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Take control of your photos

iPhoto and its successor Photos are astonishing apps, but some people find them too controlling. They have their own ideas about where your files should go, and they seem to be just one scary step shy of artificial intelligence. If you’re looking for something simpler that won’t touch your files without your permission, Growly Photo is a humbler alternative.

Growly Photo does not import your photo files, it just remembers where they are. Within Photo you can create a structure of groups and folders as simple or complex as you like, to make finding and viewing your photos absolutely easy. At the top level are groups, for example you could organize your photos by year as in the screenshot above. You can also have groups for family, animals, collections, trips -- whatever you can think of. Each group contains folders, nested to any depth, and the folders contain references to your photo files.

Importing photos is as simple as dragging them from the Finder or choosing them from an open dialog. Import entire folders at once, or pick and choose individual files. Each photo can appear in any number of folders or collections, so you can store references to the same file by year and by subject.


Finding one flower in a meadow

Sometimes you like to browse through your pictures, but sometimes you’re looking for something specific (like that classic of Uncle Brad in the Superman suit). Growly Photo gives you three ways to search for things: by file name, by caption, and by keyword.

Captions are labels that show up in the thumbnail list, like the selected photo in the screenshot above. The caption is also displayed in the image area in the center of the window. Keywords are single words or quoted phrases that describe the photo. For example, you could list the name of everyone in the shot, so when you’re looking for the Uncle Brad picture you just type in Brad.

The thumbnail list shown above is just one column, but it can be expanded to seven (depending on your monitor size) to make it easy to scan for what you’re looking for. Photo can also show a full-screen preview of selected photos or an entire folder, with easy mouse and key methods for scrolling quickly through them. From within the preview you can mark photos for a later action, such as dragging to another folder or moving to the trash.


Touch-ups

Growly Photo is not a photo editing app, but it can help you make your photos look better -- or weirder. The adjustments you make in Photo do not change the file, they’re layered on top of the original before it’s displayed.

You can crop the image to narrow its focus, or to exclude unwanted sections. You can also use any of the dozens of photo filters built right into Mac OS X, for everything from adjusting the color to swirling the back of your cockatoo’s head. Ouch.

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The changes you make never touch the original file, but you can save them to a new photo file to share them. The save function allows you to choose from one of four formats in five sizes (including full size). And of course you can email the photos using Mail or Outlook.


Printing

Remember the days when photos were printed on paper? Well, maybe you don’t. But if that’s something that interests you, Growly Photo can do that too.

There are three ways to layout a printed page. You can fill each page with as many photos as will fit, print a proof (contact) sheet that looks like the thumbnail list, or specify exactly how many pictures should go on each page.

If you want the pictures to be a specific size, for example to go in a photo frame, you first choose the size you want to use, for example 5x7. Then crop each photo you’re going to print (easy as pie), and use the “fill page” print option. Growly Photo will rotate the pictures as necessary and lay them out to maximize the number on each page.

Growly Photo also has file management functions for renaming and redating photo files. Compared to some apps, it’s not very smart. But it might be all you need.