[Digikam-users] User experience (or bugs, hopes and wishes)

Birkir A. Barkarson birkirb at stoicviking.net
Mon Oct 2 11:58:22 BST 2006

Hello everyone,

This is my first posting to the mailing list. It is mainly intended for 
the Digikam mailing list as that is what I am currently using but I 
cross post this to the KPhotoAlbum list as well since I like their 
interface and it is my hope that they will adopt similar way to store 
metadata in-tag like digikam does.  My apologies if this is offends or 
is not welcomed.

I would like to give you a short account of my experiences with Digikam 
and explain what I look for in a photo management tool.  Then I will 
note a few things that I think could be improved along with some hopes 
for future features.  I hope developers will take a note and I ask other 
users for comment and critique.

I have been searching for a long while for a tool that I can use to 
adequately manage my ever expanding collection of photos.  My number one 
and absolute requirement is that I can apply meta data to the photos 
such as keywords or tags, title and description along with location and 
or other pertinent information.  I refused to use applications that did 
this by storing the data in a database since that would make my data 
very unportable and would most likely result in lot of annoying 
copy/paste work when I want to duplicate metadata across applications.
Second I wanted free software.  Every once and a while I would search 
and see what developments had taken place.

When I was a frustrated Windows user I used a program called Exifer, it 
did the job but was closed sourced freeware, unmaintained, and had some 
annoying bugs.  So I didn't miss it much when I moved to GNU/Linux 
although I did need a replacement.
After a long search I came across the exiv2 tool/library and used that 
for a while. Being a command line only program this proved somewhat 
inefficient and tiring but was the best I had. I looked at programs such 
as F-Spot and KPhotoAlbum.  Both have many good qualities but I avoid 
programs that move images to their own structures or store data 
internally.  I found a few proprietary applications that seemed to do 
the work but since I am now all Linux those were out of the picture.
I have to admit that I have been suprised at the apparent lack of demand 
for a program with these kind of features.  My main point in wanting 
this features is that I want to keep my metadata centralized so that I 
can apply it to my photos before viewing them or uploading them to 
services such as Flickr or web Gallery.

Then I came across Digikam and despite the innocuous sounding name I 
found that your latest beta version having incorporated the exiv2 
library came closest to what I have been looking for.  I downloaded the 
source and hunted down every dependency to compile the program.  When 
done I found something eminently useful and to the developers of Digikam 
I express my heartfelt gratitude for their efforts and insight.

In using the program I have come across several things that I want to 
share with the users and developers of Digikam.


First the apparent bugs:

Having enabled automatic insertion of byline, source and related 
information in the settings I find that in some cases it isn't applied. 
  Mostly it seems to be when tags are applied on multiple images at the 
same time (eg. removing and re-applying a tag to a single images seems 
to cause the IPTC data to be correctly written).

When loading a few images I had previously annotated directly with exiv2 
the text comes out scrambled even though it exiv2 outputs it correctly 
when I use it from the command line.  This affects only the EXIF fields 
since the same text in the IPTC tags is displayed correctly.  Is the 
exiv2 library not used to read all metadata?

On occasion when replacing comments only the IPTC fields are replaced 
not the corresponding EXIF fields (eg. an image with a text scrambled as 
per 2 displays the scrambled text in the comment/tag section. I copy the 
text from the IPTC field and paste it into the comment section, it then 
appears correctly in the comment section however the EXIF field still 
contains the scrambled text).

Encoding issues in text can cause corruption of text when tags are 
updated (more on this below).

Suggested improvements:

B1. Encoding issues.

It would probably be best to nail this down somehow.
As far as I can tell the only way to support multiple character sets is 
to use unicode wherever possible.  I would recommend that Digikam refuse 
to use local character sets as this invites further complications and 
incompatibility across the board.  From what I can tell of the Exif 
standard Unicode is supported in the User Comment section but carries a 
special marker to identify the encoding.  The standard doesn't specify 
what kind of Unicode encoding (UTF-16 BE/LE, UTF8 or whatever) but I get 
the feeling its UCS2.  Anyway it might be a good idea to always use this 
marker when writing to the EXIF field as it would be the most correct 
and foolproof way.  For other fields such as title/headline and IPTC 
data UTF-8 should be used wherever possible provided the high order bit 
can be other than zero (non 7bit ascii). If not 7bit ascii will of 
course have to be enforced.  Text on platforms using other local 
encodings would have to be encoded/decoded for displaying purposes.

B2. Tagging

When tagging multiple photos it can be real time consuming to use the 
right-click menu.  So much that I tend to use the sidebar single 
comment/tag section even for multiple images (up to five or so, 
depending on tag number), pressing space or pg down to advance to the 
next one.  The most efficient way I can think of is to allow multiple 
selection and then drag and drop. Either drag the images to a tag or 
vice versa.  This would really speed up tagging.
Batch editing dates would also come in handy (I often receive photos 
with an incorrect year or date set, really annoying when viewing photos 
by date)

B3. Title support.

Both the EXIF and IPTC fields support a "title" field.  Many
viewers and online services, such as Flickr make a distinction between 
title and comment.  The iTag program home page has table noting some of 
these [1].  Personally I like to put a title on most photos while only 
commenting on specific things.  A title is generally shorter and 
therefore more appropriate for displaying with the thumbnails than the 
comment field.  In a manner similar to the comment field I would like to 
be able to set and view the title/headline tags.  Batch setting the 
title on a few photos would also come in handy (for many similar photos 
which often appear in a row).

B4. Versioning

When viewing photos it is often superfluous to see the same image more 
often than once.  This is particularly so when you have JPG and CR2 
versions of the same photo in a directory since it take a good while to 
load the thumbnail for CR2 photos. Same goes for resized photos and 
somewhat cropped/modified ones.  I know F-spot has implements this 
although I am not sure how.  One way I can think of is to stack together 
photos which have the same file name up to the first dot (this way 
IMG001.jpg, IMG001.cr2 and IMG001.resized.jpg, IMG001.ver2.jpg etc. 
would be stacked together).  I am sure there are better ways although 
this one seems nice and simple.  An on/off option would of course be 

B5. Geotagging

I would love to be able to geotag inside digikam (using Goggle Map API 
or something).  I saw that you have a plugin to correlate GPS data with 
photo dates and that looks like something I want to take advantage of 
but sometime you need to set or adjust the data manually so this ability 
would be a real plus.

Other pet-peeves:

C1. Tag hierarchy

I am wondering if there is a better way to store the hierarchy 
information for tags other than slash seperated. When importing to 
Flickr this comes out as Top Group/Sub Group/Tag name, while I would 
prefer for it to come out as either three tags (Top Group, Sub Group, 
Tag name) or just the last Tag name.  Any good ideas on this? Having a 
space before and after the slash might accomplish the former but I am 
not sure.

C2. Separate name/people tagging.

While tags are nicely placed in the keyword fields, peoples names might 
be best kept separate. KPhotoAlbum seems to emphasize this feature, and 
if you would consider such a feature as well I would suggest the 
objectname IPTC field for storing such information.  Of course this can 
be implemented with tags so it might be considered superfluous but when 
I upload to Flick I want the keywords there for tags but don't want 
peoples name to appear as such since it is mostly useless and 
potentially harmful (hence a lot of work removing them).


To those who made it all the way down here, thanks for reading.  Hope 
you have comments to make. In my mind an application with these features 
should be a real killer-app when it comes to applying metadata to images 
especially with people who use services like Flickr.
I look forward to seeing Digikam go from strength to strength.



[1] http://www.itagsoftware.awswa.com/compat.php

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