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Phototheca: a new way to organise your digital photos

31 October 2012, Mike Williams

If your digital photo collection is something of a mess, leaving you rarely able to find the images you need, then you’re not alone. The standard Windows tools just aren’t up to the task of managing large numbers of photos, leaving many people looking for third party tools to help them restore order.

There are at least plenty of free photo managers competing for your attention, though, and the latest contender is Lunarship Software’s Phototheca, an interesting tool with a range of useful features.

The program starts much like any other, inviting you to import the folders which contain your images. You can manually point Phototheca at your collection, or just drag and drop the folders or photos onto the program and it’ll figure the rest out for itself.

With that done, you can immediately use the program’s thumbnail browser to scroll through your collection. The thumbnail size is adjustable with a slider, and a search box helps you locate the particular images you need.

And you can also browse your images in a calendar view, making it easy to locate those photos from last summer, say. Or just run a simple slideshow of a particular photo set.

The program provides several different ways to organise and view your photos

As usual with photo organisers, you’re able to arrange your photos into custom albums. But Phototheca takes this a little further with the Smart Album, which is essentially a custom search tool. You might create a Smart Album to display images from a particular camera, taken within a defined date range, which didn’t include the keyword “holiday”, say: whatever criteria you like. And then opening that Smart Album at any time will locate and display whatever matching images there might be.

There are also some basic photo management tools. Select multiple images, say, and can rotate them, adjust their date and time, even tag the images with particular keywords by choosing them from a list.

And handy bonus features include the program’s ability to check for duplicate images within your collection. You’re able to view these at any time with a click, and can delete them all easily.

Figuring out precisely how this all works can take a little longer than it should, unfortunately. You might wonder what this or that button does, for instance, but there are no tooltips to point you in the right direction, and the program doesn’t provide a local Help file.

And if you’re not careful, there is some scope for problems here. As we found out when we accidentally rotated our entire photo collection clockwise (there’s no “are you sure?” prompt to check if this is okay, although fortunately you can rotate the photos back again easily enough.)

It doesn’t take too long to figure out the Phototheca basics, though, and in general the program shows promise: we’ll be interested to see where the authors take it next.

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