iPhoto and ACDSee

June 5, 2007 at 9:04 pm (Computers)

A number of years ago, I was introduced to ACDSee on the archaeological dig, and have been enamored ever since. ACDSee is a photo-editing and archiving program for Windows, and it is a professional-grade tool; one of its main advantages is that lets you do batch edits to your photos, saving you time if you have to make the same change to a lot of images. When we’d be renaming photos or something like that on the excavation, that ability came in handy.

Unfortunately, it is a Windows-only program, and anyway, when I first got the Mac, the PC had just died, anyway, so I copied my “My Pictures” folder from the old hard drive over to the laptop and started using iMovie, the free Apple photo management software. This created a number of problems for me, however, since iPhoto works differently than ACDSee does.

The primary problem is that ACDSee doesn’t impose any sort of standard folder structure on your images; it lets you browse through the folders and see thumbnails of the images as you go. iPhoto, however, has to import all of your images into one central folder, that it calls your iPhoto library, and then further divides them up by the year that they were created, so that you can view all of your images at one time, in one giant photo album. Which is fine, except that many of my photos were originally physical images that I scanned in a number of years after they were created, and therefore the “time of creation” data associated with them is completely wrong and my photos were out of order.

I managed to ignore this for a while, until I got the PC back online and was worrying about syncing the computers again last weekend. After a bit of thought, it seemed that the best solution to the problem would be to have iPhoto be my “primary” photo software, since it requires its special photo structure, and then to back that library up to the PC and the external hard drives and use ACDSee to access it on those machines, since ACDSee can browse through any folder structure. However, before I moved everything over to the Mac AGAIN, first I wanted to solve that pesky problem of the creation dates, and since ACDSee is the more powerful program of the two for such batch processing, I decided to do organize everything on the PC first, then transfer it to the Mac, and from then on use the Mac as the primary software.

So, I experimented with changing the “Time created” data on the scanned photos, and then taking them over to the Mac and importing them into iMovie, but that didn’t change the fact that they were imported in the wrong year. So, I did a bit of digging, and discovered that the generic “Time created” in ACDSee was separate from the image’s EXIF data. Exif data, I’ve since learned, is basically metadata associated with an image file, but that is actually stored in the image file itself, rather than in the organizing software. So, I updated the Exif data for time created on a few of the photos, and tried dragging them onto the Mac, using the Mac’s network interface. No luck: All of a sudden, the Mac told me that I didn’t have permission to copy those files, and under no circumstances would let me copy them onto its hard drive!

Well, you can imagine that I was miffed. (a) I wanted to sync everything up, and this was slowing me down, and (b) I was afraid that now I’d never be able to copy these photos onto the Mac, meaning that they were lost to me if I wanted to use iPhoto as my primary piece of photo software. So, I googled various terms associated with my problem, and finally came up with this:

I believe the problem roots in the differing file systems being used.

1. Your Nikon uses FAT or FAT32 2. Your Mac is using HFS+

File creation date is a function of the file system, not of the image. Your camera may or may not create a proper “File Creation” timestamp, or it may be getting lost.

Now, technically, this was answering a different question, but it at least seemed like it could relate to my problem, as well. So, now my problem was just figuring out how to “translate” the image into the appropriate filesystem format. It finally occurred to me to try “pushing” the files from the PC to the Mac, rather than “pulling” them from the Mac, and it worked: The Windows networking protocol, whatever it is, didn’t run into the same problem as the Mac protocol, and the images transferred over onto the Mac hard drive and, when imported into iMovie, had the correct creation date!

Even better, however: Whatever happened to the files when they were copied from the PC to the Mac, solved the problem that the Mac had copying them, as well. That is, once I got them onto the Mac, I was then able to copy them back to the PC using the Mac’s network interface, and copy them again from the PC back to the Mac. This means that I should be able to use Chronosync to keep the iPhoto folder synced up with the PC, as well.

So, I count that as a well-earned (and hard-earned!) victory, and if you should have any similar troubles with your own cross-platform computing, I suggest you try what I did.

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