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Hunter and Clark use Picnam to manage scanned invoices and timesheets. 

"What a great program!  I've been goofing off for months with other programs and this is the easiest to use and simple to boot." Bernhard R.


Installation Instructions

Online Documentation

Managing Scanned Documents

Picnam contains features to make working with scanned documents easier.

Why Text Files?

The most common question people ask about Picnam is "Why did you choose to use text files for comments?" This article gives some of the reasons you might prefer to use text files rather than metadata to store information about your pictures.

Recording Information About Genealogy and Family History Photos

Picnam is ideal for making notes about scanned documents and photos for family history or genealogy.

Preserving Digital Photos

"The photographic history of our family ended when we bought a digital camera."

This is a lament that is being heard regularly as more and more people make the switch to digital photography. It is common now to find old photographs going back 50 or 100 years, but what record will there be of the current era? Official and professional photographs will certainly survive, but many of the most interesting photographs are those taken by amateurs of everyday scenes.

Conventional photographs survive neglect reasonably well. You can leave them in the back of the cupboard for 20 years, and they probably will still be viewable when they are found. The situation is not so good for digital photos. They exist only as computer data. They need regular attention to ensure they remain readable, and there is no guarantee that you would even recognise them as photos if you found them by accident.

What can be done to address these problems, and increase the chance that your photos will outlast you?


It is very tempting to devise complex backup and cataloging procedures to try to ensure that photos survive. However you need to be aware of the limitations of any procedure:

The conclusion that can be drawn is that it is practically impossible to devise a procedure to ensure that your photos survive. In fact, the more detailed the procedure, the less likely it is to work.

Instead, you need to use the major advantage that digital photos have over conventional photos - perfect copies can be made, almost for free. Instead of trying to develop a complex system to preserve a collection, you can make many copies, spreading them around to increase the probability that some survive. Don't just take backups and put them away somewhere, give copies to family and friends. Give all your friends and family a DVD of photographs every Christmas. Hopefully they will copy it on to their computer, adding another location for your photos to survive.

How can you increase the chances that copies survive?

Make sure that people can tell they are photos. Label CDs or DVDs when you create them. Give someone who finds them a reason to put the DVD in a computer and look at what's on it.

File your photos with meaningful names. When someone looks at that DVD, give them some encouragement to investigate further. "Mike with his first car.jpg" sounds much more interesting than IMG_6835.JPG. Likewise, if you want to add information to the photo, do it in a text file with the same name, rather than in metadata. Someone is far more likely to find the comments if they are in a text file, and they can look at them instantly with any text editor. It does mean that it is possible for the comments to be separated from the photo, but metadata can also be lost if you use an editor that doesn't support it, or you accidentally remove it.

My product Picnam makes renaming photos and adding text simple. You can find it at (I had to get at least one plug in!)

Keep your photos in JPEG format. JPEG is currently the most common and most recognised photo format. Sure, TIFF or RAW may give you slightly better quality, but that is more than offset by the problems with increased size and incompatibility. A good quality JPEG is fine for 99.9% of uses - and infinitely better than nothing at all. That's not to say you shouldn't keep TIFF or RAW or whatever format you prefer as well, but the JPEG files should be viewed as the primary copies. Consider JPEGs as the prints, and the others as the negatives - the JPEGs are more likely to be found and preserved by someone in the future. JPEGs are much smaller, meaning that a huge number of photos will fit on a DVD so it is easier to make copies.

Keep the primary copy on your computer, and make plenty of copies. It is tempting to archive images to DVD to free up space on your computer. However, if you are keeping the images as JPEG files it shouldn't be necessary, given the prices of hard disks are low and keep dropping. A 0.5 MB JPEG looks very good, and a 160GB hard disk has space for well over a quarter of a million images that size. You may need to move TIFF or RAW versions of the photos to DVD for storage. However if you keep JPEG versions of your images on your computer, it is not a disaster if the DVDs are lost or damaged.

Keeping the files on the computer means that it is easy to make copies. You don't have to shuffle through many CDs or DVDs. It is also a relatively easy operation to move the data when you get a new computer. Files on media such as DVD are more vulnerable to being forgotten if (when) CD and DVD drives become obsolete and new computers don't have them. However, files on your computer are less likely to be found and recognised by someone else than a well labeled DVD. Don't rely on someone else to find the copy on your computer without your help.

Use folders to group your photos into collections that will fit on a DVD, or whatever the common media is at the time. That makes it easy to regularly create a copy to give to someone or for backup. Occasionally you will want to reorganise this as the capacity of media increases. As new types of media become available, start using those for your copies when they become well established (I hope there aren't too many people with photo collections on Zip drives.)

Online Albums? You can certainly use online albums, but companies can go out of business, lose data, or simply change their conditions of use, so they shouldn't be seen as a guaranteed way of preserving photos. They are simply another place where copies of the photos might survive. One drawback of these services is that if you use online albums instead of giving people copies, you are reducing the total number of copies in existence.

In summary, to give your digital photos the best chance of surviving the test of time:

A Final Thought

One final point I nearly forgot - get prints made. Digital photos are great, but they are still no substitute for photos you can hold and pass around. Digital means it is easy to take lots of photos, select the best and get those made into prints. They are still the form in which photos are most likely to survive.

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