Sharing images and photos on the internet has been around for quite some time. Many people share photos and pictures using Picasa, Flickr, Photobucket, and other similar sites. However, the ideal way to share your photos seems to be a photoblog. Further more, graphic/web designers, photographers and other artists need an online portfolio to display their works.
It is at this junction a photo blogging or gallery management CMS comes in handy. Of course, with some effort, even WordPress can be made to handle image galleries, but in order to properly run an image gallery, at times we need a specialized CMS. Piwigo is one such CMS for dealing with photo galleries. In this article, we take a look at Piwigo and evaluate its pros and cons.
To begin with, Piwigo is a free and open source CMS that lets you easily manage your photos. Features? Here they are:
- Upload Images: You can upload images using the web interface, FTP or even desktop applications such as Digikam.
- Organize Albums: Remember ‘Categories’ in WP? Piwigo does the same with Albums. Your albums can have unlimited depth, and one image can belong to multiple albums, if you so desire.
- Tags: Tags in Piwigo operate the same way as they do in WP – you can tag your images using keywords.
- Themes and Extensions: Piwigo has its own repository of themes and extensions – we shall take a closer look at this later on.
- Privacy: You can set privacy options, permissions and access levels for your photos.
- Localization: Piwigo has so far been translated into 46 languages, and you can use multiple languages within a single gallery.
- Other Noteworthy Features: Piwigo can create automatic slideshows and intelligently employ EXIF/IPTC metadata from images. You can browse photos in a map and setup many anti-spam measures. Piwigo also comes with SEO-friendly URLs.
Administration and Usability
The admin backend in Piwigo primarily consists of six menus: Photos, Albums, Users, Plugins, Tools and Configuration. While the first four are self-explanatory, the interesting stuff lies in Tools and Configuration.
Under Tools, you have the Site Manager, History, Thumbnails, Maintenance, Updates and other similar sub-options. For instance, the Maintenance sub-menu lets you perform actions such as deletion of orphan tags or performance of integrity checks.
Under Configuration, you can edit sitewide settings, menus, themes and language packs.
Overall, the admin interface is quite usable and nifty, with links to Help and Documentation handy. It does take some ‘getting used to’, but all in all, it’s a breeze to use.
- Pros: Extremely easy to use admin interface
- Cons: None as such
Themes and Extensions
Piwigo comes with its own repository of themes and extensions. As far as extensions are concerned, there are plugins available for almost every major task, such as the addition of HTML pages.
When it comes to themes, however, the story is different. While the repository does sport a decent number of themes (and is growing at a steady pace), Piwigo can definitely use some Premium Themes. Many Piwigo users, probably, tweak and build their own themes – this fact shows the level of involvement in the Piwigo community. Yet, at the end of the day, if the CMS intends to attract end users, it will need themes. An ideal solution can be porting of WordPress photoblogging themes to Piwigo, much the same way as Drupalizing has been doing it for Drupal.
- Pros: Extensions and plugins are top-notch
- Cons: Number (and quality) of ready-made themes needs to be better
Community, Support and Documentation
When it comes to support, Piwigo has its own documentation wiki – both for end users and developers. It also has an active forum, powered by FluxBB.
The forum, broadly speaking, has been divided into two major parts: Support and Project Building. Support deals with topics such as Troubleshooting, Feature Requests, etc. Project Building, on the other hand, is about Translations, Beta Testing, etc.
- Pros: Active forum with over 14,000 members, excellent documentation for developers
- Cons: User Documentation can be written in a slightly less ‘technical’ manner
Updates and Additional Features
Perhaps the most striking feature about Piwigo is its update frequency. A major version is released (almost) every six months with new features and improvements.
Another interesting part is Piwigo.com – Piwigo’s commercial photo gallery hosting solution. You can compare it with WordPress.com – just that it offers photo gallery hosting. Sadly, there are no free plans, but you can try it for free for 30 days. Plus, Piwigo.com offers you features such as unlimited storage space and custom domain mapping – definitely worth a try if you’re looking for a hassle-free solution for hosting your photo gallery!
- Pros: Good update frequency, Piwigo.com is a handy solution
- Cons: Piwigo.com should have a free plan
Integration with WordPress
Okay, let’s be honest: it seems unfair to expect a CMS to offer integration with another, simply because we use the other one more.
But the fact remains, WordPress is used by numerous users for different types of websites, including photo blogs, and Piwigo is aware of the same. It provides a plugin named PiwigoPress that places randomized images from your Piwigo gallery to your WP blog’s sidebar though sadly, this plugin hasn’t been updated for quite some time now. However, we also have PiwigoMedia that can insert media from a Piwigo site into WordPress.
So, is Piwigo worth the effort?
If you are running a regular blog, and post photos or images occasionally – no, you need not bother with it.
However, if you are a photographer or artist and wish to create an online portfolio of your work, or someone who is planning to set up a simple photo gallery, Piwigo is surely worth a try. You’ll really appreciate its localization and other useful features, though as we said earlier, the themes can be better.
Have you, or are you currently, using Piwigo? Feel free to share your thoughts with us in the comments!
Sufyan bin Uzayr is a freelance writer and artist. He writes for several print magazines as well as technology blogs, and has also authored a book named Sufism: A Brief History. His primary areas of interest include open source, mobile development, web CMS and vector art. He is also the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of an e-journal named Brave New World. You can visit his website, follow him on Twitter or friend him on Facebook and Google+.