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:
- 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.
- Using Duplicate File Finder is smart -- make sure you have each image exactly once. Run this dupe finder on your new library.
- You now have a complete "master" library. Consider making a backup of this on a separate drive (USB disk?) just to be safe!
- 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.
- Now open Picasa and purge all its data, because you want to begin from scratch on your new master library.
- 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).
- 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!
- The easiest way is to use Picasa's "Import" function.
- Just plug in a memory card or DVD and click Picasa's Import button (top left of the screen).
- 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.