I have a file server in the closet. It runs Ubuntu, and exports my photo library as NFS4 and SMB. I have children and a wife who all also want access to these photos. Right now, the archive has the structure "bunch of folders, mostly named by date-dumped-from-camera." (More than one camera get dumped into here, too.)

I'm looking for an easier interface into these photos. Ideally, this would be something that supports multiple users, and puts metadata in a separate database on the same disk as the photos live, but doesn't move the photos around -- and, most importantly, doesn't try to copy the photos to the local machine it's running on. These are all requirements (except I can perhaps back down on "multiple users" to mean they don't have to be supported at the same time.)

If I had a choice of only one OS that this runs on, it would be Windows 8. However, we also use Linux desktops, Chromebooks, and Android phones in the family; additional support for any or all of those would be a bonus.

Now, I can build an app that supports the requirements above pretty easily. The reason I don't do that is that I want the ability to: - scan the photo files in this archive, into a database of metadata and file references - allow comments and tagging to be added to the metadata in that database - ideally do face and/or geolocation and/or guided location recognition to auto-tag photos - use this same database metadata from more than one client computer -- if it only works with one at a time, that's acceptable but not ideal - if a file is renamed or deleted in the database, the on-disk copy is not renamed or deleted All of those features on top represent a significant additional amount of development.

What is the right software for this? From what I can tell, all the built-in and shovelware photo managers typically want to copy the photos to a local drive, and even if they don't, the metadata all lives on the local machine that runs the software. But I'm sure I'm missing something, because I can't be the only person with a family that's all more or less technically literate.

1 Answer 1



Picasa Logo!

As long as you can make your photo library appear as a network drive on Windows 8 (CIFS, SaMBa, etc), Picasa will be a nice way to view the photos.

  • You can group photos together. Create a New Album and dragging photos to that album. The files do not move, it is just metadata.

  • Tag photos You go to the picture and adds tags


  • Files remain on network drive

Your photos remain on the network drive, they are not copied to the local computer. If you delete the photo in Picasa, it is deleted from the source as well.

  • Meta data remains on the network drive

The default location for the database is on the local machine, but you can move the database to the network drive via Tools > Experimental > Choose database location...

As long as you can have each workstation access the same drive letters and mapped network drive, you can share the database with the different workstations. When you add a second workstation to share the database, you have to rename the Picasa database folder to something else. Then on the second workstation, move the database to the same directory. Then exit out of Picasa, delete the newly created folder, and rename the original Picasa database folder to its original name. This way, all instances of Picasa point to the same network folder.

Each time there is a new version of Picasa, you must go through the same process as described above.

  • But with Picasa, the database is stored on the local drive, not the network. Or is there some store-the-database-on-the-network setting that I don't know about?
    – Jon Watte
    Sep 22, 2014 at 2:52
  • You're most two important criterias are: "doesn't try to copy the photos to the local machine it's running on" and "doesn't move the photos around". Picasa does both. Picasa perform a mixture of metadata on the network drive via the .picasa folder. If you want the database on the network drive too, tool under Tools > Experimental > Move Database Location. I am uncertain if changes in one workstations will appear next time on another workstation pointing to the same network database location. Maybe you can research/experiment yourself on that. Or maybe someone else can suggest better.
    – Sun
    Sep 22, 2014 at 3:17
  • You may also want to try some picasa add ones to augment network capabilities.
    – Sun
    Sep 22, 2014 at 13:34
  • @sink818: In the original text, I called out twice that the metadata should live on the network. Apparently, that was not enough -- I edited the question to make it clear this is a requirement. Thanks for your contribution!
    – Jon Watte
    Sep 22, 2014 at 21:10
  • @JonWatte I realize all your line items are requirements, but I mistakenly thought your last requirement was actually "most important" and your other considerations were optional or less important. I think you can experiment with the PicasaStarter software, or if you have a sync service like DropBox, consider putting the Picasa database (Tools, Experimental) to a syncable location. Unfortunately, Picasa is not true multi-user software so only one person can be in Picasa and use the Picasa database.
    – Sun
    Sep 22, 2014 at 22:50

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