Perhaps the F stands for “Fail”?

Recent news that Ubuntu will likely be giving up the GIMP as part of the default install are interesting, but not a huge concern to me – I already have to install Inkscape, so adding the GIMP to the huge sudo aptitude install command I run on a shiny new Ubuntu install isn’t a big deal. I’d love having both Inkscape and the GIMP by default, but there’s only so much space on a CD-ROM-sized ISO. Fair enough.

What still concerns me is F-Spot by default. Not because of Mono fearmongering – I really don’t care what language the thing is written in – but just because it’s got some very irritating behaviours compared to the older lightweight editor/viewer/photo manager I still use, gthumb.

Allow me some simple demonstrations of why gthumb is still, in many ways, superior to f-spot.

I take a fair number of photos, and as anyone knows, they add up in filesize very quickly. I shoot fair-sized JPG, not the very largest my camera could, and not RAW, and I still have 10.2GB of images in Photo – 4133 images, apparently. I´ve only owned a digital camera for about two and a half years. Someone with a longer digital history, or who shoots RAW, or who simply takes even more photos than I do, is going to easily dwarf my photo collection. My photo collection is still old enough to have pre-dated F-Spot in Ubuntu, however.

So, I want to view, manage and do light editing of this existing photo collection. Fire up F-Spot (Applications->Graphics->F-Spot Photo Manager). There is no File->Open command, and by default the “Browse” button on the toolbar does absolutely nothing… so File->Import it is. Aim this at my existing ~/Photos directory… and by default it will duplicate the entire thing, rearranging the files to it’s liking as it duplicates them!

F-Spot will also take an insanely long time trying this – I aborted the whole mess ten minutes in, with only 1434 of 4133 files “loaded” (what does that mean? they don’t need to be loaded, they already exist in ~/Photos!) and the “Import” button still greyed out…

Are you serious? All I want to do is crop one of them! Abort, abort! Fine, we’ll find an existing image through Nautilus, and choose to open that in F-Spot individually.

Nope, sorry. That gets you your image, without the insanely long Import process, but it’s in a little window called “F-Spot View” with none of the editing tools available, and no way to switch to an actual editing window

Now let’s try the same simple procedure(s) in gthumb. Same existing photo collection, in the Ubuntu-supplied default ~/Photos, but first we’ll install gthumb with your favourite package manager. (gthumb languishes in Universe these days, so have that enabled) Now go Applications->Graphics->gThumb Image Viewer. No Import button, any images that happen to be in your ~ will show up on one pane, and a Nautilus-style folder navigation pane to the left. Rummage through your files with that pane, no need to wait for some sort of unexplained “importing”of existing files here.

Or go the other way – find an individual image through Nautilus or on your desktop, right-click, choose Open With->gThumb, and open your image. You get exactly the same window you would if you’d opened gthumb via the menu, with all the lightweight editing options you require right there.

No “importing”, no attempt to duplicate your entire photo collection, no crippled “viewer” window with no useful tools in it, and  gthumb will traverse your entire directory, not just the one folder it insists on importing/duplicating everything in. Oh, and no distracting “Mono is of teh devil!!!11111” nonsense either, just for a bonus. Somebody does need to code an upload-to-Flickr plugin for gthumb, granted.

While the GIMP is being removed from Ubuntu 10.04, let’s ditch F-Spot and return to gthumb too!

Launchpad bugs for most of the above Fail-spot issues: 488566, 488574. Closely related, and older: 182862.
Related silly “Import” bugs: 412091.
There’s probably many others over on Gnome’s bugtracker, but I only searched LP’s Fail-spot bugs for now.

By Brian Burger

Started this site way, way back in November 1998, when the web was young. It's still here, and so am I.

45 replies on “Perhaps the F stands for “Fail”?”

I take a lot of pictures. It’s my hobby. I have well over 5000 images catalogued, not counting duplicate versions, edits and so on. Gthumb is a good image viewer and I certainly prefer it over any other viewer out there (once you fix the broken default layout).

But it is completely inadequate as a photo management app. I actually started trying to use gthumb to organize my stuff and it just doesn’t work out. Just to begin with, it has no concept of having different versions of the same image, and there’s no hierarchical tags.

It would be much less work to just add the editing functions to the viewer component of f-spot (this has apparently already happened, though it’s not released) than to add a real management system to gthumb.

I use both, but for completely different purposes. They’re complementary, not replacements.

