Replacing Shotwell as photo manager and editor

Hi all

I’d like to discuss switching the default photo manager and editor on Ubuntu. Gnome Photos is the obvious candidate, so that is what this post focuses on.

gThumb also seems like a viable alternative. I can make a similar comparison with gThumb if there is interest.

Advantages of Gnome Photos

To cite 2016 Michael Catanzaro:

I think we’ve reached the point where Photos is a much better app than Shotwell for the vast majority of users.

Gnome Photos has only improved since then. The main advantages I see are:

  • A big stability improvement.
  • Usability improvements.
  • It has more developer focus.
  • It fits in better with the GNOME style.

The stability improvements are the main issue why I personally want to switch. I only use Shotwell occasionally, but I’ve had it crash, stutter, hang, or do other weird stuff almost any time I use it. This doesn’t seem to be an isolated issue, judging from other sources online, such as the discussion to switch to Photos in Fedora.

Disadvantages of Gnome Photos

The stability comes at a cost: features. See below for a thorough comparison. A few features that stand out to me:

  • There is no easy way to go through an unorganized big photo library. If you don’t have any collections or favorites, your library is just a long list of pictures ordered by date. Shotwell has multiple ways to go through unorganized pictures: based on date; based on location in the file system,…
  • You can’t use Gnome Photos as an image viewer; there is no “open this file with Gnome Photos” feature. If you want to view/edit an image, you need to open Photos, and go to the image. This is on the roadmap for 3.30, however.
  • You can’t rotate images

According to the Ubuntu default apps wiki page, Gnome Photos was blocked from inclusion in 17.10 because of its dependency on tracker. The desktop team is currently gathering feedback about installing Tracker by default, and the feedback is generally pretty good, so this might not be an issue anymore.

Feature comparison

  • :ballot_box_with_check: Present
  • :building_construction: Planned for 3.28
  • :red_car: on the roadmap
  • :warning: important missing feature

Photo editing capabilities

Shotwell Photos
Colours and Enhancements
Exposure :ballot_box_with_check: :ballot_box_with_check:
Contrast :ballot_box_with_check: :ballot_box_with_check:
Saturation :ballot_box_with_check: :ballot_box_with_check:
Tint :ballot_box_with_check:
Temperature :ballot_box_with_check:
Shadows :ballot_box_with_check: :ballot_box_with_check:
Highlights :ballot_box_with_check: :ballot_box_with_check:
Blacks :ballot_box_with_check:
Sharpen :ballot_box_with_check:
Denoise :ballot_box_with_check:
Filters :ballot_box_with_check:
auto-enhance :ballot_box_with_check:
preset filters :ballot_box_with_check:
Image dimensions
Cropping :ballot_box_with_check: :ballot_box_with_check:
Rotation and flip :ballot_box_with_check: :warning:
Straighten :ballot_box_with_check:
Revert to original :ballot_box_with_check: :ballot_box_with_check:

Photo management

Shotwell Photos
Albums :ballot_box_with_check: :ballot_box_with_check:
Favorites / Flags :ballot_box_with_check: :ballot_box_with_check:
Tags :ballot_box_with_check:
Ratings :ballot_box_with_check:
Text-based Search :ballot_box_with_check: :ballot_box_with_check:
Events: an overview based on date :ballot_box_with_check: :warning:
File system hierarchy :ballot_box_with_check:
Viewing Metadata :ballot_box_with_check: :ballot_box_with_check:
Edit Title :ballot_box_with_check: :ballot_box_with_check:
Edit Comment :ballot_box_with_check:

Online integration

Shotwell Photos
Gnome Online Accounts :ballot_box_with_check:
Facebook :ballot_box_with_check: :building_construction:
Flickr :ballot_box_with_check: :ballot_box_with_check:
Picasa :ballot_box_with_check: :ballot_box_with_check:
Piwigo :ballot_box_with_check:
DNLA media servers? :ballot_box_with_check:

Import and export

Shotwell Photos
Import from
Removable Media & connected devices :ballot_box_with_check: :building_construction:
f-spot :ballot_box_with_check:
Export :ballot_box_with_check: :ballot_box_with_check:


Shotwell Photos
Set as background :ballot_box_with_check: :ballot_box_with_check:
Background slideshow :ballot_box_with_check:
System notifications :ballot_box_with_check:
Act as image viewer :ballot_box_with_check: :red_car: :warning:

Please let me know if something is incorrect.

Sources and more info


I use Gnome-Photos, only for my online albums as it works closely with Online Accounts. If other people use it that way, they’re probably not pleased, like me.
Unfortunately, Gnome-Photos is extremely slow in loading online content, and it has to be reloaded each time it’s invoked.

For the few photos I keep locally, Shotwell is what I use. It has far more features, and a very important one that I can’t do without - Tagging.

Whatever is decided, I’ll be happy as long as Shotwell is available for download, and that Gnome-Photos improves its loading times for remote photo-albums.

So as to what’s the default, no worries personally, as long as I can download whatever I need from the repos.


