|1.1 What is Almara?
|1.2 Almara components
|1.2.4 Other Almara modules
|2 Managing your albums with |
|2.1 Creating your first Almara album
|2.2 What has been created?
|2.3 Menu tree
|2.3.1 The File menu
|2.3.2 The Search menu
|2.3.3 The Album menu
|2.4 Other controls
|2.4.1 Sorting the album list
|3 Viewing and editing images with |
|3.1 The image list
|3.2 The exif widget
|3.3 The image area
|3.3.1 Zoom modes
|3.4 Image operations
|3.4.1 Simple image operations
|3.4.4 Irreversible operations
|3.4.5 Exporting operations
|3.4.6 Cropping and panning
|3.5 Album operations
|3.5.1 Repeating and undoing operations
|3.6 Movie operations
|3.7 Copy and paste
|3.8 The progressbar
|3.9 The configuration dialog
|3.9.1 Autosave interval
|3.9.2 Resolution of previewed image
|3.9.3 Cache and scheduler policy
|3.9.4 Arrows behaviour and wrapping over the image list
|3.10 The Display dialog
|3.11 Widget docking
|3.12 Configuration files
|4 Printing with |
|4.1 The Layout tab
|5 Getting and installing Almara|
Almara is a program suite designed primarily for digital still camera users. It can be used to organize your photo collection into albums, perform simple operations and enhancements on the images, browse your albums, print or export your albums to the web, do simple motion jpeg editing, and more.
Most programs widely used to achieve these tasks suffer from one common problem: losing bits of information on the way. Most operations you do with your images, will irreversibly decrease their quality. Cropping out a portion of your image will lose whole parts of your image; most images will be loaded and saved over and over again using the lossy jpeg compression, which makes the situation even worse. Keeping a separate copy of the original image adds chaos and storage overhead.
Unlike most commonly used programs, Almara will preserve the originals of your images. All image operations that you perform are only logged in what we'll call an album file. Next time the modified image is needed, Almara will quietly perform all the operations again.
Without elaborate operation scheduling, optimisations, and caching, this approach would make the program way too slow to be used. The effort that has been put into tackling these challenges has allowed us to present you with a program that is fit for everyday use on your desktop.
almara, the album organizer
This is the program a typical user will start with. It lets you browse, create and delete albums.
An album is a fundamental object for all Almara components.
Basically, it's a directory with images, containing a special album
file -- a plain text file called
album.alb that stores
information about all the images in the album: names, descriptions,
keywords, the log of all operations that have been performed on the
individual images, as well as information about attached sound files.
The album file also contains global information about the album
itself, like title, description, creation date, owner, and other optional
almara will create albums from plain directories containing your
images. It keeps a record of all albums you have created or used, and
will present them to you, in a graphically appealing environment,
previewing their contents with thumbnails.
Once you've selected an album to work with,
open it for you in
almara_album. Motion jpegs can be opened
in the same way.
almara_album, the image viewer and editor
This is the module you will spend most of the time with. It will let you browse a selected album. All the images are neatly previewed in a narrow column, showing a thumbnail, filename and description for each image in the album.
The bottom of the screen will show detailed information about the selected image. You can define and modify some of these fields (e.g. description); others are obtained from the image's exif header
Of course, most of your screen will be occupied by the image itself.
The menu and toolbar offer a rich choice of image operations and
enhancement filters. Should they not suffice, you can always use an
external editor (this has a catch, see the detailed
almara_album chapter for details). External programs can
also be run to edit or play optional audio files attached to images.
You may select more than one image and preform operations on all of them. Some operations can also be performed on the whole album. This includes printing, exporting, exporting to web, and other.
A wide variety of zoom modes is available. You can also tweak some advanced options to make everything faster, paid off by a temporary decrease of the image quality
almara_album can also work with motion jpeg movies. The
movie will be internally converted to a normal image album, and you will
be able to work with it the same way you're used to with normal image
albums. When you're ready with your movie, you can export it back to a
motion jpeg. Of course, you can play the movie with an external player as
While working with
almara_album, you won't even need to
know..., but I'll tell you anyway:
almara_album is just a
almara_cht, the hidden heart of Almara
A normal user does not interact with this module directly,
almara_album will run it silently. Skip this section, if
you're not interested in technical details.
almara_image itself can do almost no image operations. It
only displays images. It does not even understand the album file. All
the work, from reading and parsing the album file to scaling the image to
the appropriate size for displaying, is done by
(CHT for short).
CHT receives requests from
almara_album and tries to
fulfill them. It runs a number of processes, so that more operations are
performed in parallel. This will increase efficiency if you have a
multiprocessor machine. To take full advantage of this, be sure to check
the appropriate option in the
almara_album config dialog.
