Pictures of Ubuntu: Linux's best photo shots at Windows and Mac
F-Spot, Shotwell, RawTherapee in the frame
Best of Linux When it comes to photo applications it seems Windows and Mac have things nailed down, with plenty of individual applications and several packages packed with tons of features.
In this second look at how media and storage applications for Linux, and particularly Ubuntu, compare, I found the Gnome camp has plenty of options too - you just need to be picky.
Photo applications come in three basic flavors - tools that organize your photos, tools for editing them and those that offer both. The latter tend to offer minimal editing tools, but for many that's all that is necessary.
When it comes to serious photo editing, GIMP takes the cake. Offering all of the most commonly used tools in Adobe's Photoshop, GIMP is a free, open source photo-editing powerhouse.
As for organizing your photos in Linux, the options are not quite so stellar. In the Windows and Mac world, freebie photo apps - like Google's Picasa or Apple's iPhoto - are robust tools that support basic editing and sophisticated organizing options like geotagging and facial recognition, as well as tools to automatically upload your images to the web.
Hits the F-Spot: a solid, if basic, photo organizer
Most Ubuntu users will be familiar with F-Spot, long the default image editing and organizing app in most Gnome distros. F-Stop has some, though not all, of the features you'll find in Picasa and iPhoto, but extras like geotagging or facial recognition are missing.
Sadly, not only does F-Spot not offer a way to add geodata to your images, it doesn't even recognize the geodata that your camera may be recording. There are some third party plugins for F-Spot that claim to enable geotagging, but in my testing none of them worked properly.
Shotwell's current shortcomings have been overlooked by Ubuntu and Fedora
While F-Spot may lack some of the fancy extras, it does make a solid, if basic, photo organizer - put your photos in albums, tag them if you like and do some very basic retouching like red-eye removal or cropping.
F-Spot has a well thought out, reasonably intuitive interface, and if your editing and organizing needs are minimal then it will do just fine.
If you're a fan of F-Spot, you might be disappointed to learn that you'll be installing it yourself when Ubuntu 10.10 arrives. Canonical plans to join Fedora in dumping F-Spot for the new kid on the block - Shotwell.
Bring on the GIMP
Feature-wise, Shotwell lags well behind F-Spot offering only very basic editing controls. In fact, at this point Shotwell is basically just a photo organizer. However, the roadmap indicates the next release should support opening your images in external editors like GIMP or UFRaw.
Shotwell is also a native Gnome app with no need for the overhead of Mono, which appears to be the reason both Fedora and Ubuntu have embraced it.
If you're looking for a lightweight, speedy photo organizer and prefer to do your editing in GIMP, Shotwell fits the bill.
Early signs are RawTherapee is headed to a strong, third installment
The last option on my list is not really a Linux app, but Google does make a version of Picasa for Linux that runs under Wine. Frankly, Picasa for Linux doesn't offer much that you won't find in Shotwell or F-Spot, but if you're used to the interface from the Windows version then it may be a good choice.
If your photos are in camera RAW format, none of these editors are going to do you much good. That's where you'll need an advanced editor.
Camera RAW images are uncompressed and offer post-production controls that far outstrip what you can do with a JPEG, but the cost is greater complexity and a swamp of proprietary file formats - neither of which lead to good open source software.
One of the best options for editing and organizing RAW images on both Windows and Mac is Adobe's Lightroom 3. Other options include ACDSee or Apple's Aperture.
There are several quite capable RAW editing programs for Linux, but the best of the free options is undoubtedly RawTherapee.
RawTherapee offers impressive RAW processing tools (decoding is done by dcraw, but the image processing is all RawTherapee) that generate excellent results. Check out the comparison page which, though slightly out of date, shows how RawTherapee's algorithms stack up against those of Adobe, Bibble Labs and other software.
RawTherapee is also on its way to what looks like a very impressive update. Version 3, currently an alpha, is slated to bring a new curves editor, some additional perspective correction tools, true multi-image processing and more.
Transitioning from Lightroom or Aperture to RawTherapee can be a little bumpy, but if you give the app a chance you'll find it can do almost everything its competitors do.
Bibble: confusing but a match for anything on Windows
The last option is neither free, nor open source. Despite that, Bibble Labs continues to turn out a Linux release of its flagship Bibble Pro.
You can download a 14-day trial, so I took the latest version (5.1) for a test drive. I found that while the interface can be a little confusing, the processing tools themselves are every bit as good as what you'll find in the much more expensive Windows software.
Where Bibble falls on its face is in its failure to support the DNG file format. If you're coming from Lightroom especially, you probably have a lot of DNG files, which renders Bibble quite useless.
And of course at $200, with no source available, Bibble Pro 5 is definitely not for everyone.
While Linux has some capable photo editors that can handle the basics, whether you're an advanced or just casual photographer, the apps lack some extra features and polish found in similar offerings on other platforms.
That said, upcoming versions of Shotwell and RawTherapee look to close the gap considerably and should provide Linux users with enough options to fit everyone's needs. ®