Apr 29

Zoner IPTC

In an earlier post, I looked at free software for tagging photos with keywords. This is useful so as to be able to search for them quickly later on. The point I made in that post was to make sure to use IPTC keywords rather than proprietary systems so that they would be portable with the image file if you ever moved to a new photo management system. I particularly liked Zoner Photo Studio at the time but is this the best option available now?

If you’ve got folders and folders of photos, you want to be able to add keywords as quickly as possible to speed up the tagging process. This means being able to select multiple photos and add multiple keywords to them at once, preferably from a pick list.

The free photo management packages I looked at were Zoner Photo Studio, XnView, GeoSetter and IrfanView.

Adding multiple selected tags to multiple selected images

I’ll have a look at the four photo organization packages I’ve mentioned, list some tips for using each and identify their strengths and weaknesses with tagging. I’ll also try to suggest a website for further information with tagging. The information presented doesn’t make for easy reading but is meant to help out if you are using any of the four packages to add keywords. For a summary of my findings, just jump straight to the end of this post.

If you’ve found ways round any of the problems or shortcomings I’ve encountered with each utility, let me know and I’ll update the post.


To tag photos with keywords, it’s best if you can open a folder of thumbnails, select the files you want to tag, then add the keywords. With IrfanView, you can open a folder of thumbnails from Windows Explorer by right clicking the folder and selecting Browse with IrfanView. Otherwise, open one photo in IrfanView, then click the keyboard shortcut T to open a folder of thumbnails. To add a set of keywords to a group of photos, select a discontinuous group of photos with Ctrl-Left Click or a continuous group of photos with Shift-Left Click. Then Ctrl-I brings up the IPTC Information box. Before you add your keywords, go to the Options tab and check that Edit the first file only; apply text to all files has been checked. If not check it.

Irfanview IPTC

Select the Keywords/Categories tab and add your keyword/s for this selection of photos and click Write. That’s all there is to it. If you choose another selection of photos and then go to tag them, you won’t find a pick list of keywords from your previous entries so that’s a real disadvantage.

Just in passing, I also noticed that when the folder of photo thumbnails was displayed in Windows Explorer before going into IrfanView, you can hover over a thumbnail and see a list of any keywords already assigned to that photo under Tags.


To add keyword/s, select the files. Then Ctrl-E brings up the Edit Data box. Add your keywords or select them from the drop-down pick list (if you’ve used them before), then click Enter to add it; Then click Set Current Values for All Selected Images. On the next screen Keywords, Changed Items Only should be checked; click OK. Note that all selected photos on the left will now be highlighted in bold. In the Thumbnail browser, your changed photo(s) will now be highlighted in purple. As you add keywords, they are automatically saved to a drop-down pick list for future use.
Finally when you have added all your keywords, you’ll see that all changed images are shown in red. To save the keywords in the changed files, click on the Images menu and click Save Changes (Ctrl-S) or Save Changes of Selected Images (Ctrl-Shift-S). Or use the hotkey combination.

One niggle I found was that keywords weren’t listed alphabetically in the drop-down keyword pick list. For a fuller explanation of the process to add keywords in GeoSetter, have a look here.


XnView has improved its IPTC keyword tagging since I last reviewed it. There’s a good video of the keyword tagging process on YouTube, so I’ll just go over the highlights.

As with IrfanView, it’s Ctrl-I to bring up Image information once you have selected your images.
There’s no drop-down pick list of previously used keywords, but you can save a text file of keywords previously and call that up by clicking Open text file.


I did find I had to call it up each time I wanted to add new keywords to photo selections. When you’ve added your keywords, chose Writing options; Add new values to current value; Then click Write all selected. It doesn’t do this automatically straight away. Once you click Close, it then writes the keywords to the selected files.

In XnView, when you select a photo with IPTC keywords, the keywords can be viewed in a window below the thumbnails by clicking Ctrl-Shift-P and then clicking the tab IPTC.  A nice touch.

