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Best Free Digital Photo Organizer

 
Introduction

We don't all have the same requirements when it comes to organising our digital image collection. Some people, like me, want a quick way of importing new images and viewing a large assortment of existing images in various formats. We want the software to show our existing directory structure and allow us to amend add and change it easily. Then we want to be able to export images to email, publish them to the internet and resize, crop and change images without destroying the original image file.

Buried within digital image files are a series of 'tags' which can be used to find and classify images according a whole series of criteria -  from date of creation to camera settings and even GPS settings.

There is also a huge demand for software which hunts through a user's drives and finds all image files and, without moving the original, creates an index with predetermined parameters.

In the first group, my best in class list has four choices: FastStone Image Viewer, Zoner Photo Studio Free, XNView and, for those who use a Linux operating system, digiKam.

In the second group Picasa and Windows Live Photo Gallery are my top picks.

I don't happen to like the Picasa approach. I find that my computer 'hunts' for images every time I edit or move a single image and this is yet another demand on my processor which I can do without. But there's no denying that Picasa is hugely popular and may be the ideal solution for many. 

My screen grabs below are all taken from the same files on my PC: hence the programmes at this small size all look very similar. That's no accident. You could easily live with any of these programmes and they can be set up to work in a similar way.

Finally, if you are completely new to this category, you could do worse than read the Wikipedia article on image organisers, which also has a useful table of some of the vast array of free and commercial software: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image_organizer

Other offerings which I have assessed include: Anti Chaos; Ashampoo photo commander 7.6; BelieveIT Photo Organiser; Bluemarine Photo organiser; Cam2Pic; DigiBook 2005 Light; FxFoto; HP Photosmart; Imagic; iTag; JBrout; Jet PhotoKestrel GX; Kodak Easyshare 8.2; Magix Photo Manager; Myphotoindex; Photome; Photoscape; Photozig albums; Phraseanet; PicaJet; Pictomio; Preclick Gold; Prostockmaster; Roxio; Serif Plus Starter Edition; SSuite; Stoik Imagic; Studioline; Sunlit Green; Viewer 2; Visipics and WildBit viewer.

I am always happy to learn of other programmes.

  Read this article in Spanish (Español)

 
In a Hurry?

Go to details...  Go straight to the Quick Selection Guide

 
Discussion

FastStone Image ViewerFastStone Image Viewer is my equal first choice. It is an excellent all round package which does far more than just help you to organise your image files. I particularly like the way in which you can, with one click on an image, get a full screen view and then edit the image or see its embedded info by moving your mouse to the edge of your screen. The program is fast, slick and stable. It is not a "slimmed down" version of more fully featured software.

The only negative side I can think of is that it does not have the automatic upload to the Internet features of some of the other packages on offer. But it is easy to resize images for email, or for the web, make moderate adjustments etc. It also has an easy-to-use batch processing facility. There is a 18- language help and all major file types are supported including a good selection of RAW image formats.

And if the image editing features are not sufficient for all your needs all of the time there's a handy software linking facility which allows you to couple Faststone with your favourite image editor so you can easily switch between the two. Version 4.6 brought out at the end of June 2011 has an improved import function All-in-all a first class piece of software.

 

Zoner Photo Studio FreeZoner Photo Studio Free is in equal first place. I think it comes down to pure personal prefence and more often than not I use this package, which was updated to Version 14 in January 2012.

(To be honest there is not much to choose between any of the four packages mentioned here.)

I really like the look of Zoner: it has a professional feel. Within the software you can organise, edit and share your images and there are German, French, Italian and Russian versions. It is a slimmed down version of the "home" and "pro" versions which are available at a cost. I like the three major functions within the package - manager (organiser) viewer and editor. Personally I use a separate software package to do all but the simplest image manipulation as an "edit" function, but for basic operations Zoner is fine, quick and intuitive.

