IPTC is a standard for embedding metadata in photographs. This is a summary of what is and isn’t IPTC-compatible software. (Updated from March 2008.)
ACDSee Pro Photo Manager. Editor, Organizer and general photo wizard. Reads IPTC on PSDs, TIFFs and JPGs. Writes to TIFFs and JPGs. It has detailed batch modes for anything you could possibly need. It can also catalog text documents, PDFs, etc. I like it a lot, although if you’re looking for an IPTC editor alone it’s a bit much as it tries to be all things to all people. Still suitable for anyone, beginner to advanced. There’s a lesser version called Photo Manager although I haven’t worked with that one. The keywords are IPTC and the categories belong to the ACDSee database itself.
Adobe Photoshop Elements. Editor and Organizer. The IPTC fields are split between the Editor and the Organizer so this is a very complicated way to annotate photos. Can read and write to PSDs, TIFFs and JPGs. If you add captions, copyrights, etc in the Editor it will save when you save changes to the photos. If you add tags and captions using the Organizer you have to remember to use “Write Tag and Properties Info to Photos” under File on the main menu to make it stick. It does not have batch mode for anything other than ‘tags’ (their word for keywords) but does have Search options. The IPTC fields are split between the Editor and the Organizer so it’s inefficiency at its worst. I can only guess the reason it staggers on from year to year without improvement is due to the time it would take to burn it to the ground and start over.
FastStone Viewer. Free. Does not read or write IPTC. If you change and re-save photos here sometimes it will strip out any embedded IPTC info because it doesn’t recognize its relevance. Sometimes it leaves it in. You’d have to experiment to know which is which. If you’re serious about annotating your photos it would be best to stay away from this.
GeoSetter works for GPS and IPTC. It’s available at no charge, integrated with Google Maps and the IPTC is run by ExifTool. IPTC-editor par excellence. My favorite for GPS. Works with both in batch-mode. It can export JPGs & TIFFs to KMZ files for Google Earth.
iTag. A nice little program for adding captions, keywords and copyrights to JPGs and TIFFs. Fairly limited but it’s a start.
I have looked at several other free programs that claim to write IPTC info. Invariably they only write to JPGs. There’s probably a hundred of that caliber.
Picasa. Free organizer and simple editor. It works, for both IPTC keywords and captions, on JPGs. Putting captions and keywords on anything other than JPGs here is a waste of your time. You can write keywords and captions to TIFFs and PSDs but you will not see this information in IPTC fields in other software. If you have IPTC captions, keywords, locations, copyright, source, etc. entered on TIFFs and PSDs in other software it will not show up in Picasa. There are no information fields beyond keywords and captions so it’s treading on the outer edges of what IPTC can be. Nowhere in this software does it even say the word IPTC but that’s what it is.
XnView. Free photo viewer and editor as well as IPTC-editor for JPGs and TIFFs that can work in batch mode. Very nice program. Detailed search engine included. It can also export EXIF and/or IPTC metadata to a text file. It has a few quirks in regards to field length. I also recommend this to my non-technical friends and family as an EXIF or IPTC-viewer as it has an easy layout anyone can understand.
Photo Mechanic is fine-dining and my personal favorite for IPTC. Batch processing for IPTC and GPS. Easy to use search function. It can export IPTC from TIFFs or JPGs to a text file, your choice of fields. And export JPGs to a KMZ file to be opened in Google Earth. And much more …
There are others such as IDimager Photo Supreme (very good, I’ve heard) and BreezeBrowser, dedicated to photo metadata rather than other things. All of the retail products have trial versions and that’s the best way to find the one to suit you.
If you allow Windows to re-size your photos when you email them it will strip out any IPTC-embedded info so send your photos at their original size. This is not a failure of IPTC, it’s just the idiocy of Windows. If you need more space than email allows, sign up for a free Hightail, Dropbox or Copy account and share your photos without compromise.