IPTC Summary: Photo Metadata Editors

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.)

ACDSeeACDSee 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 ElementsAdobe 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.

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. Editor and Organizer. A more mature presentation if Adobe Elements insults your intelligence. Video tour available and the usual free trial.

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.

iTagiTag. 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.

PicasaPicasa. 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.

XnViewXnView. 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 MechanicPhoto 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.

19 thoughts on “IPTC Summary: Photo Metadata Editors

  1. Susan Bramley

    Dear JL,

    After reading your article I have decided to use Xnview rather than Picasa. One of the issues is all the name tags that I have in Picasa. As an experiment I went to the People view in Picasa for an individuals photos under their people tag (e.g. John Smith), selected all the John Smith photos then assigned a keyword tag for John Smith, (not a Picasa people tag) to the photos. I then checked in Xnview and the tag showed up in the IPTC data. Are there any problems in doing this that I can’t see?


    1. JL Beeken Post author

      That’s a pretty smart thing you figured out. What you’ve done is turn the people tags (proprietary to Picasa) into IPTC keywords. Now those names can be read by any software that reads IPTC. Good move.

      This will only work with JPGs, however. Any work you do with TIFFs in Picasa will not translate to other software. At least, the last time I looked. Experiment around some more with captions too and see what carries over and what doesn’t so you don’t end up wasting your time.

  2. Susan Bramley

    Thanks JL, maybe it is just as well that I hadn’t gotten around to converting all my JPEGs to TIFFs..


    1. JL Beeken Post author

      As far as Picasa goes, yes. But it’s a very easy thing to do in XnView. And it won’t disturb the metadata. Select your images, right-click and way down that list is Convert into.

    1. JL Beeken Post author

      The free reader looks good. It makes nice reports. From a cursory overview, a couple of things I would miss:

      1) The Search function is fast but way too simplistic.
      2) It doesn’t keep re-usable lists for the IPTC editing and that really slows thing down when you’re dealing with a lot of photos.

      I might pay $39 for the editor if I didn’t already have so much and better software for the same purposes.

      Without a fair bit of experimentation I don’t know how well the editor would stand up to comparison with programs I already trust. There’s a lot of variation in IPTC writers and I’ve seen more trouble than I’d care to remember.

      I’m a little gun shy from past experience. But, sure, I’d trust it as a reader if I needed one.

  3. Fred

    I understand your position JL. I wasn’t thinking it could replace the likes of a Photo Mechanic. My thoughts were for some of the readers who might not be ready for that level of investment.

    The only reason I came across this was I have been irritated by the various programs I have that do a subpar job printing TIFs to PDF. I have been trying to leverage the IPTC data I’ve entered when printing PDFs. I’ve been less than impressed with how ACDSee does it and while XNView is somewhat better, it didn’t hit on all the notes.

    1. JL Beeken Post author

      Like I said, I’d be nervous to invest my time in adding metadata using a program that I don’t know. If someone’s looking for top-of-the-line AND cheap (in this case free) I’d go with GeoSetter in a heart beat.

      I’ve used the PDF printing options in ACDSee Pro and thought it did a fantastic job, although I might have been only printing JPGs. TIFFs can be pretty big files and that might be jamming the gears. I don’t know. Any particular reason you’re trying to print TIFFs to PDF?

    2. JL Beeken Post author

      What’s your complaint about printing PDFs from XnView? I just printed a 43MB TIFF with metadata in my choice of location, font-size, font-type and font-color and it came out beautifully. What are you using for a PDF printer?

  4. Fred

    With respect to printing TIFs to PDF, only two reasons: 1. I’ve interested in having a complete, portable backup in an easy to manage package along with pertinent photo data. I’ve tried the FotoTagger software and I’ve tried using the StickyNotes within Adobe. Each have their strengths (although I’m well aware you are no fan of FotoTagger. Since I have too many pictures and I don’t want time beyond what I’ve already done with entering the IPTC data, I wantedthe printed solution to leverage off of that. 2. I’ve been wrestling with how to present/share pictures with other family members who aren’t versed in IPTC. Something beyond a .exe slideshow.