Zoner Photo Studio

Although XnView has certainly improved over the last couple of years, I did find Zoner to be the best photo management package overall. There’s a nice summary for adding keywords in Zoner here so I won’t go into much detail just to point out the key features.

Zoner scores in providing a nice alphabetically sorted pick list of keywords on the right side of the thumbnails.

Zoner IPTC


With Zoner, it’s Shift-Enter to bring up the Image information box to add new keywords. Or you can also just drag them from the keyword window onto you photos. You can also categorize your keywords under, for example, People, Events, Places. I did find it difficult to add new categories at first so here’s how to do that.

In the keyword window to the right of the thumbnails, click on the empty space below the categories, for example, below Topics in the image above, and select New Keywords… This will open the Keywords box.

Zoner add keyword category

Fill in your new category Title, in this case Location, and then be sure to check This keyword also serves as a category. After clicking OK, your new category will be added and you can then add keywords in it.

Once you have all your keywords defined, you can select your photos, select the multiple keywords you want to add to that set of photos, then drag the keywords onto one of the selected photos. The tags will be added to each and you will also note a small label symbol near the top left corner of the thumbnails. Hover over any of these label symbols and you’ll see the keywords assigned to that photo. And if you come back later to continue tagging, your sorted keyword pick list is still there.


So that’s a quick look at adding IPTC keywords in these four photo management packages. For me, Zoner still stands out head and shoulders above the rest. The free version is fine for adding keywords, the interface is very nice and I believe it’s probably the quickest option to add keywords if you have a large archive of photos.

In the next part of this series, I’ll look at searching through your photo archive for photos with the keywords you’ve selected.

How do you add keywords to your photos?

Sep 7


I’m sure many of you use photo management packages to browse through thumbnails of your photos downloaded from your camera to your PC. Popular photo management packages are Picasa, Windows Live Photo Gallery and of course the viewers in paid packages like Adobe Photoshop Elements. But how many of you actually tag your photos with keywords to help searching through your photo folders for the photos you want? I tried keyword tagging for a short while some years ago but gave it up once I discovered that in some management packages the tags you’ve painstakingly added to your photos don’t transfer to a different software package, i.e. they are held in a proprietary database in the software package and not within the photo itself. So I gave up then and just stuck with FastStone Image Viewer, a nice photo viewer and editor but without the facility to tag photos with keywords.

Some five or six years on, and a little wiser hopefully, I thought I’d revisit the subject of photo tagging and see how the current crop of photo management packages deal with it. I’ve specifically stuck with free apps or software that have free versions with more limited features to see if I could find what I wanted for free. That’s not to say of course that in future some of these apps will move to a paid or freemium model.

So I’ve gone back through my Delicious bookmarks over the last couple of years and looked at all the apps I’ve tagged ‘photo-tagging’. I haven’t looked at online photo management apps or tagging a la Facebook, just apps to manage your photo collection on your desktop. I’ve used the following four criteria to select apps which will tag photos the way I want.

1. Keywords in file rather than proprietary database

Tagging in photo management packages can basically be divided into two types. Apps that store the keywords within the photo file itself, as say IPTC tags, and apps that store the tags in a separate proprietary database. Clearly in the first type, the keywords move with the files and can be accessed in different management packages that use this format for storing keywords. In the second type, if you move to a different photo management app in the future, all your keywords will probably be left behind in the old software database. If you’re not sure if your photo management package is saving tags as IPTC keywords, install Irfanview and open your photo in it, click the Image Information button at the top, then click the IPTC info button at the bottom left corner. Then click the Keywords tab and see what’s there – your IPTC keywords should show here.

Because we’re all fickle and like to move around and try different packages and because some apps cease development or are likely to change to a freemium model, I believe it’s important to choose a package where the keyword tags are held in a standard format within the photo, so will move with the photo file and can be accessed in other photo organizers.