Because generating the resulting image from the original may be a
costly operation (the more logged operations, the slower), CHT tries to
speed it up by maintaining a cache of pre-rendered images and by
performing all the mid-way operations on a scaled-down version of the
image. The cache is persistent (written on disk) and its size can also be
set in the
almara_album's configuration dialog. Likewise, the
dimensions of the scaled_down image can be set in the same dialog.
Tweaking these settings may have large impact on the overall Almara speed, and on the quality of images you see. However, the original image stays untouched, and operations that export images to files or to other Almara modules always preserve the best achievable quality, so you can experiment at no risk.
Certain album operations are performed by external backend modules.
almara_print_bin, for example, is called by CHT whenever you want
to print. CHT will prepare all the images to be printed into a temporary
almara_print_bin will print them, after letting you
chose printing options from its own graphical user interface.
almara_print_bin is a complicated program. On the contrary,
almara_webexport1_bin module is a Python script,
straightforward to tweak to one's taste.
Other modules include
jpegs2mjpeg (which convert a motion jpeg movie into
individual jpeg frames and vice versa) or
which just calls
jpegs2mjpeg and then
almara_playmovie will probably be the first backend you will want to
modify if you don't like mplayer. Go ahead, it's not rocket science!
CHT also makes it easy to program frontends -- modules (usually
scripts) that run their own copy of CHT, and use it to perform some
operation with an album.
almara_webexport is an example of
such a frontend -- it allows you to quickly export an album to web,
without the need of running the GUI modules. An experienced shell hacker
will find it easy to base her own frontends on it.
The python script
almara_mkalb is used for creating new
albums from image directories. It is usually run from
almara, but can also be run manually.
uses it to create the album file witch some default names and
descriptions and to scale the
almara_mkalb -h for command line options if you are
interested in running the script manually.
almara for the first time, you will want to go
to the File menu, and open an album. Since you don't have any Almara
albums yet, open a directory containing your images.
will detect that there is no album (
album.alb) file in the
directory and will create one for you and launch
You may either skip to the chapter describing
almara_album, or close the window that popped up and continue
You'll find that your new album has appeared in the "favorites"
column, at the right side of the main window. The column shows the most
important properties of every album. More detailed information about the
currently selected album can be found near the bottom of the
almara window. The remaining portion of the window shows
the album name and a preview (thumbnails) of its images.
The thumbnails are not explicitly rendered for this purpose.
Instead, cached thumbnails created by CHT and
re-used. If there are no thumbnails in the cache, no thumbnails will be
shown. This might seem inconvenient, but creates no overhead, and allows
you to browse the albums really fast.
What exactly has been created in your filesystem? -- Apart
from an unspecified amount of temporary files under
almarahas created the album file in your image directory. A backup
album.alb~will also be created. You are advised not to edit these files, unless you are perfectly sure of what you are doing.
.welcome.jpgwill be created, and contains the image representing the album in the "favorites" column.
.almarahas been created in your home directory, and will contain various configuration files used by different Almara modules; it also contains a directory called
albums, which will have symlinks pointing to all your album directories -- this is
almara's way of keeping track of your albums.
Your data will be kept untouched unless you perform a "commit" or
similar operation in
almara_album or explicitly tell
almara to delete the album. In either case, you will be asked
for confirmation. New images may be added to your directory by
You've seen already what the Open new album/directory item does.
The Open movie item will let you open a motion jpeg movie.
almara_album will be run and automatically convert the movie
into an album.
Recent albums lists the last few albums you've opened. Quit will close the program.
The Find function will let you search your albums by their title, description or other data. A dialog box will appear. You can select the fields that will be searched, and specify a regular expression to be used for searching.
If you've never used regular expressions before, try to get the
idea in the manual page of
grep in a shell prompt)
You can check the box next to User information to search in user defined fields. All fields matching the regular expression Which will be searched
The Find next item will repeat the last search to find further matches.
Everything in this menu relates to the currently selected album.
Open and Open over will open the currently selected album in
almara_album. The latter will close the current window, and
re-open it when
almara_album finishes. Use this if you don't
like unnecessary windows cluttering up the screen.
Delete will erase the whole album directory, including the originals
Remove from favorites will only remove the album from the list and not how it again, until you add it again manually
Edit album header will allow you to change the title, description, and other album data. You can add more user defined strings by using the Add button. This may be useful e.g. for searching the album.
The album list can be sorted by clicking on the column headers. Clicking the header of the Album view column will sort by album path. The sorting function of the other column may be changed by right-clicking in the column
Double clicking the album in the "favorites" column will open it
almara_album. Double clicking of the album details will
open the Edit album header dialog.
almara_album window layout is similar to the one of
almara, but richer and more configurable.
Let's call the narrow column on the left, containing image previews (thumbnails), the "image list". I'll call the bottom area, the one that shows image details, the "exif widget". The remaining portion of the window is occupied by the "image area". Down by the edge of the window is a "statusbar" that shows information concerning whatever is going on at the moment. On the right side of the statusbar is a "progressbar". The "toolbar" is just under the menus, and has buttons on it.