    It’s not really about printing one of two pictures. I agree that XnView (and ACDSee for that matter) do an acceptable job in that respect. But, and I admit it may be that I need to spend more time “twiddling” with each program, I didn’t find that for Thumbnail views or Contact Sheets, particularly with multiple IPTC keywords associated with each file, that I was happy with the printed result. Maybe my expectations were too high.

    I use FinePrint as a PDF driver. Have for years.

    1. JL Beeken Post author

      Ok. Been there, done that. Trying to share all this with non-techie relatives. PDF was one of my ideas as well.

      It’s either that or tell them to download XnView and use the browser. It’s all there in easy to read format. You’re assuming, of course, they care about your photos.

      FotoTagger, you’re kidding, right?


      Nowadays, “a complete, portable backup in an easy to manage package” could be a 1T external hard-drive. I carry one that weighs only 7oz around in my pocket everywhere I go. Not only does it have 20,000 photographs on it but it also carries a total of over 300GB of every file on my desktop computer plus about 60 portable apps that can play all of them.

      When I print a 43MB TIFF into a PDF, it becomes a 1MB PDF. I can reconstitute the TIFF by opening the PDF with something like Adobe Photoshop Elements although the embedded metadata is now GONE except in so far as it’s been printed at the top or bottom of the photo in the PDF.

      Are you following this? We’re talking apples and oranges here. A PDF is not a replacement for your photo collection.

      First, let me make sure you’re seeing what XnView can do. Go in the browser and click on a picture or 100 of them, right-click and click Print. Under the Caption tab, tick the box that says Show Information and then the Insert button.

      Next to the Insert button you’re going to get a choice of every kind of EXIF and IPTC data you could possibly want, or have in your photos. Click one at a time on the ones you want and line them up the way you want it to look. Choose Above or Below your photos, the font size, type and color. You can see a small preview thumbnail on the right side. Click Print using your PDF printer.

      XnView IPTC

      My experience with this is that it will print one PDF per photo instead of all of them in one PDF. But then you can use a PDF editor to stitch them all together if you want to.

      Here’s something else you can do with photos and metadata:

      You can use GeoSetter to select a bunch with embedded GPS and other metadata to create a KMZ file to open in Google Earth. That way your non-techie relatives can view them on a map. It will also pick up your choice of metadata and it makes for quite a tour.

      But, these are ways to PLAY with your photos. For BACKUP, just go straight vanilla. External hard-drives, any or many of the online backup services, other computers, whatever you’ve got.

      1. Fred

        Thank you. Subscribe to the rotating 1T backup drives (one home, one offsite) myself, so yep, follow you.

        We’re on the same page with XnView (appreciate the walk-through). However, I did wander through ACDSee Pro a bit more and found that I hadn’t selected the Contact Sheet option, which provides the Caption, Header and Footer options, so clearly had missed that. Also very interesting, and NOT an option in XnView, was ACDSee allows you to specify the # of lines to print the captions. Aha! A mystery solved for those of us with (too many?) keywords on certain pictures.

        BUT, how it displays on-screen in ACDSee was NOT how it came out when I printed my final PDF (FinePrint). While “on-screen” it showed a nice multi-line IPTC Keyword description, the final PDF version cut this off. I may have to play around with different PDF print drivers.

        1. JL Beeken Post author

          I use PDF Creator but not ACDSee these days so I can’t comment more precisely except to say I was very pleased with how the PDFs worked out when I did.