I couldn’t agree more. Shortly after installing Ubuntu for the first time, I fired up F-Spot and went through the arduous import process. After doing the import many applications quit functioning properly. Only after much research did I realize that F-Spot had duplicated my entire photo collection into the small virtual partition created by wubi on my laptop.

It didn’t take me long to hunt down the Linux version of Picasa and install it. I will certainly continue to use GIMP (I also used GIMP in Windows before I went 99% Ubuntu), but Ubuntu still needs a more functional image organizer than F-Spot.


“But some were concerned about the lack of basic image editing. Enters F-Spot, the loved Photo Manager and his little brother, the –view mode. The –view mode is a standalone application, which, on top of F-spot loaders and widgets, provide a simple (ala eog) image viewer, which only view the images, and let you browse the metadata. This is it. Or was it 1h30 ago. With very few code, I plugged the main F-Spot editors inside the single view mode. And that worked quite well !”

I agree completely. I used f-spot as my primary photo-management tool for about 6 months and really wanted to like it but it just became to cumbersome to use. There actually was (is?) an option to have it “import” your photos without copying the files but you had to remember to click the checkbox *every time* (!!) you imported — there was no way to make that option the default.

The brain-dead import behavior and random crashes of f-spot finally convinced me to try Picasa. I had resisted for quite a while since it wasn’t a native app but once I installed it I was very impressed. Fast and stable. I just wish Google would release v3.5 for Linux …

I’m glad I’m not alone on this. Seriously, who is using F-Spot on a day to day basis?

I’ve installed Ubuntu to some non-computer-litterate people and F-Spot was one of the biggest problem for them.

Also they cannot understand the difference between F-spot and Eog (which makes, indeed, no sense at all).

My solution ?

apt-get remove f-spot eog
apt-get install gthumb

And everyone is happy. As I see a lot of people doing that and given the fact that the very few f-spot users I know admit that f-spot is very specific and you have to get the workflow, I think we have somewhat to reconsider the question.

Same for me : f-spot is too complicated and takes too much time to do basics tasks.
So I only use gthumb and gimp.
I never understood why gthumb disappeared from ubuntu CD, it’s non-sense for me.

Another gThumb fan here. I think your choice of image viewer comes down to the way you approach your photo collection. I think of photos as files, and I’m happy to organise them in folders myself, so gThumb fits me well. For those who want a tagged database of photos, with all the searching and filtering benefits that brings, F-Spot is probably a good choice.

However, I can’t help thinking that gThumb’s approach will make more sense to more people.

Agreed. F-spot is incredibly slow for some common operations; the default settings (import, etc.) are completely wrong; modifies exif data; and the viewer aborts on certain special characters in the filename and some gvfs uris.

Ubuntu needs a very simple, very fast viewer, for use inside Nautilus; and a fairly simple crop/rotate/resize/contrast image editor. Oh wait, it’s got at least two. Except they aren’t there by default.

I totally agree that F-spot is crap. However gThumb does not cut it for me, I want to be able to edit my photos with some good stuff as well as to rate and tag my photos. DigiKam is the best alternative I have found. Its a musthave for me.

I agree completely, F-Spot is hopeless for browsing existing photograph collections, especially when there are multiple collections with different structures. (I have scanned slides, digital photographs, an artwork collection and work-related images, each with their own peculiar naming and hierarchy, 16,000 images going back to 1980).

I also use the Nautilus / gThumb / Gimp collection. “Management” is left up to the user, although gThumb’s live search function, collections and tags are very helpful – it would be so nice if there was a universally accepted method of putting the tags into the files, then much of this debate would be unnecessary.

However, my version of versions is to open the file and append a suffix, for instance 01234.jpg becomes 01234m.jpg, and save it with the original. gThumb’s live search for *m.jpg is every file I have modified – which I can dump into a collection, copy to a thumbdrive for printing etc. Okay so I will lose my collections and keywords if I switch applications, but I preserve my structure and naming within each collection.

Some sample tasks that I found hard with F-Spot: I create multiple versions of an artwork from a collection of source images, and I want to browse my hierarchy of versions, backgrounds, objects and textures (F-Spot does not recognise my directory structure and filenameing). I have a thumbdrive of pictures and want to open a browser on the thumbdrive and a browser on my collection, so that I can copy between the two collections (F-Spot requires an import). I want to browse a new set of photos and delete the poor images (F-Spot requires an import). I want to assemble images in folders, with folder names and image names that mean something to me (F-Spot does not display file name and hierarchy). I occasionally want to rename directories and files, or move them around (F-Spot croaks).