 

XNViewXNView is another really good package. It has many of the features of the other two, but I find it little less fully featured. On the plus side it is stable and very fast and has only a small download.

There's a XN View sister program, XNView MP in Beta 0.35 (which I presume stands for multi-platform) which is less fully featured but runs on a Mac and in Linux. It can import more than 300 graphic file formats and export to about 50 formats. Other features include image IPTC, EXIF metadata support, editing facilities, slide shows and support in 44 languages. Excellent.

 

PicasaPicasa, from the Google stable, is a superb choice for those who want an organiser which will take control of the way in which you organise your images. Once installed it will offer you several ways of organising your image collection, adopting by choice a 'timelime' which places your most recent images at the top of the tree.

It is ideally suited for easy integration with web albums and on-line sharing of images. Simple highly automated features offer image correction, full-screen slide shows and you can now see your pictures arranged on a global map.

Picasa can also organise your photos based on the faces of people in your snapshots. It's not foolproof but it works remarkably well. Picasa is free to download and is coupled with Picasa Web Albums which provides users with a gigabyte of free online image storage.

 

DigiKamDigiKam was built for Linux but there is also a Windows version. It is difficult to load effectively in Windows - but it can be done. And it is a very good, nicely designed piece of software which should appeal to serious amateur and professional photographers alike.

Like my other top picks, it is packed with useful features. It is very much work in progress: new features and add-ins are on offer all the time and even if you didn't choose it right now, you might want to bookmark the link to the DigiKam website because I have a feeling it will be offering even more very shortly.

 

Windows Live Photo GalleryWindows Live Photo Gallery is to Microsoft what Picasa3 is to Google. It, too, works really well, and is fast and less intrusive than Picasa. But it doesn't seem to offer quite the same easy functionality as Picasa. I think it is unlikely that many people would want to use it on its own, but as a quick way of finding images on your hard drive drive it is excellent.

You can edit images, email or publish them, print them, make slide shows, etc. It is less fully featured than most of the other packages, but for some that might be a definite advantage!

 
Related Products and Links

You might want to check out these articles too:

 
Quick Selection Guide

FastStone Image Viewer
5
 
Gizmo's Freeware award as the best product in its class!

Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Quick, fast stable viewer with a good selection of supporting features.
Not the best for uploading to the web.
http://www.faststone.org/
5.1
5.36 MB
Feature limited freeware
A portable version of this product is available from the developer.
Windows 98/ME/2000/XP/Vista/Server2008/Windows 7
Zoner Photo Studio Free
4
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Superb design, excellent free slimmed down version of commercial software which works well for everyday use.
Missing some features in free version; tabs between manager, edit and view may not suit everyone.
http://free.zoner.com/
15 build 6
60.36 MB
32 bit but 64 bit compatible
Feature limited freeware
XP/Vista/Windows 7

Warning: Downloads from Cnet (Download.com) now require the use of a proprietary installer.

https://www.techsupportalert.com/content/cnet-downloadcom-wrapped-instal...

v15.6 released 12-10-2012

XNView
4
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
A small fast well featured piece of software - in some ways the most versatile of any. Simple to use and very stable.
Very few - but does not seem to offer an easy route to upload images to the web.
2.22
2.74 MB -> Win32.exe
Free for private or educational use only
Windows 95 to 7, MacOS X, Linux (Various Distros)

Three versions available. Minimal, standard and extended.

Picasa
4
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Powerful, free organiser will find all the photos on your drives, download new ones from your camera and scanner and upload them to the web and create online albums to share.
Somewhat intrusive, eating up processing power when you don't always need it. Not the easiest way to reorganise your images.
http://picasa.google.com/
http://picasa.google.com/
3.9
14.2 MB
Unrestricted freeware
Windows XP/Vista/7. For Mac OS X 10.4.9+ (Requires Intel CPU)
DigiKam
3.5
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Could easily be a contender for the first place with a host of features aimed at the professional end of the market.
A daunting download for Windows, a difficult installation and it does not run really well in a Windows system.
http://www.digikam.org/drupal/
2.9.0
219.4 MB
Open source freeware
Linux, Windows, Mac OS X.

