F-Spot logo

Nowadays, people have a lot of media. Music, videos and photos. One application for Linux for managing a library of photos is F-Spot. I thought I would take it for a spin, under Fedora 8 and GNOME.

F-Spot ships with almost all modern distributions that use GNOME, so it's pretty likely you won't have to do anything to get it installed at all, just have a look under Applications > Graphics or similar. If not, install the f-spot package.

On opening the application for the first time, you'll be asked to import some photos. I've got a collection of around 1400 snaps, so I chose to import the folder containing them into F-Spot.

F-Spot importing 1400 photos

With the volume of images here, I had to wait about a minute for them to be processed before I could move on. Once they had, though, I was thrown head first into the browsing interface.

F-Spot browse mode

I think it's fair to say that the benchmark for this class of application has to be Apple's iPhoto. F-Spot's browse interface mimics that of iPhoto, showing photos in a grid arrangement in chronological order. There's a slider on the right hand side in the status bar that allows you to change the size of the thumbnails in browse view, which works well. Browsing through even a decently sized collection like mine, F-Spot is impressively quick and responsive.

There's also a timeline widget at the top, which allows you to quickly get to photos from any point in time. The graph shows you the number of photos taken in that time period, and it's pretty useful for quickly jumping to all the photos from a certain event if you know roughly what time of which year it happened in.

Double-clicking any photo, or clicking the Edit Photo button takes you into the edit interface. It takes the current photo and makes it fill the main portion of the F-Spot window.

F-Spot edit photo interface

The edit interface is simple to get to, but the buttons at the bottom for choosing an action to perform on the image are too small, and it's not immediately obvious what they do. Hovering over them does reveal their function, but it should be easier to get to those controls. The available editing tools are pretty much the standard, including crop, red-eye removal, colour balancing, auto-adjust and more.

The slideshow feature in F-Spot is promising, but as far as I can tell, without OpenGL rendering capabilities, it won't work very well. While the photos themselves looked beautiful in this mode, the transitions between were sluggish, making your slideshow look unprofessional. With the right 3D rendering support and drivers set up in your Linux distro, however, this might not be an issue; however I haven't had an opportunity to test this.

Another big feature in F-Spot is tags. You can tag any photo with any of the built in tags by dragging the tag's icon from the left pane on top of any photo. You are also free to make your own tags to help organise your library. I didn't have time to look at tags in detail, but the functionality seems to work well, and if you spend the time to tag your library, it can aid in finding what you want.

There's a function for searching by tag, accessed by the 'Find Bar' (Ctrl+F). You drag a tag from the left hand pane into the bar and it instantly filters the browse mode results by that tag.

The last feature I'm going to look at in detail is exporting. I tried using the Flickr export function. The idea is simple, you select a few photos and click File > Export to Flickr.

Flickr authorisation in F-Spot

You have to authorise the application with Flickr as with any uploading program, but this process is pretty simple.

Flickr authorisation on the web

Once that's done, you set the privacy settings for the batch you've set to upload, choose your options and click Upload. The upload progress window only updates progress after a photo has uploaded, so at times it can seem to take ages and then jump along a massive stage, especially with a slow connection. Once uploaded, you get redirected back to the Flickr site where you can tweak the titles and tags of the photos before accepting them into your Flickr collection.

I really have no major complaints about the Flickr uploading support. It's simple, intuitive and it works well.


F-Spot is a great example of a very well executed FOSS application. Its critics could call it an iPhoto clone, perhaps, but the fact remains that F-Spot is an extremely capable application for dealing with a library of photos. Aside from a few minor annoyances here and there, and some troubles that are probably specific to my setup, F-Spot gets the job done, and does it in a intuitive and stylish way.

The only major competition on Linux for this type of application is Google's Picasa (which isn't open source). For most users, F-Spot does everything Picasa is needed for, and on GNOME does it in a way which integrates beautifully with the way the OS and applications already work, unlike Google's hacky half-Wine implementation.

F-Spot is highly recommended.

