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The following is a summary of the popular photo database / cataloging programs available today, with the main features of each. It should help in trying to compare the differences in important features from a product vs product comparison. Most of the programs are true catalogs (with keyword support), but I have included some which should be more appropriately called "image browsers" (which rely on filesystem organization). I have not included the editing functionality in this chart, but may do so later.
Note: Photo catalog software is also sometimes refered to as: digital asset management, image database, photo album software, digital picture album, thumbnail browser, graphic organizer, etc.
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Please see the individual review pages for related comments.
Check out the Image Database / Photo Catalog Software articles page for more insight into related topics.
If there are certain features or products that you feel are important to incorporate in the following software versus software comparison, please leave a comment below.
|ACDSee||ACD Systems||$49.99||Forum||Yes||P||Y||N||N ||Y||N||9 reviews|
|ACDSee Pro||ACD Systems||$129.99||Forum||Yes||P||Y||N||Y||Y||N||1 reviews|
|ArkiPix||ArkiPix||$140.00||14 day||P||Y||N||N||N||N||Add your review!|
|BreezeBrowser||BreezeSys||$49.95||Y||Yes ||P||N||N||N||Y||N||Add your review!|
|BreezeBrowser Pro||BreezeSys||$69.95||Y||Yes ||P||N||N||Y||Y||N||2 reviews|
|Cataloguer||CML Software||$25.00||30 day||P||?||?||?||?||?||6 reviews|
|CompuPic||Photodex||$39.95||15 day||P||N||N||N||N||N||2 reviews|
|CompuPic Pro||Photodex||$79.95||15 day||P||N||N||N||N||N||2 reviews|
|Cumulus||Canto||$200.00||Forum||Yes||PM||Y||N ||Y||N ||Y||9 reviews|
|Expression Media||Microsoft||$299.00||Forum||60 day||PM||Y||N||Y||Y||Y||1 reviews|
|FastStone Image Viewer||FastStone||FREE||FREE||P||N||N||Y||Y||N||3 reviews|
|FotoAlbum Pro||FotoTime||$29.95||Forum||21 day||P||Y||N||Y||Y||N||Add your review!|
|FotoStation||FotoWare||$65.00||Forum||30 day||P||N||N||N||N||N||1 reviews|
|FotoStation Pro||FotoWare||$599.00||Forum||30 day||PM||Y||N||Y||Y||N||1 reviews|
|idImager Personal||idPlanner||$59.00||Forum||21 day||P||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||4 reviews|
|idImager Pro||idPlanner||$89.00||Forum||21 day||P||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||3 reviews|
|IMatch||Photools||$59.95||Forum||30 day||P||Y||N ||Y||Y||Y||12 reviews|
|Irfanview||irfan skiljan||FREE||Forum||FREE||P||N||N||Y||Y||N||Add your review!|
|iView Media||Replaced by Expression||$49.00||Forum||21 day||PM||Y||N||N||N||N||2 reviews|
|iView Media Pro||Replaced by Expression||$199.00||Forum||21 day||PM||Y||N||Y||Y||Y||6 reviews|
|Lightroom||Adobe||$299.00||Forum||Y||PM||Y||Y||Y||Y||3rd party||4 reviews|
|MaPiVi||Martin Herrmann||FREE||FREE||PM||Y||N||N||N||N||1 reviews|
|MediaDex||MediaDex||$79.95||Forum||30 day||PM||Y||N||Y||Y||N||4 reviews|
|PFS Manager||ProFoto Software||$49.00||30 day||P||N||N||N||N||N||Add your review!|
|Photo Album||Corel||$29.00||Forum||Yes||P||Y||N||N||N||N||3 reviews|
|Photo Mechanic||CameraBits||$150.00||Forum||20 day||PM||N||N||Y||Y||N||5 reviews|
|Photoshop Album 2||Adobe||$49.99||Forum||Yes||P||Y||N||N||N||N||6 reviews|
|Photoshop Album SE||Adobe||FREE||Forum||FREE||P||Y||N||N||N||N||Add your review!|
|Photoshop Elements||Adobe||$89.99||Forum||30 day||PM||Y||Y||Y||Y||N||12 reviews|
|PicaJet FX||PicaJet||$39.95||15 day||P||Y||N||N||N||N||6 reviews|
|Portfolio||Extensis||$199.95||Forum||30 day||PM||Y||N||N||Y||Y||6 reviews|
|Smart Pix Manager||Xequte||$39.50||Forum||SW||P||Y ||N||?||Y||N||1 reviews|
|StudioLine Photo Basic||StudioLine||FREE||Forum||FREE||P||Y||N||Y||Y||N||Add your review!|
|StudioLine Photo Classic||StudioLine||$59.00||Forum||Y||P||Y||N||Y||Y||N||1 reviews|
|ThumbsPlus||Cerious||$49.95||News||30 day||P||Y||N||Y||N||N||4 reviews|
|ThumbsPlus Pro||Cerious||$89.95||News||30 day||P||Y||N||Y||Y||Y||3 reviews|
|Zoner Photo Studio Pro||Zoner||$99.00||Forum||Y||P||?||?||Y||Y||N||Add your review!|
-  Trial is watermarked, only first 12 photos in folder.