The Windows version is available for download here.

Windows Live Photo Gallery
3.5
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Excellent fast utility with a clean, simple design and a versatile indexing system.
Needs Windows Live sign up; not the most powerful image editor; by default overwrites existing viewer preferences.
2011
1.19 MB
32 bit but 64 bit compatible
Unrestricted freeware
Windows XP to 7

 
Editor

This software review is copy-edited by Victor Laurie. Please help edit and improve this article by clicking here.

 
Tags

photo organizer, free photo viewer, best free photo organiser, organize photos, view photo free.

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Comments

by kastaldi on 7. November 2013 - 17:51  (112103)

After some weeks using the RX100 I found out that the best free software to manage ARW files is Sony RAW Converter. The problem is that Faststone is compatible with ARW files but there are many camera settings that only Sony can manage. Moreover, Faststone doesn't read some specific EXIF tags such as scene mode so you must use Sony (or Exiftool). Anyway Faststone is still #1.

by shnbwmn on 7. November 2013 - 9:27  (112093)

I'm sticking with Faststone; it's hands down the best choice. Tried digiKam ... and it was really slow and kept crashing when opening RAW files. Might be good on Linux, but a no-no on Windows.

by kastaldi on 6. October 2013 - 10:20  (111273)

Hi ! I have a Sony RX100 that uses Sony .ARW files and Picasa still doesn't handle this format unlike the excellent FastStone viewer. Moreover, Picasa keeps on converting everything to JPEG, even lossless formats, and quality degrades soon. I'm used to use Picasa to manage my photos because of its integration with Picasa Web Albums and Facebook but lately this is more of a nuisance.

by bolide on 3. May 2013 - 17:53  (107449)

Another free digital photo organizer to consider - BonAView:
http://www.highmotionsoftware.com/products/bonaview

by Panzer on 20. October 2012 - 7:21  (101094)

Phototheca — free photo organizing software makes it easy to view, sort and organize thousands and thousands of your photos. Tag your photos with keywords, put into albums, view on calendar and more:
http://lunarship.com/

by alexxx46 on 20. October 2012 - 20:56  (101117)

Error on program start up (Win7x32).

by Anonymous123 (not verified) on 28. July 2012 - 16:25  (96777)

Some features for the new editor to investigate and report on:

How automatic is red-eye identification? Can you just frame the eyes, or must you mark exactly the pupal and no surrounding area? If the entire eye-ball is selected, can red-eye change only the red, or does it slam everything in the selection to a neutral color? Is that color fixed, or is it sensitive to the adjacent non-red colors?

Tag to file name, and file name to tag. Can you make a selection based on both metadata and file info (or absence of info)? Can the program add metadata from file names, or rename/move pictures with metadata, like programs that handle audio (.mp3, .acc, .wma) files? (Look at mp3tag or others in the "Best Fr-- MP3 Tag Editor" list for examples.)

Can you select and rename pictures based on dates, file names, and tags? Dates can be really tricky. First there is a choice of file dates (create or modified), and then identical dates can vary by an hour or two (daylight saving time) or a by second or two (file synchronization), or because the camera internal date was wrong. Can date ranges be used? How about selecting pictures where the internal (exif) data matches or doesn't match the external date (file info)?

Existing collections. What help can it give for finding existing pictures on your computer and organizing, or reorganizing, them? What other programs is it aware of, previous used to organize pictures, which saved your collection in a database and/or copied your pictures into an internal archive. (Kodak Easyshare comes to mind...) Can it access web or cloud based photos like Google Documents, Picassa, or Windows Live?

