Photosweeper: Take Charge of Your Photos and Free Up Disk Space

For many of us, our computer’s hard drive has become a vast repository of digital images. Everyday, we snap photos with our smartphones and digital cameras which are then deposited into countless folders. But let’s face it, when our hard drives start to get full, who enjoys the tedious process of navigating these folders searching for duplicates files and miscued shots? How often do we pause and ask ourselves, “Do I really need all 12 shots of that coffee table?”

Organizing and tidying up our photo libraries can be a time consuming project, one that some of us may never embark upon. Fortunately, getting a handle on this task has been made significantly easier. Enter Photosweeper, a robust photo organizing application that will assist in cleaning up and putting in order any photo collection. Whether it’s a hundred megabytes or dozens of gigabytes, Photosweeper will quickly and effectively sort images and help reduce the size of your collection, resulting in more usable disk space.

Interface

Photosweeper employs a single screen interface that is both visually appealing and extremely functional. All of the application’s tools and features can be accessed from this one place. There is no hopping back and forth between screens.

Photosweeper's Single Screen Interface

Photosweeper's Single Screen Interface

Selecting Your Photos:

After firing up Photosweeper, the first order of business is to add a photo collection in need of some housekeeping. Photos can be added in a couple of ways: clicking the “Add Photo” icon from the toolbar, or dragging and dropping photos directly from the Finder. Photosweeper also supports adding photos directly from iPhoto and Aperture, which is a huge plus for those using either of these two applications. Photos added from iPhoto and Aperture are tagged with a small green ribbon, a nice touch in helping to identify the source of these images. The developers at Overmacs state that Adobe Photoshop Lightroom support will be included in a future update.

Import photos from the Finder, iPhoto or Aperture

Import photos from the Finder, iPhoto or Aperture

Setting the Filters:

So you’ve added some images to Photosweeper, now what? It’s time to define and fine-tune some of Photosweeper’s initial settings used in the filtering and sorting process. The next step here is to set the parameters for the file format and image size to be included in the comparison process. This is accomplished in the “File Settings” area of the application. By default, Photosweeper will include all supported file formats of any size when filtering images. Of course, these settings can be redefined to suit one’s needs. By the way, Photosweeper supports an impressive 42 file formats.

Configuring Photosweeper's File Settings

Configuring Photosweeper's File Settings

The Compare Settings:

Toggling over to the application’s “Compare Settings” area brings up the next group of settings to be defined in the filtering process. Photosweeper utilizes six methods for comparing photos, each method with its own set of filters. Because Photosweeper creates a bitmap of each photo during the comparison process, it’s OK to jump back and forth between comparison methods to see which method yields the best results for you. Your comparison results will not be lost.

The developers of the app suggest the “Duplicates Only” method as good starting place when cleaning up a photo collection. When this method is used, Photosweeper will compare only photos with identical content regardless of the file name or other meta data. When selecting the “Time + Bitmap” method, Photosweeper will make comparisons based on two criteria: the time interval between shots in a sequence and pixel similarities of the bitmap image.

The other comparison methods are:

  • Bitmap – a direct pixel comparison between bitmaps
  • Histogram – using histogram information from bitmaps
  • Time Interval – comparing only time intervals between shots, regardless of other data
  • Time + Histogram – combines both methods, Time Interval and Histogram

With all six of Photosweeper’s comparison tools, selecting and fine-tuning the details of the filtering process is a simple and straightforward process.

Configuring Photosweeper's Compare Settings

Configuring Photosweeper's Compare Settings

Putting Photosweeper to Work:

As we have now defined what we want Photosweeper to look for and how we want it to make comparisons, let’s put Photosweeper to work. Clicking the “Compare” button will start the comparison process based on the selected filtering methods. Photosweeper’s code was written to take full advantage of multicore processing and the application is indeed fast.

However, keep in mind the comparison process can take several seconds to several minutes depending on the size of the photo collection and chosen comparison method. The good news is that after Photosweeper finishes the comparison process, it caches the results, which are then saved as bitmaps (as mentioned) – a handy feature should you decide to change the filtering method for another round of comparisons, or close down the application and continue working later.

Photosweeper's Fast Comparison Process

Photosweeper's Fast Comparison Process

Reviewing the Results

Once Photosweeper has finished comparing images, it’s time to toggle into the Results view and get busy with cleaning. Within the Results view, images can be displayed as sequences in group view or side-by-side in pairs view. Toggling from group view to pairs allows for greater image detail to be displayed, which helps in deciding which photos are headed for Photosweeper’s “box”.

The Results

The Results

The Box:

From the comparison results, one or multiple images can be selected at a time and placed in the box, which is essentially a virtual holding pen where photos are grouped until you decide what next to do with them. Once images have landed in the box, the final step in the cleaning process is to move the photos into the trash. You may also choose to move & rename them, or copy & rename them. At any point should you change your mind, with a click of button photos can be taken out of the box.

Photosweeper provides a drag and drop method for getting images into the box as well as a toolbar button. Standard keyboard commands work for selecting multiple images. I found the drag and drop method a little clunky and would like to see a checkbox, or some type of “move to box” button on each image. However, this was only a minor inconvenience.

Photosweeper's box holds your photos until you decide what to do with them.

Photosweeper's box holds your photos until you decide what to do with them.

Another nifty feature of Photosweeper is the ability to “auto put” photos into the box with a single click. This toolbar button will allow you to define a set of rules for moving entire sequences of photos into the box, keeping just the one you want.

Photosweeper's "Auto-Put" Feature

Photosweeper's "Auto-Put" Feature

Conclusion

Whether you’re a professional photographer, hobbyist, or just someone in need of more hard disk space, Photosweeper packs a powerful punch in de-cluttering any size collection. As an application that may see infrequent use, some might balk at the cost. But if you consider the many hours of work saved by using Photosweeper, the price becomes very affordable. Currently you can grab a copy for half-price at the Mac App Store.


Summary

A tool for sorting and cleaning photo collections resulting in more useable disk space.

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