iPhoto alternative: Photoscape X

With the move to a new mac, I’ve taken the decision to shift away from Apple software for Mail, Music and Image management.

Mail I’ll talk about at a later date.

Today I’ll talk about the reasons why I have stepped away from iPhoto.

My issue with iPhoto

iPhoto seems to be designed to keep the imported album (in old terms, the film from each group of shots) in the one place, while if you want to create groups of images, you tag or create personal groups of images. Say I want to create an album for my cat, I’d tag all instances of Pixel (that’s his name) and add them to the album.

I’d prefer in this case not to worry about the film that the images came on; I feel it’s irrelevant to use this grouping as I can get the metadata on each image which will tell me additional details. I take lots of photos on lots of different subjects and imports can be of large number of images or a couple depending on the day and times. iPhoto will separate based on several of these criteria, which leaves albums with huge numbers of images to go through, or a single image all on its own.

Ultimately, in my opinion, iPhoto seems to be neither fish nor fowl: you can mix and match the albums as imported, or you can create the iPhoto equivalent of iTunes playlists. If it maintained the imported images in the folders as imported, then I’d have a bit more patience for this, but it doesn’t.

The second big issue is that the library isn’t accessible from the file system, it’s buried in the iPhoto Library which has to be opened via the right-click menu and show package contents. From there it’s a bit hard to find your photos. There’s all sorts of different folders, thumbnail images, face images (of which there are a multitude), and it’s just difficult to get at the original image.This forces me to use the iPhoto interface to find what I’m looking for. As mentioned, unless I’ve gone through and manually tagged or categorised the photos, this can take forever.

Face photos are another bugbear of mine. iPhoto has a facial recognition feature which seems to work great. The cost though is that it does it by automagically finding facial features in photos and making low-res copies. In my case, these [photo id]face.jpeg images numbered in the thousands. Thus my iPhoto library was massive, unwieldly and difficult to manage.

Last but not least, the photo browser leaves a lot to be desired. Because you have to expand the imported albums manually, or view everything at once, it’s extremely difficult to find duplicate images, or indeed images that are actually being searched for. By making the system visually minimalist, the functionality required to manage a large library is similarly minimised. This makes tidying a library difficult in the extreme.

Looking for alternatives

I looked for alternatives for iPhoto over the last week or so, and tried a couple of options. As I’m not looking for professional-grade photo management but will handle the small things I want to do to my images, my requirements were:

  • no cost – it’s just after Christmas and the credit-card is looking a bit tatty
  • no locking images away – doesn’t obscure the images in a proprietary format
  • no dialog windows to manage settings or edit the images

There’s a lot of choice for PC’s, but much less for Mac for starters. The Mac recommendations seemed to be Apple’s own Aperture, Adobe Lightroom or iPhoto which I was trying to get away from.

The first viable alternative I found was Jetphoto Studio 5. This seemed quite a good choice up until I realised it creates albums in the same way as iPhoto does: you have to import your images to an album, managed with  xml and locked away from prying eyes. Save for this Jetphoto has a lot of really useful functionality, but not for me though; I want to be able to keep things as simple as possible.

The second option, which I actually went with was Photoscape X.

Photoscape X

Photoscape X homepage
Photoscape X homepage

Photoscape X, by Mooii Tech of Korea, fitted the bill and had a lot of useful functionality.

The first requirement, is met: it’s freeware. I’m impressed that the company can maintain such a quality product for zero cost, and I’d gladly hand over a contribution — even for coffee — once I’m back on my financial feet.

Managing my images is also far easier; Photoscape reads direct from the file system and doesn’t lock anything away.  This allowed me to reduce a 62GB library down to 2GB in a matter of hours using the Finder window. I could see what I was doing and manage the photos far easier than in the iPhoto interface. I’ve found iPhoto to be sluggish when managing a large number of images and going direct to the file system is a far simpler approach.

Once in Photoscape, I can also manage the images with drag and drop if I choose. I can favourite an image in the system if I wish, but that’s the full extent of tagging. It leaves search in the hands of the Finder rather than settings. In this, I think Jetphoto has the advantage here: it will search based on the photo metadata, something that the finder won’t do.

Editing the images is also simple. Photoscape has several views, available from a faux-tabbed interface.In the view tab, I have the image metadata available, that is, the metadata that’s embedded in the image, not held in the application. I get all the usual suspects in the Edit tab, including colour correction, auto levels and contrast, sharpen and blur, together with some goodies such as film effects and vignette.

Additional features available are screen capture, colour picking, renaming files, merging images into single images and also creating an animated Gif. This last feature is matched — almost — by Jetphoto which will create a flash animation from images. My money is on the Gif to be honest.

The only complaint I have with the application thus-far is that the export to email function doesn’t accept system defaults. I’m using Thunderbird for Mac instead of Apple Mail on my computer, but unfortunately, Photoscape fires-up Apple Mail to send images. It’s a minor quibble to be honest, and one that’s easily circumvented.

So, if you’d like to get off of iPhoto, give Photoscape a go.

Author: gotheek

Sometime writer, full time human.