I do not use photo management software of this type very often (as the size and volume of images I manage overloads most any program of this type), but comparing the features and performance of Gnome Photos and Shotwell, to me the Gnome app is much nicer. So much nicer I’ll try using it to browse my overloaded image workstation and report back on performance (versus Shotwell) if that kind of feedback is valuable.

EDIT 18-02-01: Both programs are not very fast to index all the images I have, and I can make both blow up trying to open some. No specific or particular advantage for either performance-wise from what I can tell.

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Kindly use something that works well with smartphones and tablets. Most photos these days comes from handheld devices.

Also, unorganized photo collection is a burden to the user than a boon.

Personally, I like something that will auto import from devices into a particular folder, organize them based on date (at the least ) and allow basic corrections like rotate, fill light etc

If possible, remember device will be a great option.


I think we should be shipping with all the gnome developed apps

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I would totally love the switch to gnome fotos. They really improved it with the latest developement.
And the design is way more up to date than shotwell’s.

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Personally I like Shotwell, its straightforward-works as expected-doesn’t reinvent itself every other cycle. Also, since Ubuntu has done its own thing in the past, I do not see anything wrong with not “shipping the entire collection of Gnome programs”. Sorry, I’ve been around too long to call software/programs—apps.


Gnome photos have chronic process problems.
When you view large images freezes or restarts shell. usually, zooming in to svg files have Too much lag.

Gentle reminder:

@merlijn-sebrechts has presented a feature comparison as a starting point for discussion.

Features are not the only point of comparison: Is anybody interested in comparing the upstream roadmaps and directions? Comparing the severity and types of bug reports? Packages pulled in? Compatibility with accessibility tools? Documentation? Ease of migrating? Willingness of each upstream to handle the flood of feedback and support requests that go with becoming a Ubuntu desktop default?

While we can say things like “Application Foo is buggy” or “Application Foo has problems” or “Application Foo has poor performance”, such opinions are rather more persuasive if an appropriate bug report or two is cited.

All developers want their software be reasonably useful, fast, and bug-free. And (I believe) none of the projects mentioned consider themselves code-mature and feature-complete. Let’s not scorn anybody’s work here.


For GPhotos, not only the viewer is missing but the big problem is that it doesn’t have something like “import only from specific folder”. It’s not exactly same with viewer. And I can’t see that on road-map. That means it can’t be compiled without tracker. Ubuntu doesn’t use tracker by default. See this thread for tracker.

Although GPhoto is fine for a few snapshots I think the real benchmark are the big online platform.
I can convince people of the advantages of Shotwell over these platforms but not GPhoto.

For more feedback take a look at the comments in the 'Ubuntu Software" application. Generally very negative. Just does not work for many people!


I guess you mean
Shotwell Photo Viewer v0.18.0
Shotwell Photo Manager v0.18.0

What I noticed right away as a photo expert;
Shotwell Photo Viewer v0.18.0 (has icon in L side bar)
-Has File Date Change in Photo, and Adjust
-Has Crop but then viewing any other photo is impossible afterwards.
-CANNOT set view next pic by date (always by name).
-CANNOT view any other pics if crop and save, must go to file manager to see another one.
-CANNOT change JPG save quality less than 90% and screenshots come out 1.3 MB (too little compression)
-DANGER - program closes if hit ESC

Shotwell Photo Manager v0.18.0 (icon only visible in L side bar after Image Viewer started and chose external editor)
-has lots of “publish to internet” buttons but dont warn if photo “huge”.
-CANNOT select edit a photo with any button when in manager
-MUST double click a photo to start Shotwell Photo Viewer v0.18.0
-DANGER builds thumbnails permanently on PC in 2 sizes in 2 folders.
wastes many megabytes of space.

Hope this helps, steve

@merlijn-sebrechts I really appreciate you taking the time to start this discussion and prepare the data for it.

We discussed this briefly at last week’s Desktop Team meeting. Unfortunately for your proposal, the Ubuntu Desktop team isn’t very interested in switching the default photos app for Ubuntu 18.04 LTS, but it is something we are interested in considering for 18.10.

The tracker discussion didn’t reach a firm decision to include it in 18.04 and that is definitely a blocker for switching to GNOME Photos.


What abouyt Gthumb as a replacement of Shotwell, It’s easy to use, has alsoo a lot of features and an user friendly interface ( it’s easy to manipulate and organize a picture.image collection (like it used to be in Picasa, which was, back in days, really the best for me).

Ok, thanks. I’ll revive this topic for 18.10.


By the way, Fedora developers decided today to switch their default photo app from Shotwell to GNOME Photos for their next release.


Do you have a link to the discussion?


Link (there’s a link on that page to full logs)


Am I mistaken in the belief that most users now days keep their photos in the cloud? If so, then the remote features of Gnome-Photos will have to be vastly improved or people won’t use it. It’s very slow pulling down images from my Google-Photos. Surely I’m not the only one doing this?


Shotwell doesn’t show pictures from Google Photos at all.

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