If I wanted to just view, sort, and organize (via tags or folders or both), what programs are geared toward doing this quickly?

I know I could do this in most any photo editor, but it's not ideal for reviewing hundreds of images. I've also seen people use the image previewers built into their computer's OS, but that can't be the best option either.

What program would you suggest instead?

Extra info on the program is appreciated, i.e. OS requirements and cost.


18 Answers 18


Adobe Lightroom is one application which a lot of professional photographers would use both for reviewing large quantities of images, and also for doing some initial post-processing. A lot of photographers these days find they rarely use Photoshop anymore, finding Lightroom very powerful in it's organising and post-process abilities.

From it's conception, Lightroom has been heavily focussed on workflow, particularly for raw images.

Available for both Windows & Mac. Not sure on costs, but certainly not free.

  • +1 for Lightroom. It is an excellent program that does exactly what the OP asked for. Lightroom 3 is pretty darn fast for searching huge libraries as well. I have some 10,000 photographs in my library, and it is easy to search by tags, filenames, keywords, and a variety of flagging utilities like pick/reject, stars, color tags, etc.
    – jrista
    Oct 25, 2010 at 21:51
  • Lightroom is great, that is the one I use, but it is by far not quick. Just the fact that you have to import images first before doing anything to them makes it slower than many other software.
    – Itai
    Oct 26, 2010 at 14:04
  • Not quite sure why I've been downvoted twice for my answer. Ignoring any processing abilities, I'd still use Lightroom purely for it's organisational and searching abilities (e.g. Smart Collections), EXIF/IPTC editing/searching, etc.
    – Conor Boyd
    Oct 26, 2010 at 21:43
  • 1
    I'm guessing it has to do with speed which is what the original poster asked for. I do use Lightroom for organizing, as I mentioned already, but I do my primary culling in PMView Pro. It would be way too slow in Lightroom. Now, if you need to organize at the same time, which PMView Pro does not do, then another solution is needed. I mentioned PicaJet FX exactly because it is very fast. It is also very simple, which you can see as a plus or a minus, depending if it does what you want or not ;)
    – Itai
    Oct 27, 2010 at 3:55

For a free option, have a look at Google's Picasa. It allows you to sort your images via folders and tags, and easily upload them for sharing.

It can be found here: http://picasa.google.com/

It also has rudimentary editing options, but I'd recommend Lightroom if you want a decent processing program. Conor's right, it's far from free at ~£250, but you can download a free 30-day trial from the adobe website.

  • +1 for picasa, it's excellent for organizing your images. I'm sure Lightroom is great, but it's the most unintuitive application I've ever tried to use. Oct 25, 2010 at 21:21
  • @Winston: The first time I looked at LR, I couldn't get my head round it either. I left it for a while, before coming back to it, and I haven't looked back since. LR3 is a huge step up in image-processing quality even from LR2, and definitely worth persevering with at getting to know how to use it; it's a great tool.
    – Conor Boyd
    Oct 25, 2010 at 22:40
  • -1 for Picasa, especially if you let it near any USB sticks as it makes a right mess of the file system. Fine if you save locally and copy but I've come across a couple of users who have taken content to other machines and not been able to find anything they were looking for. Feb 26, 2014 at 11:02

In the Linux world Shotwell, though still new, shows a great deal of promise as a photo collection organiser. It is quick, intuitive, powerful yet simple to use. It provides essential post-processing tools and when those are not enough can call Gimp.
Shotwell web site


If you have a Mac, you should consider Apple's Aperture. It's a fully featured workflow program that simplifies importing, tagging, organising, processing and publishing.

It's often compared to Lightroom, and is significantly cheaper if you buy it using the Mac App Store - currently $79.99 compared with over $200 for Lightroom.

It's also generally considered to be fast, particularly on initial import and tagging. It's optimised to use the graphics cards available on Macs so you should get good performance with the processing stages, although it is memory hungry (4Gb memory is required for reasonable processing performance).

  • 2
    Before purchasing, I tried demos of both Lightroom and Aperture. Although Lightroom has more features (when it comes to image processing), my experience was that Aperture had a much much better user interface. That was the determining factor for me, so I chose Aperture, and I have not regretted my choice.
    – Pete
    Jun 23, 2011 at 11:08

Well, actually most photo editors can't do it. The category of software you are looking for is called digital asset management (DAM) software. There are review of 5 popular options here: http://www.neocamera.com/article.php?id=dam-software

If simple and fast is your criteria, then I suggest you look at PicaJet FX. It is available for Windows for $60. You can also try the free Picasa from Google which has some interfaces oddities but it can do a basic tagging job.


digikam - open source, free, and for Linux, Windows, and Mac-OSX.


I use Photo Mechanic for this purpose. While not free it's quite cheap and it allows you to rank (and then sort) images by a number of means, displays images along with histograms and exif information, and more importantly preloads and caches the images so you can cycle through them much more quickly than for example the windows image viewer. The program is designed for magazine/newspaper picture editors and is geared towards sorting large numbers of images as quickly as possible.

Most importantly it understands raw files and will let you look through and sort the JPEGs and keep the raw files with them if they move.


