers picture optimation tools including a darkroom tool.
    Also offers a One-click automated panorama-tool
    Has a nice file browser with scanner where the user can make a list of directories NOT to scan. (like e.g. the Windows directory) This saves a lot of time.
    The interface for searching on date works nice, based on a calender view.
    It delivers all kind of output like slideshow, HTML, screensaver etc etc.
    Also includes e-mail sharing, CD burning.
    Does batch rename, resize and rotate.
    And a lot more.
    I just started with this tool, so more user experiences later on.
    First impressions are good.

  13. M.P.W. van de Kraats says:


    Some experiences so far.
    The Imagic free browser does not have such extensive organising capabilities.
    Tagging is very basic, were the picture file is not actualy tagged.
    The tag is a database tag.
    For compiling albums, the Stoik browser uses a shopping basket.
    It does however not store albums.
    If you generate a new tag per album, then you use that tag to filter the album pictures together.
    Fitering can be done on only 1 selected tag simultaniously.
    It does do batch tagging though.
    The EXIF info is shown, cannot be editted.
    Only editable area (stored in the file) is a comments area.
    I could not find a filter option that filters on this comments area.
    For organising, one has to rely on the tagging database.

    Stoik does export to either a HTML page, or a Slideshow executable, or e-mail.
    It does not support slideshows, playable in a dvd player.

  14. M.P.W. van de Kraats says:

    About picture organizers.

    There are roughly two types.
    1)- stores information in the tags in the actual picture files.
    filtering and selection will be done based on these tags
    – the information is kept inside the pictures and doesn’t get lost if somthing happens to the organizer
    – When transfering or copying the pictures somewhere else, the information thavels along with the pictures.
    – The organizer does alter the original picture files.
    – All information travels along, also personal information, you might not want to share with the world
    2)- Stores information in a database and doesn’t touch the picture files themselfs.

    – The original pictures remain untouched
    – Easy to build albums
    – Allows to use drag-and-drop without moving the actual files
    – When sending pictures, there is not private organizer data traveling along
    – If anything happens to the organizer database (crash, update or re-install) all organizing info (like e.g. built albums) is lost.
    – After sending the picture somewhere else, no information is available anymore about the pictures. (like e.g. descriptions)

    It looks like the best solution is the best of both worlds:
    A database driven organizer that is capable of picture tag editing in the picture file itself.
    This way, you can add info to the files themselfs, restricted to what you would be prepared to share, and use the database for building you albums and organizing the pictures.

    Nezt to this you would like the organizer to be able to search for your pictures, and be able to exclude some PC area’s from the scan to prevent the scan to take forever.
    Found files should movable with the organizer up till some extend, to at least put the picture files a little in a controlled area.
    For building albums, you don’t realy want the organizer to move the files itself however.

    As last item, it would be very nice if the organizer would be capable to compose CD’s that can run in a default DVD movie player (not the one in your PC), so you can also watch the pictures on TV without the need of a PC.

    Up till now, I didn’t get much further then Magix and Pictomio that do already a nice job.
    However Pictomio doesn’t run on my personal PC since that PC isn’t powerfull enough, unfortunatelly……

    I keep you up to date

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