I agree, the F-Spot import behavior is tedious.

gThumb is really fast, and I especially encourage you all to try out the (almost) completely rewritten ext branch from Gnome git. The next gThumb release will make both eog and F-Spot obsolete.

I think it would probably be easier to add Tracker tag support to GThumb than to fix all the things that are wrong with F-Spot. “Importing” would then just become copying the files to somewhere in your home directory. (Then, of course, re-enabling Tracker support in Nautlilus would make me doubly happy in dealing with pictures.)

I’m with you here see my mail to the developers 🙂

The best of it is gthumb is faster does a better job of auto colouring. I tried it out made a bunch of tests and gthumb was just better each time.

The only place where gthumb was let down was uploading photos to web photo galleries.

Two interesting alternatives are Solang and Shotwell. Solang is being developed with tracker as its backend. Shotwell is still basic, but the development pace is quite high and they have a well thought out plan for what they want to add, and if you look at the current plans, they will easily supplant both f-spot and gthumb as a photo manager…

The thing which makes the whole f-spot approach kind of useless is, that it’s on the Live Cd. Stupid automatic importing photos into as subdir of ~ will kill your live session fast and easily – even with a fairly small amount of photos (as long as they are in megapixled formats) – the lower your ram size is and the higher the number of photos you wanna watch is… the faster it kills itself.

There is room for criticizing f-spot for not at least creating links to the real directory. Also, if it stands for photo management then there is probably a database involved (and if not, then f-spot deserves a very big question mark) – so why the heck isn’t this managed within the database entirely? But that’s beyond my scope as I am no expert in f-spot, probably because it was disliking from the first minute I tried it (a year ago).

Gthumb is the right thing to do (as you told).

Herr Irrtum!

I really wanted to like f-spot. I hoped it would do for photos that rhythmbox etc does for music and simply provide a way to search, edit and view pictures.

I have about 10GB of photos and still the easiest way to manage them I have found is using nautilus and gthumb.

Does anyone like the way the import in f-spot works?

Is there a way to just not have any import? I find that “Import” is just a geek tools, no real user understand what “import” means. In Rhythmbox, there’s the workaround to automatically update the db by monitoring the files. Is there such thing in F-Spot?

$ aptitude remove f-spot eog


The following packages will be removed:

Someone disagrees it seems 😉

I’ve been using Ubuntu for over 2 years, and I’ve used F-spot once last year, and haven’t opened it since. Picasa is much better IMO. Haven’t tried gThumb yet, but will be. I understand them taking out GIMP (although I use it more than the above mentioned packages), but they really need to replace F-stop with something better.

Like Richard, I wanted to like f-spot, but couldn’t. It’s ugly, clunky, and doesn’t really do anything I want. I switched to using Picasa on windows.

I don’t know if gthumb is any better than f-spot, but I’d be surprised if it was worse.

I love gphoto2 & Gwenview. Have no desire to try Fail-Spot. They can’t even preserve the exif information correctly.

I guess not many are actually using f-spot. I too like gthumb, but digikam has all of the functionality I need (works well with gnome). Why the default change to f-spot seems to be a mystery.

You can tell F-Spot not to copy the files. I tried Gthumb once and couldn’t figure it out. It seemed to just do things to the pictures on my camera with no option to put them into an album on the computer. Weird. Why would I want to organize my camera? The point is to get them off the camera in an organized fashion so I can free up space on the camera. F-Spot can at least handle the “get things off my camera” case! And as I said in the first sentence, it can be told not to do that copying.

@Ploum: You can have f-spot “import” without copying the file but as I stated in my previous posting you could not make this behavior the default.

@Berend: I had forgotten about the EXIF modification. Yet another annoyance of f-spot. If you allow the program to “store metadata in the image file” (which is generally a good thing as it keeps the tags/caption with the photo) it decides that it’s ok to modify existing EXIF fields. Namely it assumes that your camera’s clock is set to your computer’s timezone and changes some (not all) of the EXIF time values to UTC (!!)

30+ comments and 500+ views here alone – I think I struck a nerve!

And only one comment attempting to (sort of) defend f-spot. Very interesting, I was expecting a more favourable ratio toward f-spot.

I didn’t know about the EXIF modifications – that’s even more Fail right there.

My personal rule for applications is pretty simple: Do not screw with my existing data layout. This applies to HTML/code editors, music apps, photo apps, and anything else that touches my data. I’ve deleted any number of apps over the years right after a first attempt at trying them, because they (for example) rearrange my HTML according to some idea of how it should be tabbed. Not Cool.

