Tom's Definitive Linux Software Roundup: Image Apps

Image Management

Shotwell (v. 0.5.0)

As a photo management application, the main focus of Shotwell is organization. Since photographs are the primary content, images are automatically sorted by date, as well as by user-created tags.

The left-hand sidebar provides quick access to sortable image information, organized in a file tree structure. Along with simplicity, Shotwell offers snappiness. Importing entire directories of images is a speedy process. My test system's Pictures directory contains almost a thousand hi-res wallpaper files and Shotwell only took about a minute to import and organize all of them. A slider in the bottom-right corner of the interface quickly zooms in and out of your collection.

While Shotwell can also enhance and rotate images, it's not intended to be an editor. With an attractive interface and responsive controls, it's no wonder Shotwell is the new default image application in Fedora and Ubuntu.

F-Spot (v.

F-Spot is the default photo management application in Ubuntu 10.04 LTS. While not intended to be an image editor, F-Spot was put on the spot (so to speak) by the sudden disappearance of the much more robust GNU Manipulation Program (GIMP).

When taken strictly as a photo manager, F-Spot is adequate. Attempting to use its sparse editing features is inadvisable due to the lack of any undo function. Importing to F-Spot is comparatively slow, opening a fraction of the files opened by Shotwell in the same time period. The zoom slider is also jerky, again with a smaller sampling of files than Shotwell.

A timeline containing bar graphs illustrates how many images were created in each month. This feature would be much more useful if clicking on a given month would show those images in the pane below.

digiKam (v. 1.2.0)

digiKam is a photo management application for KDE. This application uses tags, comments, and albums to organize and search image files. Imported RAW images from a connected digital camera can be tweaked using the built-in editor. digiKam can also import from scanners and Web sites like Picassa and Facebook.

digiKam opens with a setup wizard the first time you start the application. From there, you can choose the location of your photos folder, along with some system settings (whether the thumbnailer loads an entire image or a downsized version for extra speed). The user interface is the typical fully-customizable KDE layout, with multiple panes and toolbars in every spare corner.

digiKam has to be one of the most feature-complete photo managers out there. I wish there were enough images to show off its organizational capabilities.

Album Shaper (v. 2.1)

Album Shaper allows the user to organize any number of image files into albums. Individual images can be cropped, rotated, and adjusted for color, contrast, and red eye. RGB color settings can also be adjusted, and there are several effects that can be applied, such as black and white, mosiac, blur, and sharpening.

One large problem with Album Shaper is its inability to add entire directories to an album. Instead, each image must be added one at a time.

KPhotoAlbum (v. 4.1.1)

Just as its name implies, KPhotoAlbum is a photo album application for KDE. KPhotoAlbum allows you to sort images by user-defined categories and add annotations to images individually.

The main screen provides several ways to sift through collections of images, including a search. Once a collection is selected, the images are displayed in thumbnails in the main area of the screen. Directly below the collection is a zoomable timeline view of the included images. Single images can be viewed in a separate window or together in a collection as a slideshow.

gThumb (v. 2.10.11)

gThumb is fairly robust for a simple image viewer application. Along with the usual viewing features, gThumb has a few organizational tools as well. This app can add comments to individual images, associate images with categories, and even create custom catalogs of files--all of which can be fully sorted and searched.

Combined with bookmarks and a file tree in the left pane, this application makes navigating a mountain of images remarkably easy.

flPhoto (v. 1.3.1)

flPhoto is a very simple image viewer and organizer, with an easy-to-use interface. A main toolbar houses the zoom and red eye tools, while most other options are found in the file menu. The current album is shown in thumbnails along the bottom of the screen, with the currently-selected image displayed in the bulk of the window.

Images can be sorted into albums and compiled into slide shows. Basic editing functions include crop, rotate, scale, zoom, blur, sharpen, and brightness/contrast adjustment. Unfortunately, the UI takes some getting used to, since it does not conform to GNOME or KDE standards. Also, zoom only goes up to 100%, and tagging is not supported.

PornView (v. 0.2.0 pre1)

PornView is an image viewer/manager designed for, That's not to say this app only handles pornographic images; it works fine with all image files.

The user interface is broken up into three main sections. The upper-left section contains a file tree for browsing and selecting directories. While the lower-left section previews the currently-selected directory in thumbnails. The right side of the screen shows the currently-selected image at full size. In this area, there are also tabs to display image data and user-created notes for each image. Navigation controls, zoom, fullscreen, and slideshow options essentially make up the browsing capabilities of PornView.

This is a dated application with several, better alternatives now available.

imgSeek (v. 0.8.6)

imgSeek is an image management app that acts like a database for a collection of images.

Single images or directories can be added via the add tab. Alternatively, imgSeek can scan all of your directories for image files. imgSeek even houses utilities for batch renaming, duplicate removal, and adding effects. A slideshow function is also included. Being a database-like application, search options are countless. Images can be found by name, date, metatag data, or even by similar colors.

Unfortunately, imgSeek shows its age. This is not a new application by any stretch; the older style of icons and toolbars are a dead giveaway.

Although this application is definitely old, it has one feature that none of the other image viewers do: search by drawing. You can draw a sketch of the image you're looking for and imgSeek will attempt to match the doodle to an image in your collection. As you can see from the screenshot below, my poor attempt to draw a tiger matched the wallpaper of a white tiger by 19.79%, the closest match in my collection. Pretty cool.

Picasa (v. 3.0.0 build 57.4402, 0)

Picasa is an image management application from Google, which syncs to its popular Picasa Web Albums Web site for online image sharing and storage.

The overall look of the user interface is a little strange. The menu bar area looks like something pre-XP, but the bulk of the UI carries the standard Google Apps layout. Underneath the menu bar lays a toolbar for uploading files to Picasa Web Albums, creating albums, viewing changes, and searching. The left-hand pane holds an area for user-created albums and recently-updated files. Below this resides the totality of image files on your computer in file tree style; they are separated by date and then by folder. The main area houses thumbnails of the images in the currently selected album or folder. The bottom of the UI has more sharing options, such as Email and Add to Blogger, along with a zoom slider for the thumbnail/image viewing area.

After you get past a few install windows and a couple of disclaimers/license agreement screens, Picasa automatically scans your entire hard drive for image files. Obviously, anyone who is paranoid of “the big Goog” will not be happy with this fact. More importantly, “all image files” really means “all image files.” That's right--every icon, app logo, toolbar widget, etc. make its way into the Picasa database. This can create a headache of over-information at best. At worst, it can hog up precious system resources on older machines for a very long time.

Overall, this app is going to be great for heavy users of Picasa Web Albums. Otherwise, there are far less intrusive options available.

  • jhansonxi
    You forgot MyPaint.
  • jkhanlar
    and scrot
  • darktable is a good alternative to existing products for both management and processing of photos...missing that one in this roundup.
  • sudeshc
    dont know exactly why but i never tried Linux i guess its time to take a test drive, thanks toms for this article.
  • I sedcond you, darktable is indeed great RAW software
  • dEAne
    wow I didn't know these things, thank you a lot.
  • nvarras7
    Have been on Ubuntu since 10.04 was beta and haven't looked back!
  • nvarras7
    nvarras7Have been on Ubuntu since 10.04 was beta and haven't looked back!
  • Definitive? How about programs like feh and gpicview?
    i love linux! but then i look at my steam account and shed a tire D: