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digiKam 0.10.0 review

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I have never been much a user of photo management applications. Back on the Mac, the application I hated second to iTunes was iPhoto, and it really frightened me away from photo management tools. I knew, at the time, that I definitely liked Ad0be's Lightroom or, heck, even Bridge, better, but all in all none of those really fit my workflow and I never pursued those.Anyway, one thing I've learned lately is that if you actually go out into the world and start using your linux laptop for more than just learning neat linux commands and networking tricks, you start to get kind of proud of the OS, and you start liking to really pimp it out so people looking over your shoulder, or using your laptop to check their email, are impressed with what they see and experience. This was not important to me for a long time, but lately I've been in the position where a lot of people have been around me, asking me to fix their computers, or asking to use mine for some task, and I've started to kind of enjoy seeing them fly through linux without the awareness that they are in fact using linux.So, as I've posted previously, using lots of plasmoids and pimping the desktop has been fun, and it's been wildly successful. Everyone is using linux+firefox quite blissfully. And then everyone started breaking out their digital cameras.While I am fine using my file manager and/or gwenview and/or gimp as my photo management tool(s), that just looks cumbersome to people who want to see the 100+ photos you've just taken on this-or-that occasion. So I figured it was time to try out a proper photo management tool, and since digiKam seems to be the de facto KDE app for that sort of thing, and there's been a lot of activity on digiKam's rss feeds and facebook fan page, so it was digiKam that I tried. Turns out, digiKam is really really nice. No -- really. As I've said, I've used iPhoto (God help us all), Lightroom (yawn), Aperture (oh noes!), and Bridge (hm), and now digiKam. What can I say about them all? Well...for my money, digiKam all the way. iPhoto is a joke and no one should ever use it. Lightroom is reasonable but proprietary. Aperture is also reasonable, if not over-complex, and proprietary. Bridge is...well, not really a photo management app. Here are digiKam's features, IMHO:1. I remain in control of my data; no hidden database folders, no pwnag of how I manage my photos in the backend. It simply intelligently looks into whatever folder I designate as my photo folder, and shows me, in an environment dedicated to viewing, organizing, and editing photos, what is in that folder and its subfolders.2. Themes. I know that proprietary apps can't give the option of changing its look to the user for fear of losing their precious brand image...but digiKam's themes are really helpful. Lots of different looks that are anything but frivolous aesthetics; this is about how you want to see your photos so that you can better present and edit them.3. Editing. digiKam has a lot of editing tools integrated into it, so for simple corrections, there is no need to go over to GIMP or Krita. It can actually be done within digiKam. And yes, your modifications can be saved as a new version of that photo.4. Intuitive. People come to digiKam and somehow they know how to use it. Not every feature, of course, but if they want to sit down and look through an album, they can do it easily and quickly.5. Need to carefully examine two very similar photographs? Use the Light Table (keyboard shortcut "L"); you can bring a few photos onto your light table and then zoom in and pan around the photos synchronously. Very nice feature.6. Heck, all the "usual" features are in digiKam -- rotate, edit metadata, aspect ratio crop, filter view, ratings, slideshow (with openGL transitions if desired), etc.7. Geo Location. Yes, it can pick up the metadata regarding the location of the photographs and map it out on Earth for you. This is nice, I guess...not something I'll use any time soon....but I will say that the neat little globe that you can grab and turn did impress people. It always boils down to eye candy, doesn't it?8. Want to send a photo to your online <social networking> account? digiKam probably can do that for you. The export menu (yes, it justified its own dedicated menu) is populated by practically every major site you can join; Facebook, Picasa, SmugMug, Flickr, general HTML galleries for you to post yourself, etc. No, sorry, you can't export to myspace or mobileMe...lulz.9. Desktop integration. It's a "K" app, and KDE is all about integration, and they do it well in digiKam. There's the option to open a photo in the file manager. There's the option to view a photo from your file manager in showFoto (a digiKam module, I guess). And most importantly, there's the usual KDE structure of the application itself. Tabs down the side of the window to bring up new options, clear and intuitive menus, qt4 movable toolbars, and so on. I started it up and felt very at home in the app, having been a KDE user now for a year or two.All in all, this is a really powerful and satisfying application. It has not failed to impress me -- a user who does not use photo management apps, nor my friends -- users who expect certain things out of a photo management app. Those are two tough audiences, so, good work digiKam team!

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