Picasa Alternative [ongoing]

posted in: Linux, Photography, Technicalities, Tools | 0

For a long time I have been looking to replace Picasa (the desktop programme) but haven’t been able to come up with a true alternative. Many people ask for Picasa-alternatives in the forums, yet most of the answers and suggestions – as helpful as they are – haven’t been satisfactory. I’m not looking for another programme to show me my pictures, theres piles of them that can do that. What I need is a replacement to perform specific steps in my workflow. I thought maybe it helps if I publish something more detailed.

I am an avid photographer and my pictures mainly fall into two types: those that come in a group (like from holiday or hikes) and those where one individual image is more important to me. For the second type I use RawTherapee and am absolutely happy. But before I go into Rwatherapee, I use Picasa for sorting. And I also use it for my holiday snapshots, where most of the edits are minor (straighten here, brightness there).

The reason why it takes me so long to settle ewith an alternative is because Picasa is better then any other programme I know when it comes to sorting and the quick simple fixes.

Picasa

The defending Champion: Knows all the tricks, wins all the major fights. But: it comes from a bad Gym and after a while one can smell it.

  1. Sorting
    The Good: Picasa displays a treeview of your folders to the left. After importing, I go through all images fullscreen and whenever I like one, I hit space to give it a star. When through, I go back to thumbs view, click »select all stared images«, right click and selected »move to new folder«. Done.
    The Bad: Picasa ignores empty folders and you can’t drag anything to a folder that contains other folders but no images. That sucks. Sometimes importing is unreliable.
  2. Editing
    The Good: Simple edits are simple. Tools are organised in tidy tabs and provide everything that is needed for quick fixes. For serious editing I use RawTherapee, but stuff like crop, rotate, simple colour correction is faster and easier in Picasa than in any other programme I know. The way you see an image in Picasa is consistent with other image viewers. Retouching is great, too.
    The Bad: no bad.
  3. History
    Editing history is preserved in a text file and as long as the text file stays with the image, all edits can be undone.
  4. Other
    The Bad:
    (1) Stability. Used to be good, but recently Picasa looses the database frequently. A rescan of my 50.000 images takes the better part of a day. I tried to backup the database, but didn’t succeed. That sucks.
    (2) Nativity: I did not ditch Windows to now run wine.
    (3) Google: I have replaced most Google products now: Analytics → Piwik; Reader → TT-RSS/GRITTTT (see here and here);  gmail → Thunderbird; calender → Lightning (I almost managed syncing contacts and calender to android, too). And finally Picasa → <?> would just be nice.

Digikam

The first Contender: coach says it can do anything and the sky’s the limit – and there are indeed many fine fights to support that. However, some of the easiest ones ended before they started, because occasionally Digikam just loves to knock itself out while stumbling into the ring.

  1. Sorting
    The Good: A little different but ultimately more comfortable. Double click image, click thumbnail in the top strip, navigate with arrows and assign stars by Ctrl+<0-5>. Then filter by stars (right pane), select all and move to new folder. A rescan actually does happen each time you hit F5.
    The Bad: nothing.
  2. Editing
    The so-so: It is a mix. Tools are organised in menus but appear in the sidebar when selected. So it is not as easy to switch in between them, but easy to use them. Tools are much more sophisticated and give many more choices – almost too much for my liking. Editing happens in a new window, but you can navigate with pgUp/Dwn.
    The Bad: The image looks different. Colder and just different. Maybe I overlooked a setting, but all other image viewers show me an image with a substantially different tone.
    I played with settings and there have been updates, and this issue seems gone.
  3. History
    The Good: none so far
    The Bad: There is non destructive editing through image versioning, and I see the versions, but I don’t understand how to use it at all.
  4. Other
    The Good: It’s open source, native, not Google.
    The Bad: It crashes frequently. When I restart the programme, it does not display the image thumbnails until I reboot, not even pgrep/kill helps. Sometimes it even happens at the first start – and now they never show (hint). Also, five minutes after I close the programme, pgrep still shows one – sometimes up to five – processes running. That is quite impossible.
    An update seemingly fixed this – no more crashes, thumbs are back. 
  5. Further Reading
    > Introduction to the image editor
    > Tour

     

Darktable

The second contender:

  1. Sorting
    The Good:
    The Bad:
  2. Editing
    The Good: Comes in a pane, similar to Picasa.
    The Bad:
  3. History
    The Good:
    The Bad:
  4. Other
    The Good: It’s open source, native, not Google. And it knows tethering!
    The Bad:

Waiting for Qualifiers

Rawstudio
Not tested so far

Technical knockouts in preliminary rounds

Other potential alternatives I had a look at:

Shotwell
Knockout: does not have a tree view of folders, I cannot sort that way

Gwenview
Knockout: No Raw support, cropping seemed unprecise at times

Fspot
Tried it, did not want it but can’t remember why.

Photivo
Same as fspot: tried it, did not want it, can’t remember what the problem was.

Pinta
Looked & felt like the gimp’s baby brother.

jbrout
Photo manager, not an editor

fotoxx
Hm. Impressive features, but compared to picasa, I find it lacks too much on usability.

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