Are there tools to help find duplicate photos? These might be similar because they were taken at the same time, or they maybe edited/cropped versions of the same photo. Or in existing collections, they may be duplicated by (inadvertent) copying while organizing, or by programs that "import" pictures from your hard disk into its own archive.

Database support. Does the program use a database, or does it always read each picture for the metadata? Does it keep a metadata cache, like thumbs.db caches thumbnails? (These questions affect performance.) Can the database be exported, or accessed by other programs like Office? If there is no database, can export like listings of picture data be created?

Cropping and re-sizing. Can a selection mark be set to/held at a fixed ratio like 1::1, 3::4, 9::16? Can it pick common dimensions like 1024x768 pixels, or 5"x7" (based on dpi)? How about reduction ratios like 50%? Can it automatically find some crop selections, such as a group of people in the middle of a picture?

Rotation and straightening assistance. Can the program suggest a rotation? How about a small rotation based on finding some long line in a picture like a horizon or building or stripe? How about a person? After straightening, can it automatically set up a crop to remove the blank picture area added by the rotation? Can you just mark two points, and the program automatically straightens to that line?

Color correction dialogs. Can it automatically suggest a new color balance? Can it show several examples of adjusted values, and let you choose what looks best? Can it repeat the process to help you zero in? Does it support the color/saturation model, or the brightness/contrast model, or both models? What about colors that can not be displayed (or display poorly like dark colors)?

Can you visually set the compression level for a jpeg, tiff, etc. by looking at (simultaneously displayed) before/after images? For any editing operation, can you see the existing image and the newly altered image at the same time?

What are the (practical) storage limits of the program? Is the a maximum number of pictures or folders? How deep can folders nest? How much disk space beyond that of the tracked images does it require? Can an archive be maintained that has multiple root folders and/or drives? What sort of remote storage does it support, such as "web folders", or files with network (UNC) names? Is there a limit to the amount of metadata it can work with?

by MidnightCowboy on 28. July 2012 - 17:40  (96782)

This category currently has no editor. With such an obvious in depth knowledge of the subject, maybe you'd like to volunteer. :)

by BobC (not verified) on 6. July 2012 - 8:27  (95790)

I use IrfanView as a simple photo viewer and for cropping etc and PhotoShop for more significant "doctoring"; I'm happy with these programs for these purposes. What I'd really like (if this is the appropriate venue) is advice as to what I could use to link individual photos to either a database or text files with descriptions of the photo: I largely take bird photos and want to record, date, place and other info and be able to access this info directly from the photo. Any suggestions or suggestions for a more appropriate forum to post my query? Thanks in anticipation.

Bob

by PabloJaime (not verified) on 25. October 2012 - 4:06  (101319)

I think you are looking for the EXIF data: additional information saved inside the image file, such as aperture, exposure time, focal length, and, of course, file properties.
It's available in most decent image viewers. I use FastStone viewer, and when in fullscreen, moving the mouse to the rightest shows a panel with the EXIF data. And I use it because of this
Hope it helps!

by Martin Gray (not verified) on 17. June 2012 - 19:30  (95016)

I have 4000 images that I have placed into 25 different folders. What I want to do is see all of the images from a particular folder visible on my screen and be able to drag any of the individual images over to another section of the screen so I can put the images in specific arrangements.

I do not need to edit the images because I have already done this in Adobe Photoshop. I just need to make collages on one side of my screen from a bunch of thumbnails shown on the other side of the screen.

Is there any software that will allow me to do this on a MAC?

by JoshBza (not verified) on 14. June 2012 - 14:44  (94858)

Hi there,

Wow, thanks for that informative review, much appreciated.

I want an application that will help me with the following:

I have a folder with 2500 photos in it, a lot of these photos I want to delete and the rest I want to organise into about 8 folders. This is my only objective for an application ie. the best photo folder organiser which also makes it easy to delete the photos at the same time.

What do you recommend?

