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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Go straight to the Quick Selection Guide
Zoner 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.
XnView 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 XnView 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.
Picasa, 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.
DigiKam 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 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!
You might want to check out these articles too:
- Best Free Digital Image Viewer
- Best Free Digital Image Editor
- Best Free Photo Noise Reduction Software
Zoner Photo Studio Free
Windows Live Photo Gallery
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