I'm a digiKam user and overall I've been happy with it, but I've always wanted tagging to be applied to the picture itself and not just the digiKam database. So when I saw that digiKam 0.9 was recently released I hurried over to check out the new features. Happily, the feature I had been craving is now supported and I can rest easy that the time I spend tagging pictures won't just be useful to me, but will also help my family as well.
Why is this capability so important? It's all about program tie in. Previously I could tag pictures and add comments, but that information was only available to digiKam on my local system. When I copied the new pictures to my wife's computer (she doesn't use digiKam), none of the details I had painstakingly added remained. Now I no longer have to worry about keeping my digiKam database intact with my precious data.
When installing digiKam, you'll want to make sure that you have the digikamimageplugins and kipi-plugins as well. They provide a lot of added functionality that you may find useful at some point. I tested with digiKam version 0.9.0-beta3 from Debian Etch. Now back to the new tagging capabilities.
To enable the saving of tags to each individual picture, select Configure digiKam from the Settings menu and click on the Metadata tab. I chose the "Save image tags as Keywords tag" and "Save image rating as Urgency tag" options. I also chose to enable the "Save image comments as embedded text" option. Once you've done this hit OK to save your settings.
The first thing I did next was check the metadata for one of my tagged pictures to see if everything was updated. Unfortunately, I did not notice any changes. After a little fiddling I discovered that digiKam does not add tags to the images that had been set before configuring it properly, but any new changes I made did get written to the individual files.
It doesn't appear as if a batch processing mode exists to automatically update the existing tags, however, I discovered a simple workaround that will do it for you.
Step 1: Create a new tag called "temp". You can do this be selecting Comments/Tags from the right sidebar, then right-clicking in the My Tags section. An image must be selected for the menu to appear.
Step 2: Select Tag Filters from the right sidebar and check all of the tags except "temp". This will only select pictures that already have a tag.
Step 3: Select all images. Right-click on one of them and pick "temp" from the Assign Tag menu. This step will add all assigned tags each file's IPTC data. With a large number of photos it could take a while for everything to complete.
Step 4: Cleanup. Repeat the previous step by selecting all images, but this time pick "temp" from the Remove Tag menu. Now you can delete the "temp" tag and you are done.
While adding tags to each file is exciting, it's not the only new feature in 0.9. All of the new sidebars contain a lot of useful information. The new Comments/Tags sidebar is a big productivity improvement when adding many tags to a picture. Instead of having to right click on a picture, go to the Assign Tag menu, pick a tag from it, and repeat for each additional tag; you can select a picture and click the appropriate tags on the sidebar. The glaring hole in this process is that it won't tag multiple selected images at the same time. Only the first will actually get updated. The old method of right-clicking on a picture and adding a tag does allow multiple photos to be tagged simultaneous. Hopefully the developers will address this omission soon.
Other noteworthy additions are support for GPS locations and uploading to Flickr. When GPS data is saved in an image, a world map will be shown in the metadata section marking the location. The location can be zoomed in on using a web browser.
It's exciting to see these great new features being added, and the groundwork looks to have been laid for further improvements to come.