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Still looking for a decent photo gallery program!

Posted: Thu Sep 20, 2007 3:14 pm
by Philip Goddard
After a huge amount of work and seemingly endless frustrations because of incomplete implementation of every program that I've tried, I'm now seriously considering abandoning my new photo site Broad Horizon Photos, even before it's really started taking off. Just preparing one batch of, say, 70 photos, updating the gallery folders and then uploading the new material is a lengthy and extremely frustrating business, and the stress for me is just too much, so either I somehow find that elusive software that creates, manages and updates my photo galleries properly or I very shortly jettison my Clear Mind Photos project, then being left to write off my financial investment in the scheme.

My current photo gallery program is Magic Gallery, which I arrived at after a lengthy Internet search and trying out many programs, including the enormous and expensive Studio Line Web. Magic Gallery at least allowed me to produce my own templates so that I could have all my own layout and styling and embed variables to display title, description, keywords and filename. However, every gallery folder (currently there are 69 of them) has to be created individually, and there is no true update functionality, so to update after adding some photos - would you believe this! - I have to manually get Magic Gallery to re-create each of the 69 folders, processing every photo even which already exists in the target folder.

But I also have many frustrations before the photos get to Magic Gallery. For one thing, to enter IPTC metadata in the photo files I use Abander PhotosControl, which is by far the best group IPTC editor I've yet encountered - but it's woefully and perversely buggy and frequently it loses data that I've just typed in, or, owing to a group selection bug, saves the current metadata to files I'd not selected, so wiping out the data I'd already put in them.

Even XnView adds to the frustration, because I have to use its batch processing function to produce the resized versions of the photos because Magic Gallery is unworkably slow at the job. But XnView has two problems for me over this - if I select a folder for the batch processing, with 'keep directory structure' checked, it copies only the files, into the target root folder, which is not what I want at all. The only way I can get it to work right is to select the top level Clear Mind Photos folder, when ALL of the photo folders are then processed, and the 'skip' option for when the target file already exists simply doesn't do anything, and ALL the photos in the entire collection are processed. Maybe XnView doesn't actually write to files that exist in the target folder, but it certainly goes through all the processing, so for the sake of a few added photos I have to wait for the WHOLE photo collection to be batch processed. Most of the original photo files are in the range of 3 to 6 MB, so that's a lot to process!

So, this post is one of my last-ditch attempts to see if I can get a significant improvement on what I'm using and so be able to rescue my project and my sanity.

What I particularly require of a photo gallery program is the following:

1. It will speedily create or update gallery folders as a 'mirror' of the original collection's folder structure.

2. When updating, it optionally skips processing photos which already exist in destination folder, and will batch-update and create-new folders automatically from user choice of either a group selection or a saved list.

3. Uses fully user-editable HTML templates for both thumbnail view and single picture files in which variables can be placed in order to display any item of IPTC or EXIF data in the original photo files, and other data such as filename. Currently (in Magic Gallery) I use variables for title (ObjectName), description, keywords and filename, and I see no point in my running a photos-for-sale site on whose photo pages those data cannot be displayed.

4. A full choice of watermarking options, including choice of text or user-provided image.

5. It would be nice of course to have properly implemented IPTC data entering and editing (including in batch mode), but I'm now pretty resigned to having to look to other programs to do that effectively. I hope and pray that the next major version of XnView will save my sanity on that function at least!

I think it would be too much to expect or ask of XnView to include full photo gallery capabilities as I describe, but I wonder if any of you nice people out there have any truly informed suggestions for me of a photo gallery program which really does meet my criteria.

It really wouldn't be helpful for people to respond with suggestions off the top of their head. It's a matter of whether you really know from your own experience that a particular program fully meets the requirements that I've listed above. I have to admit to being pretty amazed to find that such a basic combination of functionalities has been lacking in every photo gallery program that I've tried - many of whose 'blurb' made it look as though they'd fit my purpose pretty nicely.

My thanks in advance to anyone who does have anything genuinely helpful to say on the matter.

Best wishes to all,

Posted: Mon Jan 05, 2009 9:35 am
by Philip Goddard
I've just noticed this topic, having forgotten all about it, and it's best that I add an update.

I haven't given up on my Broad Horizon Photos site, though it has been pretty excessive work for me.

My current way of handling batches of new photos is, first, to batch-rename them all in XnView to get their 'capture' date in the filename, then to do most of my sorting in Photo Mechanic, which for many purposes is superior for that purpose, as it is also (greatly) for IPTC data entry.

For editing photos I no longer use XnView but Photoshop Elements 5. This has extremely effective and useful functions for 'fixing' photos with tone range problems such as over-dark shadows, and XnView's Highlights / Shadows adjustment feature doesn't come near that (sorry, but true).

Once I've deleted all the unwanted photos and got them ready for use, with all their added IPTC metadata, then I come back to XnView, because Photo Mechnic's batch file rename facility still doesn't work the way I need it to, whereas XnView's does.

I then do an XnView batch file rename again, which now puts not only the photo 'capture' date but also the object name (i.e. photo title), suitably modified. (I have to be careful that none of those object names contains any character that would be illegal in a filename.)

