Photo Organization, Part 2: Searching for Photos with Keywords

One of the many great uses for a PC is to have it quickly search through your photo archive and pull out the photos you are looking for. This can be done by adding keyword metadata to your images. It may take a little time to complete but it’s worth it. In the first part, I looked at adding multiple IPTC keywords quickly to selected photographs using four free photo management packages. Zoner Photo Studio came out on top for this. But that’s only half the story. Now we need to be able to search and pull out the photos we want.

To find the photos with (or without) your keywords, we can combine the keywords as you would in other types of search. This is called Boolean search and uses the operators AND, NOT, and OR to apply search conditions to keyword combinations (e.g. keyword1 AND keyword2; keyword1 OR keyword2; keyword1 NOT keyword2). It’s also essential that the software searches for photos in all subfolders as well, if instructed. So let’s look at the same four free photo management packages used in Part 1 and see how they shape up in IPTC keyword search.


Although you can add IPTC keywords in IrfanView, unfortunately it doesn’t have the ability to search directories or filter photos by keywords.


GeoSetter will search or filter photos by keywords and will include subfolders as well. Navigate to the folder that you want to filter. To filter by keyword/s, you must first click on the Search & Filter menu at the top, then Filter, then click Activated near the bottom of the slide-out menu. Next click Crtl-F and you will see the following window.

GeoSetter search for images

You can choose AND (all conditions have to be true) or OR (at least one condition has to be true) and then add your keyword filters. Check the box Include Subfolders (if you want to search subfolders). In the example above, all photos with keyword1 AND keyword2 will be listed. I tried searching for all photos of my wife AND myself in my Pictures directory (currently about 13700 images in 74 folders) on a 1TB hard drive. This took about 8 minutes. No doubt this would be much quicker on a solid state drive. GeoSetter displays a running log as the search progresses and you can press Esc at any point to stop the search if necessary.

Unfortunately, GeoSetter hasn’t been upgraded since January 2011 which is a shame although a beta version was released in June 2014.


In XnView, navigate to the folder that you want to filter. To search the folder and subfolders, click Crtl-F and you will see the following.

XnView search for images

Check Include subfolders and IPTC. Select Keywords from the IPTC fields to search. Add your keywords and choose the filter condition from the menu by clicking the double right arrows next to the keyword entry box. I chose With all of the words. The same search for keyword1 AND keyword2 that I tried in GeoSetter took about 3 minutes in XnView – and found the same files. XnView displays a running log as the search progresses and you can click the Stop button to stop the search if necessary. To view thumbnails of the images that met your keyword search criteria, choose Browse rather than View.

Zoner Photo Studio

In Zoner Photo Studio, make sure you have Manager selected in the top right menu bar. Navigate to the folder that you want to filter. Slightly confusingly, when you click Organize in the top left menu bar, you will see options to Filter and Search. Choosing Filter will only search the current folder so it seems best to choose Search if you want to search subfolders as well. The Crtl-F key combination doesn’t work here so click Search and you will see the following window.

Zoner search for images

Unlike XnView, all your previously used IPTC keywords are remembered in Zoner and can be selected on the left side. So select the ones you want to search for then select the search mode. I chose All (AND). The same search for keyword1 AND keyword2 that I tried in GeoSetter and XnView took just under 3 minutes in Zoner – and found the same files. Unlike Geosetter and XnView, there was no indication of search progress in Zoner, just a ‘working’ cursor. There was also no way to stop the search when under way. But on the plus side, previous keyword search results could be recalled in Zoner from a drop-down box directly above the thumbnail window.


Of the four free photo management packages tested, only three would search by IPTC keywords. All three could search through subfolders but GeoSetter was significantly slower than XnView and Zoner. GeoSetter doesn’t seem to be being actively updated these days. Only Zoner retained a list of keywords to select from. Zoner was the only one to allow AND, OR and NOT searches although these search conditions could not be combined in any of the software packages (e.g. keyword1 AND keyword2 NOT keyword3). XnView seems to have improved markedly in IPTC keyword management since my earlier review several years ago and it seems a pretty versatile free photo management package.

But overall, Zoner Photo Studio is still my choice of free software for photo management and IPTC keyword search on a Windows system. How about you? What’s your choice for photo management on a Windows system?

I hope these two parts have given you enough information to start working with IPTC keywords in Windows. In the next part in this series, I hope to look at IPTC keyword entry and search with Linux photo management packages.

2 Responses

  1. André Says:


  2. techandlife Says:

    I have used Picasa in the past. I just have some concerns with giving Google (and Facebook) too much of my information.
    Cloud services are really still in their infancy and don’t have a track record to speak of. If only I had a crystal ball and could look 15 or 20 years ahead to see what Google will do with all this data.
    So I like to used Google alternatives when I can, just in case.

Leave a Comment

Please note: Comment moderation is enabled and may delay your comment. There is no need to resubmit your comment. Please do not use keywords in the Name field. Comments must relate to the post topic. This website is here to help people, not for advertising purposes.

Please complete puzzle and then submit your comment *
Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.

` `