ThumbsPlus versus Lightroom

Notes by Walter vom Saal.

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Both of these programs are extremely powerful programs for organizing photos. I used ThumbsPlus for many years and was very happy with it. Beginning in 2009 I became increasingly unhappy with various problems (see the ThumbsPlus page), and at the same time Lightroom was entering its third release version, and I decided to shift to Lightroom even though it would require an enormous amount of work to move all the data (keywords, notes and annotations, galleries) from ThumbsPlus to Lightroom.

Features of both programs

Keywords.  Keywords can be assigned to photos in both Thumbs and Lightroom.

Annotations or Captions.  Annotations in Thumbs are Captions in Lightroom.  These are text files that can be associated with a photo in the database.   They can contain detailed information, comments, etc.  They also can be used for comments to display with the photo when uploading to web albums or showing the photo in a slide show.

Galleries or Collections.  Galleries in Thumbs are the equivalent of Collections in Lightroom.  Both are collections of photos that may be drawn from anywhere in the catalog.  In each case they are not actual files of photos, but rather just selections and re-orderings of existing photos that may be named and organized for easy access.  They can be used to create slide shows, web albums, export photos to a CD or other location, and so on.  Collections also can be used to keep records of photos you have printed, sent to others, presented in shows, uploaded to web albums, used to make greeting cards, or collected together for any other purpose.  There are some minor differences between Thumbs Galleries and Lightroom Collections that are described below.

Some things ThumbsPlus can do that Lightroom cannot

It is not my intent here to go through all of the features of either program. I do want to describe a few of the powerful features of ThumbsPlus that Lightroom does not yet have. I hope that future releases of Lightroom will add some of these features.

Off line media. ThumbsPlus makes it easy to keep records of all your off-line disks. These records are kept for all media, including external hard drives, CDs or DVDs, thumb drives, or on any other the main database. You can see thumbnails or all photos on all your off-line media, including keywords, annotations, galleries. You can use the database to search for and find photos no matter where they are stored.

File types. ThumbsPlus can show thumbnails of a huge number of file types, and even for those where it cannot display a visual thumbnail, it can keep keywords and annotations. Here are some situations where I find that extremely useful:

If I want to keep a text file or a word file or an audio file to give additional information on a particular photo, a particular gallery, a particular set of photos, or a folder of photos, it is easy to add such a file, keep it with the photos, and find it in the database.

I had a camera that allowed me to record audio notes along with the photo. It was extremely useful, especially taking photos in another country with someone wh was explaining to me what different flowers, shells, and other things were. ThumbsPlus not only keeps the audio files, and allows annotations and keywords on the files, but it can be set to play the audio note along with the photo in a slide show.

See the full file folder structure. ThumbsPlus shows the entire folder structure on your computer (if you want to see it). I found this extremely valuable. Here are some examples:

Sometimes I might have an empty folder, such as a temporary folder that sometimes contains photos and other times does not. I want to be able to see that photo even if it has no photos in it.

Sometime I have companion folders mingled in with my photos that have documents or text files with related information. I want to be able to see those folders to know they are there.

Sometimes I make empty folders with instructions or cross references. For example, I might add a folder named "check copyright before adding photos here" or some such reminder to myself. Or I might add a folder named "ALSO SEE [name of some other folder that has related photos]." Again I found that extremely helpful. I want to be able to see those folders in Lightroom.

There are ways to see empty folders in Lightroom. One way is to create the folders within Lightroom itself. Or, if the folders already exist, you can put a photo inside each folder and import the folder into Lightroom. However, these are cumbersome and prone to error. MUCH BETTER would be if Lightroom would offer you the option of seeing your full folder structure. I hope it will do so in a future version.


See also:

Notes on ThumbsPlus

Notes on Lightroom

Procedures for migrating from ThumbsPlus to Lightroom

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[Updated 3/24/2012]