Top Digital Photo Software for Family Photos

Top picks for organizing, fixing, and sharing your personal and family photos

Digital photo software is designed for people who want to organize and share personal and family photos, but don't want to spend a lot of time editing them. In addition to helping you browse and sort through your image collection, they also allow you to catalog your media with keywords, descriptions, and categories. These tools usually do not offer pixel-level editing capabilities, but they do provide easy, one-click corrections plus printing and photo sharing features.

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Picasa (Windows, Mac and Linux)

Picasa. © S. Chastain

Picasa is a flashy and functional digital photo organizer and editor which has improved considerably since its first release. Picasa is excellent for beginners and casual digital shooters who want to find all their pictures, sort them into albums, do quick edits, and share with friends and family. I especially like the Picasa Web Albums integration which gives you 1024 MB of free space to post your photos online. Best of all, Picasa is free!

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Windows Live Photo Gallery (Windows)

Windows Live Photo Gallery
Windows Live Photo Gallery.

Windows Live Photo Gallery is a free download as part of the Windows Live Essentials suite. It helps you organize and edit your photos and videos from digital cameras, camcorders, CDs, DVDs, and Windows Live Spaces. You can browse the pictures on your computer by folder or by date, and you can add keyword tags, ratings, and captions for even more organization. Clicking the "Fix" button gives you easy-to-use tools for adjusting exposure, color, detail (sharpness), and for cropping and removing red eye. All edits are saved automatically but can be reverted at a later time. There is also an automatic panorama stitching tool. (Note: Windows Live Photo Gallery is a different program, offering more features than the Windows Photo Gallery program that was included with Windows Vista.)

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Adobe Photoshop Elements (Windows and Mac)

Adobe Photoshop Elements
Adobe Photoshop Elements. © Adobe

Photoshop Elements includes an outstanding photo organizer along with a full featured photo editor for the best of both worlds. The user interface is friendly to beginners, but not "dumbed-down" to the point that it frustrates experienced users. Elements utilizes a powerful, keyword-based system of tagging photos that allows you to find specific photos very quickly. In addition, you can create albums, perform quick fixes, and share your photos in a variety of photo layouts.

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Apple iPhoto (Macintosh)

Apple's photo cataloging solution was developed exclusively for Mac OS X. It comes pre-installed on Macintosh systems or as part of the Apple iLife suite. With iPhoto, you can organize, edit, and share your photos, create slide shows, order prints, make photo books, upload online albums, and create QuickTime movies.

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ACDSee Photo Manager (Windows)

ACDSee Photo Manager packs a lot of punch for the price. It's rare to find a photo manager with this many features and options for browsing and organizing files. In addition, it has integrated image editing tools for some of the most common tasks such as cropping, adjusting overall image tone, removing red-eye, adding text, and so on. And after organizing and editing your images you can share them in a number of ways including slideshows (EXE, screensaver, Flash, HTML, or PDF formats), Web galleries, printed layouts, or by burning copies onto CD or DVD.

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Zoner Photo Studio Free (Windows)

Zoner Photo Studio Free is a multi-faceted free photo editing and management tool. It offers users three working environments, namely the Manager, Viewer and Editor windows. The purpose of each aspect of Zoner Photo Studio Free is quite self explanatory and breaking down the interface into this tabbed environment is quite effective in use.
Zoner Photo Studio Site

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FastStone Image Viewer (Windows)

FastStone Image Viewer
FastStone Image Viewer. © Sue Chastain

FastStone Image Viewer is a free image browser, converter, and editor which is fast and very stable. It has a nice array of features for image viewing, management, comparison, red-eye removal, emailing, resizing, cropping and color adjustments. FastStone offers the most common photo editing features you would need, along with some unique features for a free image viewer such as a creative frame mask tool, access to EXIF information, drawing tools, and even raw camera file support.

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Shoebox (Macintosh)

Shoebox lets your organize your photo collection by content and quickly find the photos you want by creating categories which you assign to your photos. Shoebox allows you to view metadata information embedded in your photos and you can search based on metadata and categories. It also includes features for archiving your photos to CD or DVD and backing up your photo collection. It doesn't offer photo editing or allow you to share your photos, but it looks like a worthwhile tool for organizing photos if iPhoto isn't doing it for you. It also imports iPhoto albums, keywords, and ratings.

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Serif AlbumPlus (Windows)

With AlbumPlus X2, you can import and organize your photos and media files with tags and ratings. You can correct photos with a one-click auto-fix, or perform common corrections such as rotating, cropping, sharpening, removing red-eye, and adjusting tone and color. You can share your photos in printable projects like greeting cards and calendars, or electronically in slide shows, by email, and on CD. The software also supports full or incremental backups to CD and DVD.

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PicaJet (Windows)

PicaJet Free Edition is a powerful organizer for your digital photos. Its printing and sharing options are quite limited, but for organizing, browsing, and light editing of your digital photos it is very impressive. The FX version adds more features for managing, searching, editing, sharing, and printing your photos. PicaJet Free Edition gives you a nice way to preview and sample some of the features of the PicaJet FX upgrade, but if you stick with the free version, you'll probably become annoyed with the embedded teasers urging you to upgrade.

Suggest a Photo Organizer

If you have a favorite digital photo organizer that I neglected to include here, add a comment to let me know. Please only suggest digital photo software and not pixel-level image editors.

Last Updated: Nov. 2011