Digital Asset Management in Linux
Notes based on quick research into image management under Linux.
- Tagging of images, via keywords stored as IPTC or XMP metadata in the image files themselves. Separate databases should only be used to optimise searching. (Original images tend to migrate to DVD over time, with perhaps only a thumbnail left on the disk.) Single categories or folder classifications won’t cut it.
- Ability to search easily on multiple tags (e.g. via checkmarks against a list of known tags or free text entry), with logical constructs.
- Leave images in-place, rather than copying or moving them into a separate area for the DAM application to manage (so digiKam is out).
- Support for raw and TIFF files, not just JPEG; I want to manage the definitive originals (including negative scans).
- Some measure of support for images on removeable media (at the very least, recognition that an indexed image may not be online currently).
Specifying IPTC tags instantly reduces the choice to either jBrout or F-Spot, of which only jBrout has writeable tag support at present. However, it’s not clear whether it supports raw files so I need to try it out. If not, I might have to settle for tagging JPEG versions and trying to keep the two together. (Or use EXIFtool to copy the tags from the JPEGs to the raw files.)
Bibble’s image management capabilities are something and nothing. It has an image “tagging” feature, but not in the Flickr sense; Bibble’s image tags are simply like semi-permanent selections (i.e. a random click in the wrong place won’t cause you to lose your extended selection); you check a box on each image to ‘tag’ it. You can’t then do much with the tagged images other than er… select them and then apply an operation to the selection. The Pro version offers IPTC field editing (because obviously, amateur users of the Lite version wouldn’t need to catalogue their images…) but it looks fairly raw. You can also “rate” each image from 1-5, which may be useful for picking out the favoured ones from the also-rans.
The present lack of IPTC and XMP support in otherwise capable open source image applications is frustrating. In implementation terms, it appears to be a fairly trivial matter of adding extra fields to a well understood and widely implemented file format extension (EXIF) coupled with XML, which already runs rampant through the OSS world. I suspect the relative absence of this feature represents another itch that developers don’t yet feel the need to scratch even if their users do.
Martin Herrmann has emailed me to mention his own program, Mapivi. I haven’t tried it yet, but it appears to have a strong feature list including comprehensive IPTC support. Martin also says he is integrating EXIFtool to gain support for XMP and other image formats.
- Open Source Image Archiving: Exif, IPTC, XMP and all that; good meta-post summarising the current state of play.
- The DAM Book: seems to be heavily Adobe-centric, but it’s claimed the information given is generally applicable.
- Information on the use of controlled vocabulary and IPTC (including the ‘core’ fields) for image keywords and captions.