File Search & Edit: Copernic, XnView, ExifToolGUI

by JL Beeken on 8-08-2010

XnViewWhat I’d like is a reliable multifaceted universal file search option with an option in the context menu that will take me to whatever it is I want to know when I want to know it. And some quick editing functions at the same time. In other words, I want everything and I want it immediately. A workable alternative to Windows Explorer.

Microsoft used to have a tool called Photo Info. You could right-click on a photo, read the data or add some IPTC info, save and move on. But they screwed it up by taking it away and turning it into something horrible called Pro Photo Tools.

First of all, for search: Copernic is good if you need to see inside TXT files and PDFs. It’s incredibly fast and just exhilarating the way it indexes every last letter and digit on your computer. It doesn’t care what it is; if it’s there it indexes it.

As an experiment I decided to look up 131, the MRIN of my 4th great-grandparents. Let’s say my cousin in Georgia wrote and said, “Send me everything you’ve got on James & Eleanor.” Could I do it if I had to? Without it taking all day. Not a problem, just type their MRIN into Copernic on the taskbar and hit Enter.

Copernic Desktop Search

Copernic Desktop Search

In an instant – 491 files, 30 photos, 1 video, and 2 contacts. Not a single one about James & Eleanor. It dug ‘131’ out of the most obscure places I didn’t even know existed on my computer, including a photo with a time-stamp of 21:31, but it couldn’t read 131 when preceded by a zero.

When I searched 0131, which is actually the number I use for naming the files, it brought up this with the exact results and not much else. 24 files, 23 pictures.

Copernic Desktop Search

The downside of my very old and free version of Copernic, as I see it, is that it’s not possible to scoop up a dozen or 100 files and copy them in a batch to somewhere else. That would likely be my reason for searching in the first place. There they all are and I can’t pick them up and move them. But, I can look to my heart’s content.

The other crazy thing about it is that it will index and search some of the metadata in photos but it won’t display it. (Like I said, very old version of it.) If I search my name it will bring up 2,412 photos with my name in the Copyright field but if I didn’t know that’s what it was doing behind the scenes I wouldn’t know that. I would probably be thinking, Why am I looking at two thousand photos that don’t have me in them?

XnView is also a constant revelation. A split second after searching on ‘131’ it brought up 37 results, almost bang on. A couple of extra maps of 1314 Scotland and files numbered 4131. I could have filtered those out by searching the number 0131 instead or adding in an IPTC keyword.

Search, XnView

XnView

Although XnView is an image viewer the search results also brought up TXT, PDFs, HTML and Word documents. That made my day. It also searches for, opens and directly plays some types of video and sound files!

Search Results, XnView

XnView

Not only that but it has preview windows below for all the embedded photo information you could be looking for. The contents of HTML documents will also show below but not for PDFs or TXT as they do in Copernic. This is easily circumvented by right-clicking on the file, and then choosing ‘Open With Associated Program’. Or just save your time and hit F3. But, I don’t think there’s a way to search the content of text files as there is in Copernic. So, Copernic stays.

Being able to gather together different file-types and edit IPTC is pretty much all I was looking for when I got in over my head with MediaDex. What a circus that was. It’s simple to copy multiple files from XnView. Just select them and right-click for the option.

Since I use the MRIN Filing System (but it’s not necessary) and every single digitized item that can be construed as ‘family history’ is preceded by a number, it makes it pretty easy to track down anything related to a particular person. Except for where they have been loosely mentioned in a non-specific document like the 4,000+ pages of the History of Northumberland Co. or something. And that’s where Copernic comes in. If their name is out there anywhere, Copernic will find it.

Here’s what I would suggest for the photo side of things. Add ExifToolGUI and XnView to your ‘Open With’ menu. Which means right-click on a photo, go to the bottom of the list it presents you with, choose “Choose Program” and browse to where it is/Open/OK. Then repeat with the other one.

For ExifToolGUI , do not click the box that says, “Always use the selected program ….” unless you want it as your default viewer. It might not actually matter if you do this because in ExifToolGUI you can right-click on any thumbnail to bring up the Windows Explorer context menu and still have all your usual options. But XnView is the better choice for a viewer.

ExifToolGUI

ExifToolGUI

Opening a photo from the Copernic search results didn’t open to the exact thumbnail in ExifToolGUI but to the top of the containing folder. But, it does highlight the selected file so you’re not completely in the dark. Just drag the scroll bar down til you see the one lit up in blue. It will also show the thumbnail in the bottom left corner of its file browser.

You’ll see that ExifToolGUI also shows other files types if they’re there. And they can be opened directly by the associated program. TXT, PDFs, HTML, audio, video, whatever you’ve got. That’s nothing different than Windows Explorer itself, but it also gives read-write access to Exif/IPTC and XMP in the right-hand panel. Exactly the rarefied atmosphere I was looking for.

XnView makes an excellent default viewer. In this case, do click the box that says, “Always use the selected program ….” You may have to repeat this once for each new image-type. If you’re still using Windows Picture and Fax Viewer, this will feel like a major upgrade. Once you’re there, Ctrl+I will open the IPTC-dialog box plus you have all the other XnView options at your immediate disposal. Just switch back and forth between Open, Browser, and Fullscreen. For that matter, switch back and forth between XnView and ExifToolGUI and Copernic.

XnView

XnView

They work well together. ExifToolGUI and XnView both do batch IPTC but ExifToolGUI doesn’t have a search option. XnView can do complex searches that ExifToolGUI doesn’t do but it can’t edit EXIF. And Copernic can search inside text files and PDFs and highlight the results.

This is about as close as I can get, for now, to a perfect arrangement for file searching and editing on the fly. Depending what I’m trying to do, one of the above will work.

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