I recently moved my photos from iPhoto on my iMac to Windows Live Photo Gallery (WLPG) on my Windows 7 PC so I figured I’d compare the two. The short version is that iPhoto is a mature application that has gone through many iterations of enhancements while WLPG is newer and less feature rich. I used iPhoto mainly as an organizing tool for any images I didn’t take – screenshots for my website, graphics for the website, pictures from others and from the web. I rarely edited those images and organization was mainly why I used iPhoto.
My main reason for moving my images out of iPhoto was to move them to a directory structure on disk that would provide some basic organization without tying me to any specific app. iPhoto can either pull your images into it’s own library and organization method when you import or it can keep the image exactly where it was when you imported. I was using the first method as that was the only option when I started and I never changed – until now. I can import the images back into iPhoto if I want and just keep them where they are. I wasn’t big on tagging since I used albums for organization.
I also maintained multiple iPhoto libraries (either hold down the option key when starting iPhoto or doe what I did and use iPhoto Library Manager) to keep things seperated. For the way I work I prefer to have my libraries by broad topic so my searches are limited to the topic.
iPhoto tags apply across the entire library but the ability to have completely separate libraries makes tags more useful in iPhoto in my opinion.
While WLPG allows you to keep images in separate directories and even on separate drives at the highest level the directories merge. If you tag photos the tags will be shared across galleries and when you click on a tag it will return matches across all folders. If the tag matches across folders there’s no easy way to drill down into the folders. You’ll have to search through all the images that match the tag.
One benefit that WLPG has over iPhoto is a command to remove all unused tags. Doing this in iPhoto can be tedious but WLPG makes it easy.
One big advantage WLPG has over iPhoto is that tags are added as meta-data to the image itself. This means if I tag an image in WLPG and later import it into another app (or another WLPG instance) the tags will go with it.
Arrange by Date Taken
WLPG has some built in folders (searches actually) that will organize images by the date they were taken. iPhoto has no such ability unless you organize the events by day which excludes other uses of events. I used events for, well, events like Christmas, birthday party, vacation, etc… This meant I couldn’t organize photos by date.
Windows Live Photo Gallery’s use of the file system without having to explicitly import the images makes it easier to get images into it. Just define a top level directory in the gallery and any image added to it or a subdirectory will appear in WLPG. With iPhoto you have to import them and then organize them into albums, even if you’re using the file system and not copying them into the library itself.
iPhoto’s ability to have distinct libraries may be an advantage to some, including myself. WLPG has one big library.
At this point I’m giving the organization advantage to WLPG because it takes little effort to get images in. I just copy them to the directory I want and they appear. In iPhoto, even if they are in the same directory I would have to import new images and add them to the appropriate albums or events. I also like that tags get added to the file meta data making me less tied to WLPG than I would be to iPhoto. So while iPhoto’s ability to have multiple libraries is an advantage, WLPG’s ease of import and organization maintenance gives it the edge.
I haven’t done a lot of testing, but I don’t see any problems using WLPG and iPhoto on the same set of images. I do have some images in both WLPG and iPhoto.
As I said, I don’t use iPhoto for a lot of editing and wouldn’t use WLPG for editing much either. I only do occasional cropping and image wide exposure adjustment. Both programs seemed to work fine. I found iPhoto a bit easier to use but that may be because I’m more used to it. Both use similar methods of using sliders to set adjustments.
Both apps allow you to easily open the photo in an external editor and save it back to the library. Both also save the original image and allow you to restore the original image at any time in the future.
I found iPhoto’s original image restore easier to use. I always want to keep the original image as the one displayed in the library. Any edits are for one time use and I immediately restore the original. WLPG requires me to exit the image edit screen and go back to the gallery and then open the image for editing again. At that point the original image can be restored. Also, WLPG doesn’t allow any mass original restore. In iPhoto I can select all images and restore the original for them all. Something I did occasionally to avoid wasting space. In WLPG the original restore is one at a time.
I don’t know if it’s a bug (I’m using Windows 7 RC1 with WLPG) or intended to work this way but when an original is restored the original backup stays in it’s backup directory, wasting space. (C:Users<user>AppDataLocalMicrosoftWindows Photo GalleryOriginal Images). This also has the side effect of keeping the “Restore Original” menu item active even after an original is restored. The restore does work tho’. There is an option to delete these originals after a configurable length of time but the default is not to never delete them.
Both iPhoto and WLPG include online integration with the iPhoto integration being more mature. I haven’t used any of the features but iPhoto includes integration with MobileMe, Facebook and Flickr. WLPG just integrates with the online WLPG. For both apps the online features are optional.
Neither application strikes me as being head and shoulders above the others. Few people will have to chose between the two and they’ll probably be quit happy with whichever they use. And if one doesn’t meet your needs switching to the other probably won’t give you want you want either. For me WLPG gets the nod because there’s little time investment getting images into it and it’s easy to move the images to another app if I find something better. Neither one is so good as to keep me from looking at Picasa which I’ll be doing as soon as I get a chance.