Shotwell – The Future of Linux Photo Management Software

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photo management softwareIt’s taken a long time, but finally the future of Linux photo managers is looking up. It’s all thanks to amazing new photo management software called Shotwell, which is simple enough to be usable and featured enough to be useful (a hard balance to strike, and a rare one in the Linux world).

Sure, there were alternatives before. F-Spot did the trick for many, and Picasa for Linux was quite feature-filled for those willing to tolerate a proprietary program ported via Wine. Shotwell, however, hits the sweet spot between these two applications.

The Ubuntu team agrees with me, apparently, because they recently announced Shotwell will be the default photo management software in Ubuntu 10.10 (the next release of Ubuntu due to come out in October).


But you can use this app now. It’s in the repositories for Ubuntu 10.04, and users of earlier versions of Ubuntu and Fedora users can find installation instructions here. Before you dive in, though, read on to find out if this application is right for you.

Importing Photos

The first thing you do with any photography app is import photos, right? Shotwell gives you three ways to do this, and none could be any easier. The first way is to simply drag your folders onto the Shotwell window.

The second is to plug in your camera and let Shotwell take care of importing the photos on it’s own – this makes adding new photos a breeze.

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The third, old-fashioned way, is to click “File,” then “Import From Folder.” This is perfect if you have lots of photos already on your computer.

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Once the pictures are on your computer you’ll find they’re sorted by date. You can modify the names and times of any photo, allowing you to make your library really easy to customize. Browsing your photos, creating an on-the-fly slideshow and even basic editing are all made simple.

Editing Photos

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Open any photo in Shotwell and you’ll see five functions on the bottom toolbar: Rotate, Crop, Red-eye, Adjust and Enhance.

Rotate and crop have obvious functions, of course, but they’re certainly always nice to have on hand.

The Red-eye feature is also self-explanatory but very useful. The vaguely named “Adjust” allows you to change the levels. Those with a background in photography will immediately see the benefit here, but those without can experiment and learn pretty quickly.

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Finally there is the “Enhance” button. This function works exactly the way its magic-wand icon implies. Click the button and Shotwell will automatically adjust the levels to make the photo look as good as it can. How effective this can be is obviously a matter of opinion, but I generally thought the results were fantastic.

Upload To Web

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If there are three sites people share photos on, it’s Facebook, Flickr and Picasa. Happily Shotwell can upload photos to all three. Doing this couldn’t be easier: just highlight the photos you want to upload, then click “Publish.” You can then sign into any of those accounts and upload the photos.

Conclusion

Ubuntu, and Linux in general, needed photo management software like this for a long time. I’m glad it’s finally here in the form of Shotwell. Here we have organization, editing and online integration all in one happy package.

What do you think? Is Shotwell an improvement over the likes of F-Spot, or is the Ubuntu team making a mistake in switching their default? Do you prefer this sort of simplicity to the feature collection that is Picasa, or do you feel too limited using this tool? Speak up in the comments below!

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