I find Apple's iPhoto not safe, so I switch to GraphicConverter and then Picasa.

by Jon Claerbout

I had about 6000 photos in iPhoto; but I came to understand the hard way that iPhoto is not trustworthy. I've moved everything to GraphicConverter and Picasa. Years ago Rick Ottolini observed that

"Programs come and go; but file formats last forever."
iPhoto is a program that sucks in your photos and puts them in an undocumented internal format that can change from year to year. Hopefully, they will always upgrade their past layouts, and hopefully, you'll be able to import and export other libraries. I have not been successful in doing this, almost lost a thousand family photos, and have encountered enough people (for example) who have also come to frustration that I have taken Rick Ottolini's observation to heart. It implies we should
Choose a file format that is widely understood. Then choose software that works with that format.

I exported all photos into a giant folder. Then I split that folder into "folders in folders", i.e. directory trees. A tree is a layout universally understood. Merging trees or splitting them is well defined. I'll no longer be at risk to vendor lock in, vendor error, or misunderstanding how a vendor's (undocumented) software is intended to work. I'll be able to easily share with non iPhoto users. I won't need to worry about Apple abandoning iPhoto as they have recently done with iMovie. (They've given a new program the name iMovie; but it understands none of the file formats of previous versions!!!)

The mess iPhoto got me into

I relearned the basic lesson to back up everything before you start. The original iPhoto couldn't handle many photos, so I had many iPhoto libraries. Later when it could handle bigger libraries I attempted to import one "iPhoto Library" into another. I ended out with a mess. New figures appeared which were merely thumbnails. Figures were duplicated in the sense one would be the original, another being the cropped version. To make matters worse, photos shot in the same month were no longer close together. What a mess! Keep in mind there are only 86,400 seconds or 1440 minutes in a 24 hour day, so when you have a mess with 6,000 photos, you've got a lot of work to do.

I found software that would delete duplicates (iPhoto Diet); but it was no help at all with the cropped, non-cropped pairs. I found software (Exifrenamer) that would rename each picture by the date it was taken. This was a big help. The date is recorded by electronic cameras. Scanned photos and some others don't have this. With these names the photos now show in rough chronological order so they again are somewhat sorted by event and topic. Unfortunately for me, some photos are out of location inexplicably. Perhaps some email programs compress the photo without correctly including the date, or perhaps some correspondents have their clock incorrectly set, or perhaps their "coin battery" has gone dead. Apple's own Photo Booth ignores the time field.

Evaluation of GraphicConverter (version prior to 2012)

Here are some points against GraphicConverter:

  1. It costs $35, and $15 for documentation.
  2. You'll probably want to read the documentation in a few places, or you will take a while to find the basics digging thru all the power and functionality. Otherwise you might never notice that "opt-click" provides important functionality.
  3. The things we do all the time, import photos, crop them, prepare them for email (resize, compress), should be at the top of the menus.
  4. 6000 photos in one folder (on my machine) is too much for GraphicConverter. No problems (for me) after the folder was partitioned into sub folders (one as large as 2000).
  5. GraphicConverter provides no way to reorder photos in a slideshow. You'd need to rename each photo in alphabetic order. Too bad. iPhoto does this well.

Points in favor of GraphicConverter:

  1. GraphicConverter works with your tree (folders in folders) of photos. It doesn't mind a few files in the tree that are not photos.
  2. GraphicConverter is free for testing -- hardly crippled at all.
  3. It's great for sorting -- moving files from one folder to another -- just drag them.
  4. You can set slide show speeds very fast. Handy for browsing.
  5. It has a built-in command to "Find duplicate files" (but it does not work the way I expect).

Google's Picasa is fantastic!   Forget about iPhoto and GraphicConverter.

Google's Picasa is free on the web. I've upgraded to it a while back, maybe 2008. You organize your photo folders the way you want on your computer. Picasa figures that out and offers you an "upload" button for any folder you'd like to put on the web. There is a limit to how many you may upload for free, but is pretty large. That backs them up for you too, for when your computer dies.

"How did you kick the iPhoto habit?"

It's been a long time since I did it, and you shouldn't do it the way I did. I recommend first make a back up copy of everything. Then fire up Picasa. It can decipher iPhoto's internal data base. You don't even need to get rid of iPhoto, but if you want to, and you probably should, you can pull your pictures out of iPhoto using Picasa's "export". A final word of advice for both iPhoto and Picasa: Don't put more than a thousand or so pictures in any one folder.

Have I told you the story of my iPod?

Similar story. I selected the option to upgrade its OS. Then everything broke! The solution was to "restore factory settings, and reload all my music.