Cheers

by MidnightCowboy on 14. June 2012 - 16:45  (94868)

This category currently has no editor. You will get a better response if you post your query in our forum.

by g2m.agent (not verified) on 15. May 2012 - 13:40  (93490)

yes! "FastStone Image Viewer" is the BEST!

by Obbop (not verified) on 19. February 2012 - 22:29  (89062)

Appreciative of the time spent gathering real-time real-life information about the several softwares discussed above.

My experiences do not cover all the reviewed softwares and eased my search.

The quality of the reviews indicate to me they were performed by somebody who knows what they are doing.

I believe I shall include a link to this page in an upcoming blog entry that is intended to assist those in seeking free or try-now-buy-the-full-version-later photo editing softwares.

No need to re-do what has already been done and obviously by somebody better qualified than me to make suggestions as to what is best in regards to photo editing softwares at the low-cost or free level.

by Dorsetdunk (not verified) on 3. February 2012 - 19:00  (88239)

as a dedicated image manager helicon photo safe is worthy contender
fully functional freeware
folder tree for easy excess of external drives
raw support
geo tagging
categories
optional dark interface
add your own choice of external apps for editing etc.

are a few of the features that appeal to me
you can check out the rest here

http://www.heliconsoft.com/safe.html

would appreciate a review of this software

by rims (not verified) on 1. February 2012 - 20:55  (88150)

You don't seem to mention IrfanView, (www.IrfanView.com) which used to be regarded as one of the best image viewers, and seems still to be actively developed

by Dorsetdunk (not verified) on 21. January 2012 - 21:46  (87557)

WARNING
windows live photo gallery 2011 degrades your images
each time you add a caption or tag
it resaves the image in a lossy format and the file size is reduced from the original
I advise you not to use this program with treasured original images

and I strongly recommend it to be removed from the list and a warning placed in the intro section

real nasty of microsoft for not fixing this issue

by Urbane.Tiger on 29. January 2012 - 21:42  (88000)

Please post your evidence

by Dorsetdunk (not verified) on 3. February 2012 - 18:15  (88234)

in answer to providing evidence Urbane.Tiger
there are a number of threads relating to various issues with windows photo gallery
you can read the problem I mentioned in more detail here

http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/readflat.asp?forum=1004&message=36518774&changemode=1

the problem seems to arise with the use of third party codecs released by the camera manufactures though they are obviously not at fault
as I can not replicate the loss of file size in Zoner, Picasa or any other software that adds tags or labels so the fault lies with windows photo gallery
if you are using this software then test your file sizes before and after adding tags to make sure you are not losing Data
Microsoft has been aware of this issue since the Beta stage it seems and has not provided a fix

by Evee (not verified) on 28. December 2011 - 11:26  (86123)

I want an organiser that will allow me to sort my scrapbooking .png and .jpg files into categories such as Christmas, snow, red, flowers, buttons, ribbons, etc, so that when I am making a scrapbook page I can easily find something like "red Christmas ribbons" or "square blue buttons" for example, then upload my choice from that category to my page. I don't need image editing or bells and whistles, the simpler the better for a technophobe like me!
What would you suggest?

by tommyzulu on 31. December 2011 - 8:48  (86271)

There is a programme called My Photo Index which claims "My Photo Index is a free open source photo organizer. It focuses on image tagging and cataloging and offers a clear & simple user friendly interface. My Photo Index handles major file types as well as Avi clips and can read and convert RAW image formats".
It includes mutliple layers of tagging (indexing) which I THINK is what you are asking for.
On My Photo Index's own page the link to the lastest version did not work today - but I have downloaded it in the past.
They claim that it is Windows 7 compatible but I have not checked this: it does work under Windows XP.
It appears to be what you need - so you may wish to give it a try: certainly from the install and auto import it seems to want to add tags!
Good luck - perhaps you could let us know how you get on.

by ruud waij (not verified) on 23. December 2011 - 14:18  (85809)