I'm surprised nobody has yet mentioned Windows Live Photo Gallery. It's free, and has most of the basic functions you need for photo management and touch up. Personally, I use Adobe Lightroom, but it costs a fair bit. When I am on somebody else's computer, and need to do some quick fixes, I've never been disappointed with Windows Live Photo Gallery.

  • My vote goes to this too, it's free, works well, and is easy to use.
    – user7226
    Dec 8, 2011 at 13:30

I'm surprised no one mentioned Adobe Bridge. When if first came out is was so slow it was unusable. Now I use it every day. Since I do photo and video it works quite well for me... you can rate and sort, search metadata... I can scroll through thousands of pictures (and videos) after a shoot. Lightroom and Aperture are quite powerful and can become a PS replacement for some people, but I've been using layer masks for too long to switch...

  • I rate Bridge as well. I have used Lightroom (ver 1.1) and found it less suited to my workflow than the combination of Photoshop and Bridge. Jul 6, 2011 at 8:28

I suggest you to take a look at our Daminion. This is new photo management software that focuses totally on image cataloguing and reviewing. In fact, we don't include image editing capabilities in order to separate the program from Swiss Army knives. Plus it has the server version that allows to safely access to your image archive library from multiple computers in your local network.

The Daminion Free edition allows to import 15k files per one local catalog (while the number of catalogs that you can create is unlimited)

enter image description here


Just for the sake of completeness I will mention Phase One, Capture One.

I have no experience with it, but it works much the same way as Apple Apperture, and Adobe Lightroom.

As far as I know, Capture One was actually the first application of this type, the two others are imitations.


My preference goes to iView Media Pro, which has been renamed Expression Media when it was acquired by Microsoft, and is currently owned and maintained by Phase One.


I found that over the years I accumulated a large number of family photos which I hadn't sorted out - I'd just copied them off the cameras and phones etc. and never sorted out the good photos from the fuzzy, blurred or eyes closed.

So to sort them out (the good from the bad) I created vsPhotoSorter - step through each photo, tag the good, skip the bad, then export in yyyy/MM folders. If you exit, when you continue you just pick up from where you left off.

For me it works well because I can do it at my own pace, export them (and share) as I go - duplicates are detected so I never see the same photo twice.

But it only does this one thing. Simple, but hopefully effective. Once you've sorted out the best photos from the rest, you could use any photo manager to organise them appropriately.



I already know of one: Fast Picture Viewer. The basic version is free, the pro version costs $39.99. Both run only on windows (xp, vista, 7). Pro has a 64-bit version.

  • 1
    Never heard of this one. I went to their site and it really does not say anything about organizing files as the question asked. Does it?
    – Itai
    Oct 25, 2010 at 21:14
  • i haven't used it in awhile, but the faq mentions the capability to rate pictures. As I recall, though, I would hit a certain key and it moved or copied the image i was looking at into a folder that I picked earlier. Not as robust as a database, but a little more portable if you're using networked drives. Oct 25, 2010 at 23:53
  • From the website: "...a perfect companion to existing Digital Asset Management suites such as Adobe Lightroom or IDImager, helping users perform their initial accept/reject selection and rating much faster than before. Put in another way, you'll be done with reviewing/culling/rating with FPV Pro before Lightroom finished importing all the files and crunching the previews."
    – glenneroo
    Dec 15, 2010 at 14:02

I have used ACDSee for a long time, and am very pleased with it. They have all kinds of possibilities to catalogue, browse and find fotos quickly. Features I like in particular:

  • Fast preview/thumbnail generation
  • Browse by dates
  • Tick multiple folders by tick box to see all in one view
  • Add images to an image basket to use later
  • Batch functionality to do similar action to all selected images:
    • Rename files with customizable file name template.
    • Rotate - fixed or based on exif info
    • Date - edit change date or create date to fixed or to exif date.
  • Simple editing with red-eye removal among others

It is not free, but it's worth the cost.


I'm surprised nobody mentioned Extensis Portfolio. This is one of the longest-standing DAMs, and still one of the best, although I'm divided between MediaPro and Lightroom at present. There are demo versions of most of these available, so it's worth taking them out for a test drive to see which one helps you select (find) your images most quickly and which one helps you organize and add metadata if that's one of your priorities. PhotoMechanic is absolutely great with metadata, but not as strong at maintaining a database of tens of thousands of images. MediaPro and Portfolio are reasonable for large datasets, and focus exclusively on digital asset management. Lightroom is a hybrid, backed by a SQLite database. It serves two masters: The "Library" or digital asset management, and the "Develop Module", which is a RAW image processor.


I have used ACDSee for years now and find it very uefull for organising your photos. It is fast and you can do Batch Rename and even some editing. It is cheap $50 US and you can download a 30 Trial version (ACDSee 15)


I'm a huge fan of digital photo professional that comes bundled free with canon dslrs.

you can "quick check" your images and view them super quickly. You can star (1, 2, 3, 4, 5 stars) or tag (tag 1, tag 2, tag 3, tag 4, tag 5) and also mark as rejected.

then you can go back to the main screen, and select "pics N stars or greater", or "tag 1", tag2, etc, or reject. With the selection you can then delete or drag/drop to another folder.

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