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.

Does the organizer expect to search your disks for image files?

In the first group are programs that do not expect to search your disks for image files. My best in class list has three choices: Zoner Photo Studio Free, XNView and, for those who use a Linux operating system, digiKam. Zoner PSF can catelog all the image files on your disks but it does not do so by default..

In the second group are programs that expect to search your disks for image files (and videos). 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.

These programs provide all the basics

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; Faststone Image Viewer; 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.

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In a Hurry?

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Discussion

Zoner Photo Studio FreeZoner Photo Studio Free is in first place but there is not much to choose between any of the first three 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

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Quick Selection Guide

Zoner Photo Studio Free
4
 
Gizmo's Freeware award as the best product in its class!

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
16.0
54.8 MB
32 bit but 64 bit compatible
Feature limited freeware
There is no portable version of this product available.
Windows XP SP2 / Vista / 7 / 8

v16.0.1.7 released 31 July 2014
Zoner installer offers two types of activation: paid or trial versions. To get the free one, initiate the trial and then go to the 'Log in' menu > select 'Free' and then 'Activate'.
The download link on Zoner's site goes to Cnet, which may use wrapped installers although that is not the case for the version downloaded here.

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; Multi-monitor support.
Very few - but does not seem to offer an easy route to upload images to the web.
2.22
2.73 to 14.5 MB
32 bit but 64 bit compatible
Free for private or educational use only
A portable version of this product is available from the developer.
Windows 95 to 8; MacOS X; Linux (Various Distros)

Three versions are available as well as archived older versions:
- Minimal (2.73MB) 3 languages and no add-ons
- Standard (4.64MB) all languages and some add-ons
- Extended (14.5MB) all languages and all add-ons.

DigiKam
4
 
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.
Large download size and installed footprint; Many bugs in the Windows version from installation to operation: may have to reinstall; may have to run in compatibility mode for 64-bit Windows; Several features not working properly such as camera auto detection, right click face tagging, compare image from two directories on the Light Table, etc; Also freezes or crashes when importing, resizing panes, changing facial recognition parameters, etc.
http://www.digikam.org/
4.2.0
259 MB
32 bit but 64 bit compatible
Open source freeware
There is no portable version of this product available.
Windows XP to 8 ; Linux ; Mac OS X.

You can also download the packages directly from the KDE repository.
If you want to compile a tarball or KDE version see Digikam Download

Other useful links: Documentation; Tutorials; FAQ; Support;

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
32 bit but 64 bit compatible
Unrestricted freeware
There is no portable version of this product available.
Windows XP / Vista / 7; Mac OS X 10.4.9+ (with Intel CPU)

Google provides instructions to run Picasa under Windows 8 though it is not officially certified.

Windows Live Photo Gallery
4
 
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.
2012
1.19 MB plus 55 MB download
32 bit but 64 bit compatible
Unrestricted freeware
There is no portable version of this product available.
Windows 7 & 8

The initial download is a web installer so further bandwidth is required to setup download Windows Live Photo Gallery, Windows Live Movie Maker which shares many of the same features, and any other Windows Live programs that will be updated if they are already installed (OneDrive, Mail, Family Safety, Writer)

Microsoft discourages using older versions of Windows Live Essentials as there is at least one security vulnerability with the Writer module:
Windows Vista requires Windows Live Essentials 2011
Windows XP requires Windows Live Essentials 2009

 
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 richtea on 31. August 2014 - 13:14  (118313)

Re: Windows Live Photo Gallery
"Needs Windows Live sign up"
Never did.

by Misty27 on 15. August 2014 - 17:06  (117975)

Note to the reviewer, v.laurie.
The summary for XnView says there's no portable version. That's incorrect.
There are portables from the developer for the "classic" version & also the newer XnViewMP.
The new (still beta) "MP" version also has a 64 bit (.

There's also a portable of the classic version available from http://portableapps.com/apps.

by v.laurie on 15. August 2014 - 17:23  (117977)

Misty27, thanks for the information. This category has no editor at the moment and I am just a caretaker. However, I will change the statement about no portable version.

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

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