We look at five examples of photo organizing software to help you restore order to your image collection. And best of all—they’re free.
When you have images filed haphazardly on your computer, you waste time looking for the right image when you need it. Photo-organizing software helps you catalog and manage your images more effectively. We look at five free photo-management applications that can help you organize—or restore order to—your image collection.
Photo Organizing Versus Photo Editing
In this roundup we concentrate on organizing images rather than fixing them. Photo-management software helps you find and organize the images you have on your computer. They may include editing tools, but they may also let you link an external editor so that you can send an image directly from the application to your favorite editing software.
Most photos organizers help you tag or keyword images, which simplifies finding them later. They may also let you organize images into virtual groups, called albums or collections. Exactly how these features are implemented will differ from application to application.
If your photo collection is out of control, then any of these five free photo management tools will help you find and organize your images more efficiently.
Many people consider Google’s Picasa the go-to tool for organizing and locating images on their computer. With Picasa you can tag images with descriptive keywords for easy searching. You can also organize images into albums—an image can be in multiple albums—so you can gather groups of images for different projects.
Picasa displays images as folders or as a timeline to give you multiple sorting and viewing options. One of Picasa’s strengths is its facial recognition capability, which lets you easily categorize images by the person or people within an image. You can configure Picasa to search your entire computer for images—or only those folders that you specify—and it will update the catalog when you add new images. Although Picasa includes a competent built-in editor, organization is its real strong point.
Picasa is available for both Windows and Mac.
Daminion comes in a range of free and for-fee versions for Windows only. The free standalone version allows up to 15,000 images per catalog. Other paid versions offer larger catalog sizes and some offer full multi-user functionality for larger teams. Once you install the software, you can import images you want to manage into Daminion. You can also add keywords to your images, apply labels, and rate them.
The program lets you search for images by keyword and a range of other attributes, and you can organize them into collections. The program handles a large range of file types that goes beyond still images, including audio, video, and RAW files. You’ll need to link Daminion to an external photo editor because, beyond rotating images, Daminion offers no photo-editing options—just plenty of heavy duty organizing features.
Zoner makes a number of different photo applications, and Photo Studio Free is the free cut-down version of its commercial application. Photo Studio runs on Windows and, when installing, make sure to opt for the free version—you’ll get an automatic 30-day trial of the full version when you do. Zoner Photo Studio works fast and shows your files almost instantly. It defaults to showing your computer’s My Pictures folder, and you can add other folders to its Favorite list to make them easily accessible.
You can view your images as a list, as thumbnails, or a combination of the two; and you can see metadata—and view and add keywords—in its Manager interface. You can also create multiple browsing tabs to view multiple folders at once and even side-by-side.
Unlike other photo-management software, Zoner doesn’t provide an album or collection feature for organizing images on the desktop (these are only for its Web-sharing interface). You’ll need to add keywords and use Zoner’s color labels and star ratings to organize your images.
FastStone Image Viewer is free for personal and education use, and it operates as a file browser; simply point it at a folder and immediately see all the images in that folder. Like Daminion, FastStone supports RAW images. You can view images in multiple ways, such as details and thumbnail views, and the program’s options for making folders and moving files are easy to find. You can add folders to your Favorites list, and a handy compare feature lets you compare up to four images at a time.
One downside: FastStone lacks a keyword tool, and its tagging capability is limited to an on/off selector that lets you select or deselect images. However, FastStone includes a lot of photo-editing tools making it handy for anyone who needs to both manage and edit a collection of images.
IrfanView is freeware that runs on Windows (XP through 10). When you launch the program, you’ll see that the interface is very sparse—confusingly so. Start by choosing File > Open and open an image. Now you can use the arrow keys to move step-by-step through that folder of images.
Press T to view thumbnails and to navigate the folder structure. IrfanView handles a range of image formats including Photoshop PSD files and Adobe’s DNG format, and it can convert files from one format to another.
The program includes a rudimentary photo-editor, but you can link to your preferred external editor. You can create a contact sheet of images in a folder, and you can sort images in order by a number of attributes including date, dpi, and aspect ratio. While you can add keywords using Control + I, it’s a little cumbersome to do. One handy feature is IrfanView’s capability to resize images. For example, if you need a set of images all the same size it’s easy to do it as a batch process.
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Helen Bradley is a respected international journalist writing regularly for small business and computer publications in the USA, Canada, South Africa, UK and Australia. You can learn more about her at her website, HelenBradley.com