LINUX PICKS AND PANS

F-Spot: An Able-Bodied All-in-One Image Machine

Few, if any, photo viewing apps on any platform provide a perfectphoto management experience. However, F-Spot Photo Management for Gnomegives Linux users a fairly complete set of photo tools.

F-Spot ranks among the most well-known photo appsfor Linux. In many ways it is similar to Google’s repackaged PicasaPhoto Organizer and the popular GIMPphoto program. F-Spot’s primary drawback, despite its usefulness, is its sometimes quirky operation.

Provided your flavor of Linux supports the Gnome desktop, F-Spot canbe a solid choice to manage your photo collection over the two leadingcontenders. Picasa requires the open source Windowsapplication programming interface (API) Wine to run. This makes it awanna-be Linux app. GIMP is more challenging to use because it hasthree disconnected windows to operate.

Given those choices and limitations, I often rely on F-Spot to handleboth my personal photo libraries and on-the-spot photo editing tasksfor work. It has a hefty arsenal of features for photo managementtasks. Once you get familiar with its interface, F-Spot is a handytool set for sharing, touching up, finding and organizing your images.

App Highlights

One of the things I like most about F-Spot is its support for 16common graphic files types, including JPEG, GIF, SVG, PPM, TIFF andDNG. If you are a photography fanatic, you will love the severalvendor-specific RAW formats that are included, such as CR2, PEF, ORF,SRF, CRW, MRW and RAF.

This makes for a handy solution to view a wide range of images withouthaving to find an intermediate program that converts file types. Thisalso makes it easily to change the format by saving the photo as adifferent file type. Plus, F-Spot makes it easy to view and exportEXIF and XMP metadata in images.

A second neat feature is the “Export To” option. F-Spot convenientlypackages an image for SmugMug, Flickr, 23hq, PicasaWeb, a CDcollection and more. It can resize the selection and even preservemetadata and user-added tags.

Toggling Tags

The main tool for managing photo collections in F-Spot is tagging eachimage. Right clicking on a thumbnail image in the Browse mode opensthe Attach Tag option with choices of Favorites, Hidden, People,Places, Events and Create New Tag.

The left panel shows these same category names. Clicking on aparticular tag heading displays all of the photos with that tag in thethumbnail browsing area.

The timeline bar at the top of the window adds the ability to locateimages in relation to their temporal space. This is another method tozero in on a range of photos in the collection.

Levels of Expertise

Often, photo viewing programs fall short when users get comfortablewith their basic features and are ready to grow into a better toolset. That is when users discover that a particular photo program cannot dowhat they want it to do. The only solution then is to find a betterphoto management app.

F-Spot will not let users down like that. It is easy to progress fromimporting photos from a hard drive camera or iPod, to displaying a photocollection in full screen and sideshow modes, to more advanced editingfunctions.

For instance, clicking on a photo in the thumbnail display opens thephoto in editing mode and presents a series of drop-down editing tasksand related functions. In this Edit Image Mode, a drop-down menuhandles tasks such as image rotation, sharpen image and delete fromcatalog or storage drive, among others. In this same editing mode,another panel along the left edge ofaltamira apartments seattle the viewing window providesfunctions to crop, reduce red-eye, desaturate, apply sepia tone,soften the focus and adjust colors.

F-Spot provides features that mere graphic viewing apps lack, likecolor adjustments. The menu-driven options allow for quick andaccurate color tweaking. These include brightness, contrast, hueand temperature.

Quirky Behavior

As I said earlier, no photo management app is perfect. The Achillesheel in F-Spot is its requirement that all images start as an import.You cannot merely view an image from any location or edit a photowithout first importing it. Other photo programs, such as Google’sPicasa, have a similar though less-demanding requirement.

However, F-Spot goes too far. If you store a vast image collection on yourhard drive, the program insists on importing that collection into itsown resources. Essentially, this takes up twice the storage space.

In my case, my photo collection grew to the point that It nearlyfilled my hard disk. So I moved the entire collection of some 10,000images to an external drive.

Unseen Results

Picasa and GIMP did not argue with that new location. If the externaldrive was not connected, both apps simply reported that the images were notavailable.

When I tried importing the photos from the connected external drive,F-Spot balked and issued error messages. Even uninstalling andreinstalling the app failed to solve the problem.

The remedy was dumb luck. Since F-Spot was showing what amounted to aghost directory of the previous photo folders on the hard drive, Ideleted them from within the app and rebooted.

Problem solved. Importing the images from their new home on theexternal drive worked fine. But they were taking up space on the harddrive again, even if only in thumbnail format.

More Pros and Cons

F-Spot takes a bit more maintenance than it should in managing newentries. For instance, it does not permit users to configure foldersto watch for new photos.

It also lacks support for video tags. This is a big drawback, given thepopularity and prominence of video from even basic digital cameras.F-Spot also forces you to manually clean up and sort the photocollection.

On the plus side, F-Spot readily detects when a camera or a memorycard is attached. It automatically imports the images.

Where to Get It

F-Spot 0.6.1.5, the most recent version, was released last November.Unless you are an experienced photo app user, you will not find manydifferences between this newest release and its older brethren.

Download F-Spot here.

F-Spot is an open source project overed under the terms ofthe GNU GPL licensing stipulations. As a testament to its usefulnessand popularity, F-Spot is included with numerous Linux distributions.You can find a binary package for most here.

3 Comments

  • F-Spot is absolutely THE worst photo management application that has ever been created. You would be FAR better off just leaving every image you have right on your desktop than using the garbage that is F-Spot.

    Stay far far away from this piece of trash. 95% of the time it doesnt even work, and the 5% of the time it does work it doesnt do what you need it to do. Stick with gThumb, Picasa, Gwenview or digiKam and you will be much happier.

    • The problem is Ubuntu has jumped on the .Net bandwagon and is pushing Mono, which is frankly a bloated whale and thus Gimp had to get tossed. So now they are trying to come up with lame praise for FSpot, which as you now know really sucks.

      As someone who uses both Windows and Linux I honestly don’t get the "Mono yay!" crowd anyway. On windows the only real headway I’ve seen with .NET is all those little freeware programs that used to use VBRuntimes, and it isn’t like Linux needs those.

      But I have to agree all the praise in the world won’t change the big can o’ suck that is FSPot. If they really wanted to toss Gimp they should have just placed Picasa as the default image editor and been done with it. Instead they toss Gimp from the default ISO and leave a completely broken and worthless app, so a default Ubuntu install can’t even edit pictures. Yeah, that’ll help convert folks off of Windows.

  • I found F-spot installed when I upgraded to Ubuntu 9.10. Three times I tried to import my photos and three times F-spot just crashed. The collection is over 34k photos, and is extensively tagged. I had to go back to using Picasa, which, by the way, handled my collection flawlessly.

    I’m glad you like F-Spot, but it won’t work for me.

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