Adobe Photoshop Elements Organizer

by JL Beeken on 3-01-2012

Adobe Photoshop ElementsThe only graphics software that I dislike more than Picasa … you didn’t know there was one, did you? … is Adobe Photoshop Elements Organizer. This one actually makes me angry because Adobe has the audacity to sell you an upgrade every year.

Adobe PSE Organizer is not a photo organizer. It’s a pre-school platform for selling you photo prints.

Way back about ten years ago before The Organizer was The Organizer it was Photoshop Album Starter Edition with an option to upgrade to something else. As I recall there wasn’t much to it, just a place for them to advertise. Its single organizational ability was to create tags and drop them on photos. And nothing’s changed! It’s the same old-same old version after version.

OK, they have, finally, all these years later, stopped stripping the maker notes out of digital pictures. Thank God for small miracles. The only other change is making the interface black because black looks more uppity. Supposedly.

The advertising has become more sophisticated, meaning there’s more of it. Order your prints, order photo books, order this, order that, upgrade to online storage, blah, blah.

As far as the alleged Organizer goes, (and I’m quite sure that name was chosen by some devious soul for the sole purpose of confusing us about its purpose) – first of all, there is absolutely no point in ‘cataloging’ your images. All that happens is that you become totally dependent on regularly returning to the Organizer.

Adobe Photo Elements Organizer

Once your images are ‘cataloged’ (i.e. put in prison) you can’t rename or move images outside of the Organizer without breaking the links to them. In order to re-link the images, the Organizer has to search your drive again to find them. And what for really? So, you can click on the time-line when you’re not busy re-linking your images?

(I’ve never actually made it this far because the Organizer has invariably crashed before it’s found them.)

And what do you need a time-line for? If your photos are already in dated folders you’ve already got a time-line.

Ah, the pre-digital scanned images you’re thinking? You don’t want to go there. You can alter the dates on scanned images, one at a time, or a few at a time but if the program crashes, or if you want to view this information somewhere else, you won’t be able to because it’s proprietary to Adobe. Sure, it’s vaguely interesting to be able to see all the dates on your time-line but if you want this information to last, put it under “Caption” instead.

Oh, by the way, do not forget to go to ‘File/Write Keyword Tags and Properties Info to Photos’ each time before you leave the Organizer because if you don’t all your changes will go ‘poof’ in the wind. The Organizer will not give you a message to save your work or any indication that files have been changed. It’s all on you to remember.

So, to recap – what you’ve got here is the ability to create tags (keywords) and drop them onto your photos. If you’re tagging your ancestors, and I guess that would be the point, you’ll get such a long list of tags it will take forever to scroll through them and it just sucks the fun right out of it. Been there, done that.

You can add a caption in the Properties box or you can click through your pictures one at a time in a larger view and add captions. And that’s it. End of the road. Unless you want to make scrapbook things and order scrapbook things to be printed.

I’ve tried really hard with several different photos and can’t get the integrated map to show anything. And my photos are well tagged with GPS and full addresses from other software. Nada. Just a solid white sidebar. Same thing if I try to place a new photo on the map. There is no map.

IPTC fields other than keywords and caption; useful things like source, copyright, caption writer, headline, address, photographer, etc., are hidden in the back of beyond in the other half of Adobe PSE called the Editor and can only be accessed one photo at a time. No batch-mode for anything.

So, open one photo in the Editor, root around looking for ‘File Info’, scroll through 13 (count ‘em, 13) tabs wondering which ones to use. Unless you have the time for this kind of approach … no-one who knows anything about metadata would use this for annotating their photos. You’d have to be a masochist.

Adobe Photoshop Elements Organizer Menu

Meanwhile, back at the Organizer, this is …. can you see it? …. the arrow that leads to the main menu; File, Edit, View and all that. I can’t actually see it when I’m sitting. I have to stand up and look really hard or flail around with my cursor hoping to hit it by accident.

After you’ve imported a few hundred or thousand photos and you’re looking for something, the only things you can search for are captions, dates or file-names. It doesn’t care at all about other information that may already be embedded in your photos from other software or may be someday.

Whatever photos you import or drag&drop into the Organizer become what is called a ‘catalog’ and you have to remember to back up it up regularly or you’ll be starting all over again should a problem arise. What that’s going to give you is a duplicate of all your photos cluttering up your hard-drive. Why do you need duplicates of your photos on the same hard-drive? You don’t. I have 80GB of photos. I don’t want a second set. And there’s not a chance in Hell I’m burning 80GB of photos to DVD every time I make a change.

