Searching Sub-Folders: XnView, GeoSetter, Photo Mechanic

by JL Beeken on 2-25-2011

I often find myself searching sub-folders of files and photos (and I have a ton of them). After a certain critical mass of files, say 10 thousand, drilling down forever and hand-picking files doesn’t really do it for me.

I understand the old system of adding photo information to the front of photos is still in practice. And being taught. In other words, draw a wide border on your photo and type onto it.

Because I’m old and cranky, I’d like to point out a couple of huge problems with this method.

One, it takes forever if you have thousands, or even hundreds, of photos. Two, the information is not search-able unless you also include it in mile-long file-names. Two-and-a-Half, changing and updating is unbelievably tedious and messy.

Oh, and Three, depending on the software you’re using, just opening a photo can strip out the maker notes. Not everyone cares about maker notes or even knows what they are, so here’s a short demonstration.

These are maker notes.

Maker Notes

Here are the maker notes after opening a copy of the same photo in Adobe Photoshop Elements, cropping it and re-saving.

I use Adobe Photoshop Elements for editing copies of my TIFF scans and I think it works fine for that. I’ve used it for so long I can’t even imagine doing anything else. But I wouldn’t open a photo off my digital camera with it if you paid me. I recently discovered that my digital photos that were exposed to the Photoshop Elements Organizer back in 2006 or so had their maker notes stripped out and they weren’t even edited, just imported.

I will not have Picasa on my computer so I can’t check this for myself. But, I suggest you do. Make a copy of one of your photos that hasn’t been exposed to Picasa yet, import it into Picasa and then have a look at the EXIF.

I can’t speak for the other major or minor photo-editing software that’s around. I know that ACDSee Pro 2.5 is safe.

Back to the subject at hand.

Searching Sub-folders

If you’re using IPTC to annotate your photos instead, or if you’re using my suggestion for MRIN filing where you have many sub-folders inside another folder, you can still do searches across all the files.

In XnView, for instance. You can pick any top folder and choose to include the sub-folders. There’s all kinds of other ways to narrow down your search from there. XnView will also search file-types other than images depending what you’re looking for. For instance, a search for a particular word in a file-name will bring up all kinds of file formats.

Searching Sub-Folders, XnView

GeoSetter is another one where you can slice and dice your search options everywhichway to Sunday.

Searching Sub-Folders, GeoSetter

XnView and GeoSetter are the two free ones. And then there’s my other favorite, Photo Mechanic, where you can open a single folder, or folder containing sub-folders, and then Find or Find & Replace.

Searching Sub-Folders, Photo Mechanic

IPTC has been around for a few decades and I don’t think it’s going away. I’m confident working with my photos this way, including thousands of digitized source documents in image format. If you’re in this for the long-term you might consider moving this way. Think of it as source documentation for photographs because that ‘s really what it is. Except it’s easier because there are no semi-colons.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Jennifer Crockett 2-25-2011 at 7:28 PM

I would like a way to (easily?) add the information to the front of the photo as well as in IPTC. I have a group photo of a family with parents and nine children plus pet dog. I want to be able to identify each individual on the photo when I am looking at the photo. This particular one is dear to descendants of the people and I have sent digital images and hard copies to different family members. I didn’t know the identities of all the people and one relative sent me back a photocopy of the photo with names written in on or near each person.

I have resorted to bringing the image into Word and then typing the names underneath – eg Back row Len, Niel, Bill Greta…and so on.

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JL 2-25-2011 at 7:44 PM

Typing under photos inside Microsoft Word sounds desperate.

The method used for photos is to simply add a ‘canvas’ with a photo editor, and then type onto it using the text tool.

Making a canvas just means adding border space to your photo. In a photo editor (Adobe Elements, Paint.NET, PhotoFiltre, etc) look around for something in the vicinity of Image Size that says ‘Canvas’. Add some pixels (experiment around with that – depends on the size of the photo since it’s all proportional) to the bottom border in whatever color you want. Then use the text tool to type onto it.

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Jennifer Crockett 2-26-2011 at 6:17 PM

Yes, I know how to do the canvas thing. That would be fine if I wanted to have a copy of a particular photo with text. I find if I want to print a photo to send to someone the “desperate” Word method is faster than fiddling with the canvas. I usually size the photo so that it sits within the page nicely with the text underneath. I add a border. I then print and don’t have to cut the page of photo paper. I usually send a CD with the image on it without text so they can take it to a print place and get whatever size they want done.

