Shotwell - First date was a ruin, second date was nice

Updated: February 7, 2011

Shotwell is a photo manager for Gnome. My first encounter with the program was like a homely girl hitting on you in the pub. You dismiss her all too quickly, but as the evening lengthens and you realize you haven't really made progress with any of the prima donnas, you start casting your eye back at the volunteer. Well, I don't go to pubs, although women do hit on me now and then, so this analogy has nothing to do with Shotwell, except perhaps to intrigue and amuse you.

The truth is, the first time I tried the program, in Fedora 13, it did not work for me. By all rights, I should have buried it then and there and forgotten all about it for all eternities. But for some reason, when I tried Super OS a few weeks ago, Shotwell was suddenly all nice and dandy and cooperative. So there you go, we have a review now.


I have a problem ...

Apart from an egocentric narcissistic-histrionic personality laced with OCD, that is. I am not fond of photo managers or image managers, Windows and Linux alike. I don't understand the fuss about this or that program. The decision to replace F-Spot in Ubuntu and Fedora did not make me shiver with rage. It was all indifference, really.

That said ... Shotwell is the only photo manager that made me spend more than fifteen minutes trying and testing. Considering the initial failure and my innate disinterest for organizing images other than named and dated directories, this is an achievement. Now, I won't go as far and say the program is great, you'll have to read the review and figure it out for yourself, but it does seem quite intriguing.

Shotwell reviewed

Shotwell has a very simple and elegant interface. It has a webby feel to it, which may remind you somewhat of Picasa. You can zoom in and out using the middle mouse scroll.

The import function is probably what interests you the most. Shotwell uses the gPhoto framework, which supports more than 1,300 digital cameras. You should also be able to import any kind of picture. The first time I tested the application in Fedora, I was unable to import PNG images, but this seems to have been sorted now. Progress!

You can slideshow your collections, tag them, rate them, and even perform basic manipulations. The program supports a variety of file formats, and will auto-import images from your home directory. Finally, you can publish your albums to popular image sharing services, including Flickr, Picasa and Facebook, which does not deserve to be on the list.


Main view

Tagging can be quite useful if you have very large collections of images and need to browse through them occasionally.


Tagged image

Tag list

You can rotate and flip your images, enhance them, edit titles and adjust time and date, the basic manipulation stuff everyone needs. You can also remove red-eye effects and adjust the exposure, the tint or the color temperature. Some of these tasks are also available as quick buttons at the bottom of the main interface.



Bottom more

Working with the program:

Working 2

Working 1

Image color spectrum

And you can also rate your pictures:


Publishing your stuff on useless social media sites:



If you fancy programs to manage your images, you might be interested in digiKam or GwenView. While these two applications serve different purposes, they complement each other very well. Both are KDE-oriented, but you can have them running on any desktop.

Well, take your pick - or use them all!


Shotwell is one of those programs that grows on you, slowly, persistently. It's very simple to use, very easy to use, with a decent and elegant interface. Of course, you need to ask yourselves whether you need it, but if you do, then it has a handful of nice features. Tagging, rating, favorites, basic image editing, and online album integration should make a nice addition in the arsenal of a common computer user. The program is still fairly young, going through pre-version 1.0 releases, so you should expect additional improvements and new features in coming editions.

Overall, Shotwell surprised me. Our first date was a fiasco, but the second one was a much better experience. We even got to the second base, which is this review. I think the program can be useful, if you like to catalog your image collections. Of course, there's no better way to decide than download and install the program and check for yourself.

Shotwell has a lot of potential and could become a leading photo manager for Gnome. At the moment, it gets a decent 7.5/10 grade from me. This means you ought to give it a try.


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