-  No native support for versioning in release 3.4.30, however
scripting can allow one to keep tags current between versions. See
Versions script, which is designed to be a workaround until the
software provides native support for versioning. It is widely believed
that the next release of IMatch might integrate native version support.
Other products that have similar extensive scripting could also add
such a workaround.
[01/29/05] Mario Westphal announced version support in the next version (ie. IMatch 3.5). In early 2006, version 3.5 was released but unfortunately, it never incorporated version support. It's not clear when this feature will be available.
-  RAW is in extra "Photo Suite" $49.95 add-on. Versioning in "Vault" $1295 add-on. Free Viewer for others, but only create with $495 Viewer option.
-  Color Management only supported with "photoPro" plugin ($39.99).
-  Looks primarily like an image browser, but has support for keywords.
Other features that I would like to incorporate into the matrix are: Editing capabilities, offline image support, importing, printing, duplicate detection.
If you are aware of any corrections or additional details, please let me know in the form below.
Book on Digital Asset Management
Having spent considerable time researching topics relating to digital asset management, I have been surprised by how few books cover this important aspect of digital photography. Recently, I read Peter Krogh's excellent The DAM Book, and would certainly recommend picking up a copy if you're looking for more detail (the companion site has an active community forum).
It is easy to become confused when trying to determine whether or not a particular product supports "version control" and what exactly this means. There are two closely related types of version control, but the differences are significant.
Revision control is simply a mechanism that tracks and stores multiple linear versions of a single file. One might edit a photo and then save it. This is stored as the current version of the file (say 1.1). At a later stage, one opens up the same file and decides to make a further edit. When this further edit is saved into the database, it is kept as version 1.2. Version 1.1 (before the recent modification) is still stored on the drive, and can be recalled by checking-out a previous version of the single file. This is commonly used with documents and source code, but some catalog programs have also incorporated support for this mechanism. Although it adds value for the first version (from original to first edit), it seems less useful for further versions, unless one had a huge number of edits to make over time and wanted to gradually roll in changes. At any point in time, one could roll-back the changes to the last known good state. Generally, all tags will be attached to all revisions as they are in fact referring to the same file. Programs supporting this are marked with a N in the VS column above.
Unfortunately, the problem most photographers face is not one of linear version control, but control over multiple parallel branches / developments from the same original photo. This is where multi-file versions comes into play.
Multi-file versioning (not sure of an appropriate or accepted name for this, although one reader has mentioned the similarities to branched version control) is the ability to associate multiple seperate files with the same original. This allows for parallel streams of development, and also allows for sequential streams (if one were to create additional copies). The key point here is that a catalog program that supports this will need to associate tags with all files that are related to the same source / original. These multiple files are often created to develop versions of an image for different targets. Examples include: one version for the web, another for print, another for color correction, etc.
Unfortunately, there are very few catalog programs that have native support for this feature. Such programs are marked with a Y in the VS column above.
Comparison of Versioning Approaches
The following section will identify the different levels of support for image versioning in the catalog products indicated above. The table lists only those programs that either have native integrated support or those that provide enough scripting to accomplish the multiple-version tag maintenance.
Please see my discussion of multiple version support in catalog programs.
|IMatch 3.6 ?||Unreleased - Unknown||
Mario Westphal announced (as of 01/29/05) version support in the next release of IMatch (3.5). When it was finally released (Feb 2006), it did not have the promised version support. It is not clear yet what approach will be used or when it will become available.
See Mario's initial comments on IMatch 3.5. (Though some of these items are clearly waiting for a future release).
|Photoshop Elements 3||Native support||Implementation of both version sets and image stacks (collections of photos on the same object).|
|idImager||Native support||Provides a good implementation of multi-file versioning (not revision control). It groups files into a single entity and allows one to simply drag and drop other versions (even from Windows Explorer) into the "Show Registered Versions" window. In the "Catalog" view it only displays the "Originals", while in "Media" view, it will display all. Now implements a Version Detection Wizard which will find the duplicates which may be additional derivative images.|
|iView Media Pro||Revision control only||Only revision control, allowing one to rollback to a previous edit on a file.|
|Photoshop Album 2||Edit control only||Only supports invokation of editing, and replaces entry in catalog with edited version.|
|DigitalPro||Only JPEG+RAW||Catalog keeps JPEG & RAW files associated together.|
|PhotoArchiver||Native support||Appears to properly support derivative images / multi-file versioning and possibly revision control. Can also associate other non-picture files with an image.|
|Photo Mechanic||Only JPEG+RAW||Catalog keeps JPEG & RAW files associated together.|
Very few programs support the notion of a placeholder asset. A placeholder is simply an element in the database that doesn't exist (yet). It might represent a missing photo, or a entire roll of film that you have yet to scan in.
Even though the original asset may not exist on your drive, it is still useful to have the ability to add keywords and organize such images / placeholders. The database program itself should not care, and it would be incredibly simple to implement such a feature. I imagine that this is not a feature that many people ask for, except in corporate situations where there may be many types of assets under control, many of which may not be transferred to the computer.
Even if the catalog program doesn't natively support such a feature, it would be fairly easy to simulate it's behavior, provided that the application supports the concept of offline relocation. Simply create a dummy image / thumbnail which you add into the database, once for each offline placeholder asset. You can tag and categorize at will. If you ever want to bring in the actual element, then you can relocate the item to your hard drive, which will resample the image thumbnail and metadata.