Regarding Photo Mechanic – a time sensitive announcement on their website – to celebrate their 15th anniversary, the program can be had for $60. This price does not include upgrades to a future new version, but an upgrade can be purchased later for $90.

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JL 2-26-2011 at 6:20 PM

OK, so I’m not sure what your question was then.

Wow! Photo Mechanic for $60. Run, run, run …

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JL 3-01-2011 at 3:22 PM

Sorry, it’s suddenly come to me out of the fog. If you already have the names embedded through IPTC, you can set up a page with the photo and insert the appropriate IPTC tag or tags underneath and print it out from there, or just save it and send it as a digital copy. That way you don’t have to type the information twice. This works in XnView and also in ACDSee Pro, two I know about because I use them. I’ve used this mostly for creating long PDFs to use with my wiki.

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Steve Edwards 3-01-2011 at 6:22 AM

Hello! I am wondering if it might be possible for you to point me in the direction of some good photo organisation software. I am an amateur genealogist, and one of my main goals is to scan in all the old family photos I can get hold of and to organise them, and to integrate them with the current, ongoing photography that I and my family are creating in order to make one big family archive of photographs. I have spent much time over the past few months trying to work out the best way of organising these digital files, and the best software to use, but have become really quite frustrated by the lack of any easy answers and clear, consistent advice on the internet, so I’m really hoping that you might possibly be able to help?

What I would like from software is:

1) To be able to add keywords to each photo. I’m aware that following the IPTC standard is good practice, and that I should seek a programme that enables me to embed keywords within the photo file itself rather than have it create some kind of separate proprietary database. In other words, I want to be 100% sure that whatever keywords I embed within a photo file will always stay with that file, no matter who opens that file and no matter which programme they use to view it with.
2) To be able to add keywords in batches. I have several thousand photographs which I want to tag. To add keywords to individual photo files would be a never-ending task and take forever, so a programme that enabled me to batch process would be an enormous help.
3) To be able to search by tagged keyword.
4) To be able to add captions to the front of photographs (again, in batches). My family enjoy watching slideshows on the TV rather than cramped, huddled around the PC, so it would be nice to be able to be able to easily add captions visible on the photograph rather than hidden away in IPTC keywords that you need a computer to view. One specific thing here is that I have several large group photographs (mostly from weddings) where there are 30 or more individuals whom I want to identify. I know that most photo editing programmes will let you overtype text onto a photo, and this is what I’ve been doing so far, but I imagine there must be a better way of doing this by now?

Ideally, I would use free software if anything was available that fitted the bill. From the research I’ve done, Zoner Photo Studio & Windows LPG seem to come closest, but fall down on the captioning group photos issue. I would certainly pay, though, if the best choice for really good photo organising software (as opposed to photo editing software) was only available commercially.

Thank you HUGELY in advance for your kind help.

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JL 3-01-2011 at 10:33 AM

1.), 2.) and 3.) Get GeoSetter. It’s free. It will take care of everything you need in the way of IPTC and GPS and very reliably.

4.) As far as I know, batch captioning to the front of photos is not possible. How can you “batch caption” something that’s unique for each photo?

But, there’s a great alternative. In ACDSee Pro you can create a slideshow (in a variety of formats) adding the IPTC caption, and/or any other IPTC tag you’d like, to the front of each photo (in batch mode) which can then be viewed on your TV. But the IPTC would have to be already embedded in the photos.

You can make slideshows on the fly, or pre-make them and have a stash to access.

This can also be done for free in XnView, where you can pull IPTC data to the front of the photos in a slideshow. I imagine a similar option is available in some other software as well. I would suggest taking a trial first of anything you’re interested in, play with the options and see what you can do.

Photo organizing, per se, is a matter of choice. You can sort by family groups, years, events, whatever suits you. I doubt there’s an organizer that’s going to be able to read your mind on that one. If you have all your photos embedded with IPTC it doesn’t really matter because you can search any way you want, bring up the photos you want to see and then view them on your computer or make them into a slideshow to watch on your TV. It’s all quick too.

If you read around my blog, you may note I advise staying away from Picasa altogether and Adobe unless you’re using it for scanning and editing of scanned photos. I’d also suggest that you can do much better than anything Windows. But, there ensues a lengthier discourse.

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