Then, still within XnView, I do a batch process to reduce each photo to 640x480 pixels, add a text watermark at the bottom, and sharpen the photo, putting the output into an intermediary local version of the Clear mind Photos website folder structure. Photo Mechanic also has batch multi-processing in its Save As option, but it doesn't work fully the way I want, which is why I still do it in XnView.

I do that batch process prior to the files going to gallery creation, because Magic Gallery is too slow in resizing the images, so I have it set not to resize images at all. I have XnView add a watermark because I actually use two watermarks, the second being added by Magic Gallery.

Then I use Magic Gallery, in which I have set up my own custom templates, to actually produce the galleries. This is lengthy and irritating work, because Magic Gallery produces only single folder galleries, so, with over 100 folders in my Clear Mind Photos website, I have to repeat gallery production for each of those folders. There is no 'update gallery' let alone 'update galleries' function, so it has to be a complete re-creation of each gallery every time! Crazy!

After all that, I have my updated local version of the actual website, and then have to upload that. Even that isn't simple, because I have STILL not found an FTP program that is fully satisfactory in doing multi-folder synchronization. I'm using Fast Track FTP, which was the best that I could find for the purpose, but in almost every session for adding to or updating Clear Mind Photos, it gets confused at some point (particularly if it has to create any new folders), and copies some photos and web pages that were meant to go into particular new subfolders, into the root folder. That is particularly troublesome, as usually one of the wrongly copied web pages is an index.htm that wipes out the main index.htm for the site, so I have to remember to re-copy the latter index.htm upon completion of the transfer.

What a bloody hassle!

If anyone has suggestions for a better gallery program (full handling of IPTC and EXIF data and working with multiple folders and having reasonably intelligent updating facilities) and an FTP program with a better folder synchronization function than Fast Track FTP, then I'd really like to know. Incidentally, I've had a look at Coppermine photo gallery program, and that is definitely not for me.

Posted: Mon Jan 05, 2009 4:24 pm
by JohnFredC
For synchronization with FTP, you might try BeyondCompare, the best such tool I have ever encountered. Not free, but worth the $30. It has the best user interface of any similar tools.

There is a 30-day trial.

Posted: Mon Jan 05, 2009 4:32 pm
by Philip Goddard
Brilliant, John! Many thanks for that tip. It looks as though Beyond Compare is much more a synchronization program that happens to do FTP, rather than an FTP program for which synchronization is just a 'bit on the side', as is Fast Track FTP. Whether I'd like its FTP interface I don't know yet, but I'm raring to go and give it a try.

Posted: Mon Jan 05, 2009 7:10 pm
by xnview
JohnFredC wrote:For synchronization with FTP, you might try BeyondCompare, the best such tool I have ever encountered. Not free, but worth the $30. It has the best user interface of any similar tools.
Beyond Compare is really good!!

Posted: Mon Jan 05, 2009 9:39 pm
by Philip Goddard
Yes, thank you John and Pierre. What a nice perk to come up with from giving the above update on my situation!

I've just done a trial sync with Beyond Compare, resulting in a re-uploading of ALL the photos on my Broad Horizon Photos site - over 4,000 including thumbnails, about 150 MB total, and it took just over 50 minutes - and I could see in considerable detail and complete security what was going on, and where, in a way that I couldn't in Fast Track FTP . Also, BC managed to read or refresh all the folders of the website in a small fraction of the time it took Fast Track FTP, which would take a few minutes to do that.

My only grouse so far is that despite my setting the program to play a 'beep' at the end of a long transfer, there was no sound at the end, and there is no facility for me to set my own sound to indicate completion of transfer - a silly omission of an obvious thing. I shall raise that with the developer(s), as I'm sure to purchase a licence for Beyond Compare.

I can now ditch Fast Track FTP, for I was keeping it only for the big synchronizations, for Wise FTP is my regular FTP program, whose interface I find the nicest for general FTP tasks, although its synchronization function looks too 'hairy' for me to dare to use. I can't see myself using Beyond Compare for everyday FTP, for its interface isn't designed primarily for that.

Posted: Tue Jan 06, 2009 10:00 pm
by XnTriq

Posted: Wed Jan 07, 2009 7:42 am
by Philip Goddard
Thank you, XnTrique. I'll look into the Wikipedia listings that you've pointed to. However, I note that they are nearly all server-side applications, whereas my preference really is to have a local working version of my gallery (as now), which I synchronize with the website copy. But anyway, I'll see if there's anything I can gain with any of those server-side gallery programs.

Posted: Thu Jan 08, 2009 2:59 am
by bugmenot
You can try for free ftp sync :mrgreen:

Posted: Thu Jan 08, 2009 8:38 am
by Philip Goddard
Thank you, 'Bugmenot'! Actually the horse has already bolted, for I've registered my copy of Beyond Compare, which, in any case, on the basis of a quick glance at the Kanastacorp site, appears to give more options and flexibility in control of the sync process. Anyway, this may be useful for others who want a free program.