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I'm looking for a photo organiser/viewer that allows me to view photographs, organise them without adjusting their location or requiring to import them.

For example, if I want to simply view photographs from a memory card or external or removable media (including read-only optical media such as CD, DVD, Blu-ray).

I would just like to be able to browse through what I've taken.

An additional nice to have would be the ability to organise these in various ways. I would expect this to be done using non-proprietary plain-text meta-data/"play-list" kind of data that means that changing the original location of the photos would therefore not be required.

If I title removable media then the program could be used as a database to catalog the photos across various media I have.

Reason why I want to retain the original location of photos is that if a program changes this or has to import copies then it makes it difficult to keep track of where they are and where the copies are.

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I'd like to understand your situation better. I wouldn't want to browse photos off of memory cards because it's slow. Organizing and tagging is also not as easy on removable media compared to harddrive data.

What are your reasons for wanting to browse/edit images "in-situ"? Why do you not want to have everything on the harddrive?

I would prefer to dump everything onto a local harddrive and use a folder structure to organize everything. With today's harddrive sizes, storage space can't be much of a problem, and if everything is inside one (huge) folder, then making complete or incremental backups are straightforward.

If this were your approach, then I'd recommend either the totally awesome cam2pc or Google's Picasa.

response to comment: Managing large volumes of photos/videos does indeed require a mindset that works, and that you stick to everytime you get new material.

Here is my suggestion, which I admit is based on the assumption that disk space is not a problem:

  1. Move all your images from all the external media and DVDs to a local harddrive. This is the basis of your future media library. You can use Beyond Compare for this move as a first step to avoid duplicates in your target directory.
  2. Using Duplicate File Finder is smart -- make sure you have each image exactly once. Run this dupe finder on your new library.
  3. You now have a complete "master" library. Consider making a backup of this on a separate drive (USB disk?) just to be safe!
  4. You can then safely delete all the external media and throw away your media DVD's. They are no longer your "master" data and if you keep them, you risk of messing up your new master library.
  5. Now open Picasa and purge all its data, because you want to begin from scratch on your new master library.
  6. Picasa can either scan a folder, or import a folder into its own structure. If you let Picasa scan then it won't move the files. If you import, then Picasa's target location becomes your new master library, so delete the one you created in step 3 above, then make a new backup (just to be safe).
  7. Whether you scan or import, this is going to take some time. When done, Picasa will begin searching the images for faces. This is going to take literally days, so don't wait for it. Just let that work in the background and worry about grouping faces and people next week or so.

The above will get you a new master library. Now you also need to find a method to place all media you create in the future in this library too!

  1. The easiest way is to use Picasa's "Import" function.
  2. Just plug in a memory card or DVD and click Picasa's Import button (top left of the screen).
  3. Picasa will copy the media to your master library. You should make sure to delete the media off the memory card in order to avoid duplicates in the future.
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I've tried Picasa a little and like it. Your comment on slow browsing from memory cards triggered a thought: it's a trade off between wanting to that without waiting for the one-off import -and- doing the import and enjoying the faster access speed. The other thing about importing is it makes copies of the pictures which I don't mind per se but it's harder to keep track of the pictures, I use Beyond Compare, Fast Duplicate File Finder to make purge superfluous copies. In short I think I need to change my mindset around how to manage photos. I'll wait a bit for more answers then accept. –  therobyouknow Sep 3 '10 at 8:46
    
Yes, mindset is important. I added more information in my answer above. Hope this helps you! –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Sep 3 '10 at 9:17
    
+1 for Picasa!! –  pattern86 Sep 3 '10 at 9:22
    
I'll accept this answer. I'll use it in conjunction with BeyondCompare/Fast File Duplicate Finder. As long as I can be exactly sure where Picasa puts the copies of the photos created as a result of the import, then I will be able to keep track of the copies and be able to backup to DVD etc precisely, rather than inadvertently backing up the same copies, perhaps differently organised. –  therobyouknow Sep 8 '10 at 12:27
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