I’m only looking at v.9, aggravated by bad memories of a couple of previous versions and egged on by Geoff Rasmussen’s recommendation of it in a Legacy webinar yesterday. Apparently, v.10 has added the option to search similar objects but it’s reputed to not work very well. The usual. More gimmicks.

Adobe PSE Editor is good and I’ve used it a lot. It’s restored more ancestor photos than I’d care to remember. I think the Editor alone is worth the purchase price and one version should be enough to last you a lifetime. Just don’t be deluded into thinking you’re getting a functional Organizer as part of the deal.

As far as tagging photos, you might as well use the best and that would be GeoSetter or Photo Mechanic.

I would rather inspire you with good software than take the time to analyze junk and tell you why it’s junk. I just end up having a bad day and passing it on.

I’ve tried to like Adobe PSE Organizer and I just don’t. It seriously needs to grow up. If they would move ‘File Info’ out of the Editor into the Organizer where it belongs, take out the useless cataloging concept, add GPS functionality, batch-mode for renaming and annotating, build a decent search engine into it and do it with some class, one might be able to call it an organizer. But then they’d want $800 for it and still a way of enticing you to upgrade every year.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Jasia 3-01-2012 at 4:14 AM

This is one product we are in complete agreement about. I tried the organizer several years ago and got thoroughly frustrated with it. I never bothered with it again. I’m currently using PSE 10, for editing… when I’m in too much of a hurry to use the full version of Photoshop, which is most of the time. I love it. Nice review, JL.

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Michelle Goodrum 3-01-2012 at 7:48 PM

Just the other day I was trying to use PSE to input metadata and figure out how to do batch renaming. Was getting frustrated for the exact reasons you have described. I guess it’s time to move on and find another program for organizing.

I do like PSE for editing though.

Thanks for the review.

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JL 3-01-2012 at 8:05 PM

You’d think that adding metadata and batch renaming photos would be basic functions of software calling itself a photo organizer, but nope, not in this case.

You know, I don’t know if there even is such a thing as a ‘photo organizer’, as in a stand-alone thingamabob that organizes your photos, click, click, done. Somewhere on the path I came to the realization that what organizing photos requires is:

1. a folder structure (that suits your personal collection)
2. a photo naming convention (that suits your personal collection)
3. embedding information into the photos

The first two I’ve changed a few times. More than a few times.

The third one can be changed and I’ve changed parts of that too as I’ve gotten clearer about what I want the embedded information to be. It’s an ongoing process. For that, you need quality software built to the highest standards. I recommend GeoSetter or Photo Mechanic. I use them both.

Software that can do #3 can also do renaming, complex searches, viewing and a host of other things. Other software can also do those.

Anyway, there it is. That’s my view of what photo organizing is.

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Wendy Grant Walter 3-02-2012 at 12:30 AM

Interesting read! I was just about to embark on the Adobe PSE Organizer after watching the webinar the other day. Now I’m not so sure… I’ve always used a folder system, based on year, then month, then event (birthday party, day at zoo, visit to Aunt’s etc). It seems to work fairly well although I sometimes have to search which year we did a certain event.

But it is the genealogy stuff I wish I could get a better handle on. I have surname and locality folders with subfolders under them. But as I get more and more documents mixed in with scanned photos, some of my folders are getting unwieldy. I have all the images also linked to my genealogy program (FTM 2012) but I sometimes want to look at the documents/photos without going into the database.

And then the other large problem is that when I try to copy all this stuff onto my ipad, it won’t recognize the nested folders…. Or am I missing something there?

Thanks for the review JL!

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JL 3-02-2012 at 1:12 AM

It’s good to know I may be saving someone from going down that gawd awful path of APSE Organizer. I fear you would spend more time being frustrated with its many failings than you would getting any of your already-existing problems solved. It does have a 30-day free trial so you could have a look and not take my word for it.

You want to use your photos and documents in a variety of different ways and what’s the best filing system that will suit all purposes? Good question. This is where the rubber seems to meet the road for a lot of family historians.

If you’ve already got your photos linked to your FTM database you’ve already set yourself up for problems because if you rename or move those files in the process of setting up a better system they’ll come un-linked and you’ll be starting over again with that. Not that it surprises me because I’ve done it myself ad nauseam.

Same problem with anything that links photos. APSE Organizer being another one.

You should be able to view your linked documents and photos without going into FTM. Just go to the folder where they live?

I don’t know anything about iPad so I can’t help you there.