          I turned cartwheels (and made an entire website with hundreds of posts; 640 pages to date) trying to work out how to share my family history collection with my family until I came to a startling conclusion about THEM. The reason they’re not tech-savvy enough to install XnView and use the browser, for gods sakes, is that they’re just not that interested in computers. If it doesn’t work like a TV, i.e. on/off switch, it’s too much bother. I did get some oohs and ahhhs when I made a collage over the top of an old family homestead but then they didn’t have to browse anywhere. They just had to look at one photo in an email. I hope you have better luck.

  5. Fred

    By the way, are you still recommending Passage Express? I tried Heritage Collector and didn’t really care for it. Since you seem very no-nonsense and since Passage Express doesn’t appear to offer a trial, is it worth the $50 bucks?

    1. JL Beeken Post author

      Passage Express has a 21-day free trial. http://www.passageexpress.com/download.php.

      It’s been so many years. I’ve run down so many alleys looking at different ways of doing things that I’ve forgotten a lot of it.

      Since you’ve been asking about IPTC, what I remember about that and Passage Express is that it would import some parts of it, or try to import it and half screw it up. I wrote to their forum asking about it and never really got an answer. My mind was running off there wondering if it would make a good way to share your photos. It’s really presentation software doing its own thing in a unique and creative way and it’s great for that but I don’t think it’s all that interested in your IPTC. You’d end up repeating all that work in a different format so I guess the answer there is No. Unless it’s been updated since I used it. Have a whirl at that.

      As I remember my own process I got to longing for a one-stop solution for a whole lot of issues instead of making so much work for myself being scattered around. So I ended up developing a filing system that ties Marriage Record Identification Numbers in Legacy Family Tree together with all my images that are annotated with IPTC metadata. It seems to be the best of all worlds because it can work with or without Legacy.

      I also tried Heritage Collector and didn’t like it. It’s one of those things that ties you into its system, too tight for me and I started wanting to punch the walls down. Apparently, it’s IPTC-compatible but it’s not really its specialty.

      1. Fred

        Thanks, JL. Above and beyond.

        Not that you need to hear it from me, but what you do, what you’ve done here, is immensely worthwhile. And a sincere thank you for introducing me to the concept of the Genealogy Wiki. I’ve had a lot of fun as I’ve started to build mine. Not that I needed another project! But I mention this because, in many ways, a wiki is the quintessential sharing piece that I trust will outlast me. Talk about knocking down walls. Free reign with Tiddly Wiki. Anyway, wouldn’t have happened without your thorough overview.

        1. JL Beeken Post author

          You’re welcome and, of course, we all need to hear thank-you. We’re all so under-appreciated really.

          And thank-you for your questions. They made me think because they sounded so familiar, like I’d walked that exact road of questions sometime in the past. It seems, though, I’ve given up on the sharing-with-the-family thing lately. If they don’t ask questions I guess they don’t care. Nevertheless I’ve left the whole shebang to them in my Will.

          Actually, I share the basic filing system with a cousin. She’s not onto metadata at all yet but I live in hope. And I hope photo metadata lasts. What a Mess I’d be in if that suddenly became obsolete.

        2. JL Beeken Post author

          By the way, TiddlyWiki is moving along with v.5 which is not up to speed, IMO, with the old one the genealogy wiki was built on. It might eventually surpass it in capabilities but who knows when.

          Other thing is photo album software called jAlbum that used to be free but I think they’ve moved on to a paid version only. Back in the day it did quite well with displaying IPTC captions. Possibly other data and I was only using the captions? Another thing that’s gone from my mind.

          Once you put IPTC in your images you’ve got display options in other software. Maybe not perfect ones but options.

        3. JL Beeken Post author

          Yep. At the end of the day I would say jAlbum could be the way to go for sharing with your family. Or something similar. You can include metadata and I’m betting it’s your choice of which. And you can also include on each page a map of where the photo was taken if you have the co-ordinates in your pictures. People are doing this with tens of thousands of photos. There you go; the simple answer. Will it do it with TIFFs? I would guess not. It’s on the web so it’s going to translate to a format that’s manageable. It covers the sharing part anyway.


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