The news of a refactored and re-released gthumb is awesome, and the previews I saw online look good. It’s been about two years (!) since the last gthumb release. Amazing how a two-year old app still manages to out-perform a shiny new heavily developed app, isn’t it?

I’ll do a followup blogpost in a few days; keep the links and comments coming!

Thanks for reading!

Your collection is two-years old ? Hey, didn’t you realize by now that Ubuntu isn’t supposed to work longer than six months for the user point of view ? Nobody bothers to test apps for more than a few weeks usage pattern before deciding to include it. Hey, photo apps are no different. By the time FSpot gets the features you want, Ubuntu will be planing to drop it. Feel empowered to live bleeding edge ?

Totally agree with OP. I guess I have tried f-spot like once every year and it is just too heavy and slow, and always crashes after a while. These are characteristics it seems to share with most Mono and Java applications out there, even if I try to have an open mind and not be religious about it. And yes, it is certainly useless on the live CD.

@Ben – wut?

I said in the OP that my photo collection was two years old or so, as in, I’ve only owned a digital camera for that long.

My Ubuntu install is up to date – I upgraded to 9.10 the day it came out.

So your bizarre objections are largely meaningless, although I do agree that some apps are included by default in Ubuntu releases with what seems like inadequate testing and development and on shaky reasoning… the dropping of gthumb for f-spot being a prime example.

removing f-spot+eog+tomboy+mono in favor of gnote+gThumb would probably even free enough space to reinclude the gimp

@ Mackenzie about gthumb:
“It seemed to just do things to the pictures on my camera with no option to put them into an album on the computer. Weird. Why would I want to organize my camera?”

I don’t know what gthumb version you have been using or how you might get that kind of behavior. I can’t even figure out how you might have achieved this. In fact the import dialogue in gthumb seems much more saner then the f-spot one. It has “Destination:” in the simple, clutter free import dialogue. Also the checkbox for auto rotation using exif is a must.

Sure, maybe i wasn’t clear. I meant you live on a time scale which is different from the Ubuntu one. These days, Ubuntu seems a perfect choice if you want to relearn your computer every six months. My photo collection is 8 years long, only through Linux, and i know for sure that in order to manage it, i should never rely on an Ubuntu tool-du-jour, unless i’m ready to experience about the same as your when next shiny, unfinished, toy is released. The same would apply to backup softwares. Or to file manager. Or to many other real-life usage patterns where software is only the tool, not the end. Ubuntu seems to have forgeten these days the users wants to, ahem, make *use* of the computer.

Ben – interesting thought about the timescale of Ubuntu releases vs the timescales we actually use/have used our computers; it helps to remember there’s such a high level of churn in desktop Linux the last several years, with massive advances and changes in the state-of-the-art. Occasionally distros and apps are going to make mis-steps; i’d regard F-Spot’s inclusion in Ubuntu by default as one of those mis-steps, others obviously disagree.

Some things that seem like mis-steps have worked themselves out – gstreamer instad of xine felt like a huge mistake when it was first done, but gstreamer has far surpassed xine now. Pulseaudio, the growth and now gradual removal of HAL, lots of other cases… these are all the growing pains of desktop Linux.

Martin – has someone run the numbers on the current Karmic/Lucid packages to see what the space calcuations are for f-spot/tomboy/mono/etc vs gthumb/gnote/possibly keeping GIMP? I’m interested in those numbers, but haven’t the package-juggling/number-crunching fu to come up with them!

Many thanks to everyone for a civil and interesting discussion – let’s keep it going!

The part of F-spot I hate most is the timeline. That probably works great unless half your pictures were taken on a camera that had the wrong date. The import sucks too. apt-get remove. I can think of something else the f might stand for but fail is good.

I agree with you Brian.
I’m a photo-hobbyist and I have about 150 GB of pictures.
I have not enough space to replicate them for the f-spot cache!

I agree with the decision to drop gimp (gnome is a set of simple and clean programs), but f-spot should be dropped too.

In fact, also accessing pictures via Nautilus bothers me:

I’d need something like f-spot to match my particular needs, but I have to get rid of the caching: simply, I don’t want to buy a 1TB disk and be able to use only 500GB! (500 for pics and 500 for cache)!!

Thank you for writing this post, I couldn’t possibly agree more. I tried F-Spot once when it was introduced, and once again now after installing a fresh 9.10 Ubuntu and also coming home from a vacation on the other side of the world – the perfect occasion. Un-use-able.

And let’s face it, F-Spot is only in there because of a heavy lobby campaign by a few who has other reasons besides getting the best photo app into Gnome and/or $DISTRO.

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