I think the basic approach is to decide on a core system, that’s simple and stable and infinitely expandable and totally understandable to you, where you put your files and then work outward from there. Which means you have to decide on something and stop going every which way stirring it with a stick. The problem is lack of perspective. If I’d known then what I know now … seems to be a never-ending issue.

I am in the process myself of putting ALL my genealogy files and photos into one system which I wrote about in my last post. I am not linking files to anywhere anymore. But there’s a Part 2 to that. That’s the one I’m thinking about right now. Stay tuned.

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Les 3-03-2012 at 1:42 PM

I have PSE 8 which I had only really used for cleaning up old photo’s (It came with the computer). After reading your post the other day I thought I would try the organizer to tag recently scanned photos. What I should have done was reread your post and the new comments. After two hours of wasted time I discovered all about the un-linking after I had rotated some photos on the hard drive.
Their watched folder function seems to be lacking. I guess I will stick to year-month-day-event method or Named folder categories for organizing .

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JL 3-03-2012 at 4:58 PM

Yep. I distinctly remember using the word ‘dislike’ in the first sentence.

I’m working on some photo-organizing relief for my next post so stay tuned.

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Wendy Grant Walter 3-03-2012 at 10:43 PM

Luckily my FTM files (photos and documents) are not linked. FTM gives an option of linking or saving a copy. I have all my FTM links in a folder on Dropbox so they are backed up and accessible from any computer. But since there are over 1700 files in there currently, it’s a bit unwieldy to look through – that is what I meant in my comment above. I have copies of all the photos in surname and locality folders on my hard drive (and backed up to Mozy).

The one thing that intrigued me with Adobe PSE was the facial recognition stuff. I have 100s of old family photos that all the people are non-identified dating back to the early part of the 20th century mostly. I would love to see if PSE could go to town on those and help identify people. That was one use I wanted to try.

I’m looking forward to Part 2… And I really need to find some way to resolve my iPad nested folder problem…

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JL 3-03-2012 at 11:10 PM

The lack of nested folders in iPad may be just the way it is, the same as it’s just the way it is in Windows Libraries. You can put folders in a library but you can’t go to a second level of sub-folders, unless the folder already exists in the folder you’re adding to the library. By the way, Windows 7 Libraries is Part 2. I was hoping for something else there and it didn’t pan out, for me anyway, so I’m now working on Part 3. I’m having a technical glitch with something but hope to have it up soon.

I’ve been writing about photo filing for five years and either not enough people read my blog or I just never get to the core of it when I’m writing. I suspect it’s my fault somehow. I’m taking another stab at it in Part 3.

Picasa uses facial recognition too and it helps to tag people more quickly. But, how would Adobe recognize your unidentified people? What ‘photo recognition’ means is if you tag yourself it will find other versions of you. It’s not going to put names on people it doesn’t know any better than you do.

You could try Google Images though. Near the search box is a small camera icon. If you click on that and upload a photo it will search the web and try to find a match. Just in case there’s a website displaying it. You never know.

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Wendy Grant Walter 3-03-2012 at 11:47 PM

Yeah, I realize that I would need to provide some initial photo IDs…There are some photos that I have no idea who the people are and am probably stuck. But does facial recognition software recognize people well as they age? I have never played around with facial recognition and don’t know how good (or bad) it is. I suspect alot of the people in some of the photos I have from around 1915 are in alot of the snapshots but with their faces turned or hat on, I don’t recognize them. But everytime I go through the lot, I think I get a few more!

I did read your part 2. I too have been somewhat flummoxed by Windows 7 but I am not at the level of knowledge you are. Mostly I just ignore it. I put stuff into folders I make on my desktop (and nest them) and never move the icons. I have good spatial memory :). I know I don’t use Windows efficiently but I guess I dont want to put in the time to figure out another system. But I was/am willing to do it for photos/documents!

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JL 3-04-2012 at 12:10 AM

I don’t use Adobe PSE Organizer or Picasa so I know almost nothing about face recognition. I did try it in Picasa a long time ago and it’s intended to speed up face-tagging. That’s all I know about it. How well it does with aging faces, who knows. If people have their heads turned I’m sure it won’t work at all. It’s not how I tag photos. I do it with GeoSetter or Photo Mechanic. As the saying goes, Take the best and leave the rest.

I’m utterly un-impressed with Windows 7 Libraries. It’s a great idea but poorly executed like so many things from Microsoft. Still, I’m curious if anyone else has found a use for it.

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