F-Spot is styled after image-cataloging programs you might have used under Windows or Macintosh, such as iPhoto or Picasa. Once you run F-Spot (Applications > Graphics > F-Spot Photo Manager), or after you click the Open F-Spot Photo Manager button that appears along the top of a Nautilus file browser window when you insert a memory card or attach your digital camera, the F-Spot Import window will appear. (Depending on your configuration, the Import window may appear within a file browser.)
The Import window contains a preview of the pictures stored in your camera, the option to tag the pictures, and the target directory where the photos will be copied. By default, all of the pictures are selected. You can deselect and select photos using the standard selection techniques (Ctrl-click or Shift-click). Embedded tags are very useful in filtering and searching for pictures, as discussed in the "Tagging Images" section a little later in the chapter. The default target directory where the photos will be copied is Photos in your home directory, but you can change it to any directory you prefer.
To import the pictures from your camera to your hard disk, just click the Import button. F-Spot will import your photos in the target location, in directories named after the year, month, and day the photos were originally taken.
Importing pictures from your previous Windows setup is easy. Click File > Import. In the Import window, click the Import Source drop-down list, and then click Select Folder. Using the file browser, navigate to the Windows directory containing your images, and then click OK. (Don't double-click the directory, because this will cause F-Spot to open the directory in the file browser.) After you've selected the folder, F-Spot will present thumbnail previews of the images, and this might take some time. Keep your eye on the orange status bar. Once this reads "Done Loading," you can click the Import button to import all the images, or Ctrl-click to select photos in the left side of the window, and then click the Import button. As with photos from a camera, by default, F-Spot copies the images into a directory it creates within your /home directory, called Photos. Therefore, once you've imported the photos, you can delete the originals from the Windows partition if you wish.
■Tip The Import window can be resized by clicking and dragging its edges. This can be very useful when importing many photographs at one time.
Once the photos have been imported, the main F-Spot window will appear. On the left are the default tags. On the right is the picture preview window, which can be set to either Browse or Edit Photo mode. You can switch between these two modes using the buttons on the toolbar. You can also view an image full screen or start a slide show that will cycle through the images in sequence.
Above the picture window is the timeline. By clicking and dragging the slider, you can move backward and forward in the photograph collection, depending on when the pictures were taken. Each notch on the timeline represents a month within the year marked beneath the timeline. The graphs on the timeline give a general idea of how many photographs were taken during that particular month (or, indeed, if any were taken during a particular month).
By either double-clicking an image or selecting an image and clicking Edit Photo on the toolbar, you can tweak images by cropping them, adjusting brightness and contrast, or setting the color saturation/balance. In addition, you can convert images to black and white or sepia tone, and you can remove red-eye caused by an indoor flash. All of this can be achieved by clicking the buttons under the image. (Hovering the mouse cursor over an icon will cause a tooltip to appear, explaining what the button does.) Changes to the image are made live, as shown in Figure 20-1, so it's a good idea to drag the dialog box out of the way to allow full viewing of the image underneath.
You can also add a comment in the text field below the image. This will then be attached to the image for future reference, and can act as a useful memory aid.
A note of caution is required when tweaking images with F-Spot. Once changes have been made, there doesn't appear to be any way of undoing them. The Edit menu lacks an Undo option, and pressing Ctrl+Z doesn't do anything. However, F-Spot keeps a copy of the original image alongside the modified one. To access the original unedited image, click File > Version > Original.
■Tip By clicking File > Create New Version, the currently selected image will be copied and made available on the File > Version menu. You can do this as many times as you want, perhaps to record various image tweaks to choose the best later.
F-Spot's cataloging power comes from its ability to tag each image. A tag is simply a word or short phrase that can be attached to any number of images, rather like a real-life tag that you might find attached to an item in a shop. Once images have been tagged, you can then filter the images using the tag word. For example, you could create a tag called German vacation, which you would attach to all images taken on a trip to Germany. Then, when you select the German vacation tag, only those images will be displayed. Alternatively, you could be more precise with tags—you could create the tags Dusseldorf and Cologne to subdivide pictures taken on the vacation.
If your collection involves a lot of pictures taken of your children at various stages during their lives, you could create a tag for each of their names. By selecting to view only photos tagged with a particular child's name, you could see all the pictures of that child, regardless of when or where they were taken.
Images can have more than one tag. A family photo could be tagged with the words thanksgiving, grandma's house, family meal, and the names of the individuals pictured. Then, if you searched using any of the tags, the picture would appear in the list.
A handful of tags are provided by default: Favorites, Hidden, People, Places, and Events. To create your own tags, right-click under the tag list on the left of the F-Spot program window and select Create New Tag. Simply type in the name of the new tag in the dialog box and click OK.
■Note Tags can have "parents," which can help organize them, but we wouldn't recommend this unless you have a great many tags.
Tags can also have icons attached to them. A tag will automatically assign an icon based on the first photo it's assigned to, but to manually assign a tag an icon, right-click it in the list and select Edit. Next, in the Edit Tag dialog box, click the icon button, and select from the list of icons under the Predefined heading.
To attach a tag to a picture, simply right-click it (in either the Browse or Edit Photo mode), and click its entry on Attach Tag.
To filter by tag, double-click the tag in the tag list, as shown in Figure 20-2. To remove the filtering, right-click the tag in the orange bar at the top of the display and select Remove from Search.
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Although we usually tend to think of the digital camera as the best thing since sliced bread, there are both pros and cons with its use. Nothing is available on the market that does not have both a good and a bad side, but the key is to weigh the good against the bad in order to come up with the best of both worlds.