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I would like to organise my growing collection of pictures into a database, which is searchable by filename or associated words (tags).

How would I best accomplish this?

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My personal favourite is gthumb image viewer. You should search for it in the Ubuntu Software Centre and give it a try to see if it suits your needs.

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Probably the best photo database program for your purposes is Shotwell, which is available in the repositories and the official site is here.

This program has excellent tagging and search features. The two screenshots demonstrate this and show how you create a tag by going to the tag menu and selecting new tag and entering the name for it; you can also give it multiple tags at once which is very useful. You can also highlight with the mouse all the pictures you want to be tagged, click new tag and then your tag wil be applied to them all so you don't have to individually tag each one. You will then see an entry in the left hand sidebar (see second screenshot) which will give a list of your tags and you will be able to click them to see all the tagged pictures.

There is also a lot of search functionality built in to Shotwell so you can find pictures by tag, rating and by date as Shotwell reads the exif information of the photos.

You can import what you want into Shotwell by cancelling the auto import when it starts and going to the file menu and selecting 'import from folder'. If the database ever gets corrupt, you can remove it from the hidden .shotwell folder in your home folder; and of course you can back it up as well.

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The major choices would be:

  1. Shotwell - installed by default in 12.04 desktop
  2. Picasa - Google have discontinued providing linux packages, but the latest Windows version installs and runs quite happily with the wine emulation layer. (Install wine using apt-get or the Software Center then download the windows installer and run with wine).
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I would recommend F-Spot is a personal photo manager.

Import your pictures from your hard drive, a digital camera or even an iPod and F-Spot will quickly import them, ready for you to view.

You can tag and categorise your photos, make a Photo CD, export to the online Flickr service, perform basic colour-correction and editing, and much more. Towards the top of the main F-Spot window is a timeline - just drag the slider to view the photos you took around a specific date. There is a fullscreen mode and a slideshow feature for showing your photos to others, and a full image metatdata display for the technically-minded. Part of the default Ubuntu installation 1

1Source:Ubuntu Documentation

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I love f-spot but it looks like its development slowed to a halt since it was dropped as the default photo manager in Ubuntu. – Sergey Aug 28 '12 at 9:49

DigiKam is an absolute monster of an image management program, completely dwarfing any competing program in comparison.

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I used to use F-spot to manage my 50K+ library of photos - it was ok-ish although it didn't understand some file formats (more annoyingly, sometimes support disappeared in newer versions) and more than once I had to deal with database corruption when upgrading from version to version. When it was demoted from the position of the default image manager in Ubuntu, the development slowed. I liked f-spot to the point of checking out its source and spending a few days trying to figure out if I can fix some most pressing problems myself.

Then I briefly tried to use Shotwell. Didn't like it - it was (and I believe is) extremely simplified even compared to f-spot. @eric-yorba suggests that it could actually address some of my problems with f-spot, but when I tested it felt very feature-incomplete compared to f-spot and I couldn't find a way to get photos into it without physically "importing" all 200+Gb of photos, which would create a copy of all my files.

The main weakness of the above programs is that they use their database as the principal source of information about your collection - i.e. there's a notion of "importing" photos into the program, you can't just copy a few folders from a flash drive into your library. Which leads to all sorts of issues with "orphan images", database corruption etc. Another important thing is to make sure the program writes all the metadata (tags etc.) back into images' EXIF and can then successfuly re-import your collection and restore all the tags in case the database gets corrupt and you have to delete it.

DigiKam, apart from supporting any feature you can think of (especially regarding tagging/labelling/searching photos), uses the filesystem as the primary source - i.e. if you manually place some files into your image library they'll appear in the program automatically. New versions come out regularly.

DigiKam is available in Ubuntu repositories, although, as a KDE application, it pulls down a few dependencies from KDE world.

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To clarify a couple criticisms here, Shotwell has a "library monitor" feature in the prefs. When enabled, Shotwell auto-imports any photo moved into your Pictures folder. Also note that database corruption cannot happen in Shotwell from removing photos from your library. Even if the database becomes corrupt (from a system crash, etc.) it will restore from the last known good database. – MrEricSir Aug 28 '12 at 20:13
@eric-yorba: Thanks for the comment. I edited the answer to point out that my experience with Shotwell was rather brief. Still, DigiKam has way more knobs. I like programs with knobs :) – Sergey Aug 28 '12 at 21:13

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