2. Folder versus album

If you’ve messed around with different photo organizers, you’ll know that there are basically two ways to browse the photos on your disk. Folder based organizers which just access and display the photo folders on your hard drive, and album based organizers which import your photos into a catalogue or album, possibly from a number of folders on your hard drive. I personally prefer the folder based organizer as that’s the way my folders are organized on my PC and I’ve become familiar with that over the years. As I’ve mentioned, the album based approach has the disadvantage of locking up information in a proprietary format. If you change software for whatever reason, you’re probably going to have to recreate your albums.

3. Group tag photos

Being able to select a group of photos and assign a keyword tag or tags to them all at once is obviously a massive timesaver compared with tagging them individually.

4. Search for and display only photos with specific tag(s)

I want to be able to pull out and display only those photos which have specific keyword tag(s); seems like a reasonable request. Incidentally, one other advantage I’ve discovered with IPTC style keyword tags is that Windows search (click Start button and enter search term in box) will pull up photos with your tag. Very useful, particularly when the photo file name is some cryptic camera derived label.

The winners

Of the packages I looked at, only two fulfilled all four criteria I’ve just listed: Zoner Photo Studio, and Windows Live Photo Gallery, while Picasa came close.

Zoner Photo Management

Zoner Photo Studio: My personal favourite. The user interface looks nice, and has all the tagging features I want: folder display, IPTC keywords, group tagging, and searching for tag combinations. In addition, a query I had was quickly answered on their forums.

Windows Live Photo Gallery: Couldn’t fault this also, just preferred the display in Zoner Photo Studio. Windows Photo Gallery has a plainer display, not so much info is displayed with each thumbnail. Keywords are called Descriptive Tags, and you can also draw boxes round faces and assign what are called People Tags to the faces in each photo. But no face recognition… as yet.

Picasa: Many people’s choice as a photo organizer but I personally don’t like the way it organizes photos into its own directory system. Assigning keywords was straightforward and there were no problems group tagging photos but I couldn’t work out how to select and display a combination of two keyword tags. It’ll probably do it, but I didn’t find it intuitive like the two I’ve just mentioned. On the plus side, it does have automatic facial recognition so you can assign People tags here too.

I must mention Irfanview in passing, again a popular free editing choice. It’s possible to enter keyword data in Irfanview (as I’ve mentioned above) which will be used in the above three packages. But of course Irfanview doesn’t permit thumbnail viewing of a complete photo directory or selecting photos by keyword. Updated (21-1-11): Irfanview does allow thumbnail viewing and batch adding of IPTC data. See comments below.

The rest

I’ll list the apps I looked at which for one reason or another, didn’t meet my criteria, generally because they stored keyword tags in a proprietary fashion if at all or had limited features in the free versions. I’ll just list the app names without links: Pictomio, Snapact Photo Manager, My Photo Index, Shotwell, Studioline Photo Basic 3, Album Burger, Inzomia Viewer 3, JetPhoto Studio 4.8, Pica Jet, iTag, Stoik Imagic 5, PhotoMeister, XnView and Fotobounce. Of these, iTag came closest but would only save up to 3 tags in a photo in the free version. I only had a quick look at all these so if you think they might be useful for keyword tagging drop a comment below.


So for me, Zoner Photo Studio stands out for tagging and photo management and my thanks to Raju at Technically Personal for blogging about it and drawing it to my attention although I’ve found that the Free edition is superior to the Xpress edition, particularly for keyword tagging. I’ve switched to Zoner from Faststone Image Viewer and am happily tagging all my photos there.

If I’ve misrepresented any photo management app or missed any and you think they might be suitable for photo tagging, please let me know in the comments. Do you tag your photos? How?

Update (27-10-10): Thanks to Steve in the comments who corrected me on two points. Picasa will do a tree view of folders and Irfanview does allow thumbnail viewing of directories. Nice to know.

Update (21-1-11): And Henk adds that IrfanView can also (batch) add IPTC tags to images selected in the thumbnail viewer. Check his comment below.

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