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JAlbum review

Review of free and simple photo gallery software
by Gisle Hannemyr
Published: 2006-09-10.

For my portfolio I needed some software that would let me publish and maintain photo galleries on the web. I wanted something that was not too expensive, template based, did not require vistors to have flash or any other fancy plugins, was easy to customize, and generated a professional looking website.

I tried out several packages, including the “automate web photo gallery” module in Photoshop CS (which I didn't like – I found it poorly documented and difficult to customize) before I ended up with David Ekholm's JAlbum. I first started using it about a year ago, and I still use it, so I guess I like it.

It is by no means the fastest or slickest software I've used, but its simplicity, power and flexibility has grown on me. And of course, the price is right (it is free). The documentation is online (FAQ, user manual and tutorials), and while it doesn't cover every aspect of the program, it is fairly comprehensive. There is also an active user community at the JAlbum site, so it is always possible to find support.

This is the things I like the most about JAlbum:

  • Almost no effort to create a basic gallery (you just put your images in an image directory, drags it to the image directory line, tell JAlbum what output directory to use – and you're set). Yet it is possible to control almost every aspect of the gallery if that is what you want.
  • It lets you save your settings so when you add more images to a gallery and regenerate it, it retains its “look”.
  • It can be instructed to link to original images (so it just generates the thumbnails). Most other gallery software insist on resizing your images, creating extra JPEG and sharpening artefacts.
  • It lets you create galleries consisting of images in several different directories, so you can reuse images without creating duplicates.
  • It produces clean HTML and CSS.
  • It does not use Flash or server side scripting such as PHP.
  • It recognizes EXIF and IPTC tags, and automatically generates captions based on these.
  • It is easy to rearrange images (drag&drop) and to add or edit captions.

The only feature missing, as far as I am concerned, is a facility for visitors to add comments to the images. I might add that feature myself one day. JAlbum looks like it is easy to extend, just by hooking into an existing or custom made “skin”.

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