DigiKam (now?) installs on windows from a single installer, making it no more difficult to install than any other program. http://sourceforge.net/projects/digikam/files/digikam/1.7.0/digiKam-installer-1.7-win32.exe/download

This I do not like "We would like to inform you that this port of digiKam under windows is not as stable as the linux version. DigiKam works mostly fine under windows, but some features are still broken due to some bugs in the underlying KDE libraries."

by Anonymous1935 (not verified) on 18. November 2011 - 7:59  (83470)

Thank you for your invariably helpful reviews. I use faststone but want a viewer which mimics a book (turning pages) I have seen your earlier review of digibook and agree, but it doesnt allow copying to disk. Suggestions would be very helpful after much trawling where "free" adverts turn out to be not free. Thanks

by Andes (not verified) on 1. November 2011 - 5:26  (82514)

Hi, thanks for z very good summary of these programmes!

I'm looking for a photo organiser and wonder if you know any one that fist my needs:

I have a pretty good, albeit not yet perfect folder structure for my photos. Organised by photos\all\year\date-event. On an average photo session I take a few hundred shots. I'd like to keep all of these photos on my disc but only print/upload/send to iOS/android the really good ones. Hence I'd like a photo organiser that:
X) uses the current folder structure
X) can import new images from camera/sd card into folder structre
X) have the functionality to do easier image enhancements like the exposure/color of windows live photo gallery
Y) allows you to "tag" certain photos as "album photos", and then moves the tagged photos to photos\albums\year\date-event. This way I can use the photos\albums folder when I want to print the photos on paper or show them on my iPad, without removing any old pictures.
Z) sort through my current image collection and let me remove duplicates - sometimes the windows live photo "import all new photos" imports ALL photos in the memory card, so ive got heaps of duplicates all over the place!

Do you know of any software that includes all these x and y and z? If not, do you know any software that includes all theX? Or the the Y? Or the z?

The simplest way for X is obviously to just copy the "all" folder to the "albums" folder and then delete all the images that shouldn't be in it, but then I get duplicates when use windows live photo gallery to view the photos...

I prefer a program that uses the folder structure and the tag fields of the photos instead of some other database as this makes it more easy to move to another program in the future.

Thanks alot for any ideas!!
/anders

by tommyzulu on 2. November 2011 - 9:26  (82564)

Several of the recommended programmes will do most of what you ask - Faststone for example will do all but the duplicate finder.
There are quite a few stand-alone duplicate finder programmes and there's a relevant section, best free duplicate file detector, in the "disk and file software" index on this website, which should help you choose the one which suits you best for this process.
I find duplicate file management somewhat daunting and very laborious - so I live with duplicates in these days of cheap storage!
Faststone's image tweaking may suit you - if not you could try Zoner 13 Free which will also do most of other tasks.
Hope this helps.

by rikishi19 on 15. September 2011 - 9:11  (79645)

I am currently almost at the end of a long process of organising all my photos on my system. I have adopted the method of organising everything in folders on my system by date (a folder for every month), and adding keyword tags to the files.

Now I am wanting an organiser that I can now create albums by the tag I have assigned each photo. E.g. all holiday photos from my holiday in Sydney this year have the tag 'Sydney 2011' and I want all these photos in the same album.

Which of these would be the best at doing this? I do not need bells and whistles, this album creating by tag is my main priority. A nice looking interface wouldn't go amiss though!

by Adrian73 (not verified) on 20. November 2011 - 16:20  (83597)

Hi,

I have tried the same methodology as you, however, I noticed I am not able to label a PNG image, only jpeg-jpg within the Windows built-in Explorer function.

Anyone knows how to overcome this or have a work-around?

Thanks a bunch
Adrian

by syntax_error on 15. September 2011 - 9:47  (79646)

Which software did you use to add the keyword tags to the files?

by rikishi19 on 15. September 2011 - 22:12  (79695)

I just used the built in function of Windows 7.