Jeff Sexton

Sunday, August 13, 2006

1000s of Photo Files

I'm trying to organize, save, identify and HTML-ize photo collections
in a way that can stand the test of time. The reqirements for software I
can use are:

The information entered into the software for each picture or set of
pictures has to be stored in an open and accessible form, XML preferred.
No databases. No "importng". All the software required has to be
available 20 years from now (hence data sould be in an open and simple
text format).

The software has to create stand alone, simple, HTML files with all the
information in there and nothing extra required.

Running on Windows is a plus so my aunt can help typing in things.

I can't have the originals touched and the file names have to be
maintained as there are.

A nice way to browse and organize photos is also a plus.

The best tools in line so far are Google's Picasa, kalbum, picfolio, and
gwenview. I rejected others quickly for one reason or another. There are
others around also...

gwenview

This is really a photo browsing program that's slightly better than what's
usually built into a file manager. In fact I think KDE using, or can use,
gwenview as a plug in? gwenview can generate standalone HTML albums with
comments and descriptions entered.

Problems

I can't tell where to enter comments and descriptions. It seems to be
looking for special files someplace, but it's not documented well or at
all. I also can not see how to customized anything it creates nor search
images by their descriptions and tags.

picfolio

I thought this one would be perfect. It is a command line program written
in C/C++ that scans images and creates XML based on the meta data in the
files. It extracts the data put their by the digital camera including
exposure and flash setting, for example. It then uses XSLT and an
obviously alterable stylesheet to make HTML files. Great!

Problems

One would think that one could edit the XML and the XSL and get different
information into the HTML. You can't - picfolio always recreates the XML
from the images each time it runs. I could still use it to create base
XML if I wrote my own program to generate the XML, I would like it to be
in Java anyway. But that gets pretty annoying. Also, picfolio appears to
no longer exist. Its web pages are gone and I don't know that I can find
the source. And it's isn't a photo browser.

kalbum

This program generates plain HTML from files you tell it to use. Source
files can be anywhere and it doesn't mess with the file names. This is
nice because the files can be stored in a directory structure that is
different from the HTML albums. You can create albums that re-use images
(picasa does this too). Notes and descriptions can be entered and they
are stored in a plain text project file. It's not XML but it's editable
and could be transformed.

Problems

The software is clunky and a bit buggy. It needs more GUI work. But the
main problem is that it stores notes and descriptions with the album
project and not with the photo file. Every time you go to use a picture
in a new album the information previously entered would not be there.
Yes, I could create more utilities that save this stuff and copy it into
new album projects... sigh...

picasa

I like the interface to this program. And it is the only one to runs on
Windows (oddly, it uses a built in wine interface layer to run on linux).
It stores notes and descriptions with the images so they are always
available even when you create new and different albums using the same
images over. It is an excellent standalone image browser and searches the
notes and descriptions. The HTML it creates it good too.

Problems

I can't figure out where it is storing the notes and descriptions. To
work for me I must be able to get at that information outside of the
application. Also it doesn't happen to run on my desktop, just my laptop.
Worst of all, it has to be able to see all the files it knows about when
it starts up. You can't record information about files that are on an NFS
mounted volume and are not always there for example. It does have some
way to "export" images (like to a CD) that may save the info
someplace, but I have not tried that.

So what to do? I could use picasa, by far the best photo browser, and
maybe put all the photos on a USB drive so they are always there. The
HTML albums it creates could be archived. But where's it storing the
information? And I could use kalbum to make HTML since it stores the info
well and doesn't need to access the files full time. But I can't share
typed-in information between two programs easily and kalbum doesn't even
store info with the images themselves, just with the HTML projects.

I could use picfolio the create XML files that include camera settings,
that could be helpful anyway...

No perfect solution so far has been found... I'll probaly have to write
some supporting scripts to merge and transform information. And getting a
solution common to Windows probably isn't going to happen.

You'd think there'd be a way to do this.











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