Avatar for peter Peter Upfold - http://peter.upfold.org.uk/

Peter Upfold is a technology enthusiast from the UK. Peter’s interest in Linux stems back to 2003, when curiosity got the better of him and he began using SUSE 9.0. Now he runs Linux Mint 9 on the desktop, runs a CentOS-based web server from home for his personal website and dabbles in all sorts of technology things across the Windows, Mac and open source worlds.

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Discussion: F-Spot

  1. pressh (guest)

    # Posted on 11 February 2008 at 03:16 PM

    I would say that digikam (or maybe even gqview if it has to be gtk) is its main competitor, not picasa. For the rest, nice reading :-)

  2. # Posted on 12 February 2008 at 08:36 AM

    <strong>Story added...</strong>

    This story has been submitted to fsdaily.com! If you think this story should be read by the free software community, come vote it up and discuss it here:


  3. # Posted on 12 February 2008 at 04:18 PM

    [...] Continue reading&#8230; [...]

  4. Marcus (guest)

    # Posted on 23 February 2008 at 05:27 PM

    This post contains almost no real information. At least not anything that can't be deduced from looking at the screenshots and reading the feature list. How about giving some actual information? E.g.:

    • How does it work with photos in different folders, perhaps on removable media? (E.g., what if I have 3 USB sticks with photos on them, will that work ok?)

    • Do you have to add photos to your collection to be able to view them with f-spot, or can I just use it as a simple image viewer (e.g., when a friend comes over with an USB stick of photos and wants to show them to me)?

    • Do the tags/comments/whatever work when moving photos? How about thumbnails?

    • Are JPEG transformations (e.g., rotations) lossless? If so, what happens if the size is wrong for making it fully lossless?

    • Is JPEG cropping lossless?

    • Can tags be hierarchical (e.g., so that I can tag a photo with "spot" and still have it returned when searching for "animal" or "dog" (assuming I've defined "spot" as a child of "dog", and "dog" as a child of "animal"))?

    • Does it support incremental backups, both for the pictures and for their metadata?

    • Can it mass-rename pictures, perhaps using EXIF tags?

    • If I edit a photo, does it store the original somewhere so that I can revert my modifications? Can I choose to discard the original?

    • Does it support adjustment-tags, such as "tagging" a picture with "gamma=1.9" to have the picture always displayed with gamma 1.9 (but without actually modifying the image data)?

    • Does it support photo-grouping? I.e., even if I take 5-15 pictures of something (which I often do, using high-speed burst shooting) I almost always want to see only one of them in the thumbnail gallery or a slideshow. (It's really boring to see 15 images that were taken 0.2 seconds apart.)

  5. JDS (guest)

    # Posted on 26 April 2008 at 02:11 PM

    @Marcus Right on. Good questions! I would say probably the answer is "no" to almost all of them. Is that why you chose that set of questions?

    Personally I find F-Spot to be clunky and sucky. Digikam works better, but of course is a KDE app and integrates better into your desktop if you are using KDE.

    Also, "main competitors"? There are a dozen similar apps, if there is one.

    DigiKam, F-Spot, GQview, GThumb, imgSeek, Picasa, gwenview, Album Shaper, to name but a few. Some better than others, and some with more features or more specifically target usage goals.


  6. Marcus (guest)

    # Posted on 06 June 2008 at 01:40 PM

    No, I didn't choose the questions based on what f-spot can or can't do. Those are just the most interesting questions I could think of, and some of them are pretty basic ones.

  7. LMB (guest)

    # Posted on 06 June 2009 at 06:31 AM

    Thanks for the info on DigiKam! F-Spot indeed mimics Apple's software, that is it's waaay more annoying than anything I remember from Windows. Namely, there's no way to order (move around folders etc.) your photos, because an average user is too stupid to know what a folder is, hence he/she should not have access to folders, or there will happen Big Tragedy.

    I'm sick of this kind of an attitude, so good bye F-Spot and anything that even remotely resembles Apple software.

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