Photographers and digital artists alike always try to keep their images organized neatly. If you’re a designer, this is typically vital to doing your job as well. There are a bunch of different ways to organize these files on your Mac, from Adobe’s Bridge (included with Photoshop and other software) to iPhoto, Apple’s default solution for OS X. I’ve never been a keen user of either of these because the former is too complex in areas and the latter can often dawdle here and there.
To find an app that would suffice for my needs, I took to Google and have been looking around for a few months in vain. A few weeks back, however, a friend recommended Shiny Frog’s Pixa, a new beta app that’s in constant development. The promise is to help you organize images “the easy way”, but does Pixa live up to it? Let’s find out.
This is a beta and will have bugs; don’t condemn me if I point them out often. I’m using version 0.9.3.
Import Your Images
Before you can organize things in Pixa, you’ll have to import the images you’d like to be in your library. The app will start up with a brief reminder about the changes in the current version and once you view them, you’ll be taken to the main screen. When there, you can import images by going to the File menu and then navigating to the Import menu within. You can choose to either import files (you can select multiple, but they must be in the same folder) or folders as projects. The latter will create a project in the sidebar using the folder name.
Alternatively, you can drag and drop any file or folder onto Pixa’s dock icon to import it.
I took issue with the import feature of Pixa because it doesn’t import folders without making them new projects. What if I wanted to reorganize everything in a different way than they were before? I’d have to do that manually after importing folders. This seems like a strange way to go about things if you’re going to be handling a lot of files and folders.
Another weird thing that happens after importing a folder is that Pixa doesn’t really convert it to a project and instead makes it so the project is within a folder under the Projects section in the sidebar. That’s quite unproductive if you need to import folders from different directories because you’ll have to go back to reorganize them. I’d have hoped this app would make it easier to import files, of all things, but I’ve found that even Adobe Bridge and iPhoto are better.
Of all, the biggest letdown in Pixa’s file handling capability is its lack of support for RAW files (.CR2 for Canon cameras and such). For any photographer, especially myself since I shoot all photographs in RAW, that eliminates the reason to use this app for organization. Either it wasn’t mean for photographs or the developer has plans to introduce support sometime in the future. Until then, I really can’t see myself using this as a way to organize anything but wallpapers, app icons, and user interface elements.
Find Metadata, Exif, and More in the Information Panel
If you select an image and click the little “i” in the bottom left hand corner of Pixa’s main interface, you’ll be presented with the Information Panel. In there, you can add notes to to the file, tag it with things that you’ll remember for searching later on, and look at the file’s detailed information. I imported a some of my photographs and a few icons from ex-Apple designer Louie Mantia for my sample library, which gave me a diverse Information Panel on many items.
Photographs will include much more information than icons or any other type of image because they have Exif, ExifAux, TIFF, and IPTC data for things like ISO speed, aperture, the lens used, shutter speed, the orientation, and the camera the image was taken with. Pixa displays all of this, but not in such an organized fashion as Bridge. Adobe’s sidebar, for instance, is far easier to find things using. In Pixa, you can’t collapse any information categories so things are hard to find, especially since the list in photographs is so long.
Organizing is one thing; finding it is another. Pixa hopes to make things easier with its automated tagging system. When you import a picture, it will be scanned and automatically tagged based on its size and colors that make up the majority of the image. Automatic tags can be somewhere along the lines of “small”, “blue”, etc. You can actually change the characteristics of a small, medium, or large tag by going to the Tags pane of the Preferences menu and changing the pixel values in the appropriate boxes.
I didn’t think automated tagging was too bad, but it didn’t pull as many colors from some of my photos as it should have. “September Sunrise”, for instance, is a photograph containing yellows, blues, grays, greens, and beige, yet the app only tagged it with gray and blue, the latter of which isn’t as prominent as green. This will likely be improved in a later version, but right now it’s a bit useless and you’ll end up inputting the tags manually instead to ensure that they’re correct.
Oddly, Noise is Added to Pictures
The lack of RAW file handling support is not at all as much of an atrocity as is the noise that Pixa adds to photographs. For some reason, all the images I added to the app had significant increases in noise when there was no trace of so much as a spec on them before. This even happened to app icons, though it’s a more noticeable on larger images. I don’t know what happened to the image on its way to my library, but I suspect there’s a bug in the file handling system.
Pixa isn’t a terrible app for image organization, but it seems to have only one use and that’s mainly for designers. I found it unfortunate that RAW is not supported and the app added a bunch of noise to my images, but I guess that’s just the way it goes in beta sometimes. This app wants to help designers organize things in their workflow a little better with projects and such, but right now it’s proving that there’s still a lot to be done in the app itself.
The sharing features in Pixa aren’t all that mentionable since they’re exactly the same as iPhoto’s with the addition of an “Add to iPhoto” option. On the app’s website, the developer says that “If you are a Dribbble fan please ask for uploading and searching API, [they’ll] be happy to integrate them in Pixa”. I’d like to see this in the app as well, along with support for more than mere JPGs and PNGs. Pixa has been, for myself at least, nothing at all special or unique.
Aimed at designers, Pixa hopes to help organize images easier. It's not much beyond icons and user interface elements though.7