Almara behaves slightly different from other GTK+ based programs: we tried hard to maintain consistent keyboard behaviour throughout the main window, independent of which widget has been clicked or used last. The result takes some getting used to, but we believe that in the end it will be appreciated by most users. Special keys have been defined for all the operations you need to do, you can find (and modify!) them in the menu.
Talking about keyboard shortcuts - GTK has an option of allowing the
user to configure her keyboard shortcuts at runtime by simply going to
the corresponding menu item and pressing a key or a key combination. Some
items in Almara menus are only there so that you can easily find out what
shortcut keys there are, and modify them if you want to. This
option has to be turned on by each user, either by putting
gtk-can-change-accels = 1 in a file called
.gtkrc-2.0 in her home directory or, if using GNOME, by
almara_album starts, the image list will show all the
images in the album. At first, only the filenames and descriptions will
be shown. Thumbnails will start to appear shortly, as they are rendered.
Choosing an image in the image list will show it in the image area. You can jump to the next image by pressing space and to the previous by pressing backspace (can be set to down and up arrows respectively, using the configuration dialog). Other navigation keys can be found in the Scroll and Navigation menus
Images in the image list can also be "selected". Selected images will be marked by red colour and most image operations, explained later, will work with all selected images instead of the current image if you select any. Selecting can be done through the Edit menu. The Select group and Unselect group items will show a dialog. You can enter regular expressions to match the image's filename, description and keywords against. An image must match all three regular expressions to be selected/unselected. Alternatively, you can select by right-clicking the corresponding row.
You can also change the order of the images in your album (which is very handy when you edit a motion jpeg) using the image list. Select the images you want to put to a certain position, place the cursor to that position and do Edit|Move selected here.
By clicking on the Thumb column header, you invert the sorting order. Alternatively, you can sort by filenames or descriptions by clicking the other column's header.
Anyone used to Pine's "Zoom" feature will know what Edit|Focus in does: it will hide all the images that are not selected. Only the images that were selected will remain in the image list and will be unselected. Focuses can be nested, so you can narrow the number of images in the image list repeatedly. The current number of nested focuses will be shown in the statusbar. Edit|Focus out will cancel the innermost focus and will re-select the images that were visible in the focus, thus laving the selection in the state before the focus.
Most digital cameras add a header to every image they produce, containing lots of information about the image, the camera, the exposure settings, the lighting conditions and so on -- it's called the exif header. Mixed with certain values you may supply, e.g. description or keywords, we get what we call "image's metadata."
The exif widget lets you browse the metadata, and edit the user editable parts of it.
All operations you can do on the exif widget are accessible from the Exif menu. Because the number of exif fields can be very large and displaying them all would make widget hard to read, you can select only a few that will be displayed: First make them all appear by clicking on the leftmost column header. Then select the fields of interest, and click the leftmost column header again. All the fields you have not checked will be hidden. You can edit the user changeable fields by selecting Exif|Edit, or you can edit all editable fields at once by selecting the Exif|Edit step by step
The image area shows the image chosen in the image list. The way the image gets displayed is influenced by many factors, including:
You can find a wide range of zoom modes in the View menu. The Fit to window modes adapt the zoom factor automatically, so that the image fits inside the image area. The Fit to window - conservative only adapts the zoom factor if it would substantially differ from one. Because zooming distorts the image, this preserves better quality in cases where the image size only slightly differs from the image area size. Fit to window - larger only never enlarges images. It only makes large images fit into smaller image areas.
Almara can show a histogram for every image it displays. In Options|Widgets|Histograms, you can enable or disable the histograms, and select the channels you want the histograms for. Linear or logarithmic variants are available.
All histograms are composed into a single semi-transparent rectangle, that will be shown over the image. You can move the position of this rectangle using the same menu. Of course, showing histograms adds some overhead, so you'd better turn them off when you don't need them.
Image operations work on individual images. If any image is selected, image operations will work on all selected images. If no image is selected, image operations will only affect the current image. Image operations can be found in the image and sound menus. Images can have an attached sound, and the sound menu performs operations on these sounds.
The Image menu contains many well-known image operations and transforms. By "simple" I meant that they don't require any special parameters:
One thing you should keep in mind: Almara tries its best to do any requested operation on a jpeg image losslessly, even when that means minor inaccuracies. Attempted lossless operations include: rotation, crop and flip. Sometimes, requested operation's dimensions/coordinates are rounded to allow for the lossless version of the operation. Once an image has been modified by any lossy operation, no further lossless operations will be attempted.
a.k.a. modulate - lets you change the brightness, saturation and hue of an image. Selecting this, you will get a dialog with three sliders, modifying the individual values. You can check the Preview on current image checkbox, to see a preview. You will always see the preview on the chosen image, even in the case the operation will perform on all selected images.
Pressing Reset will return to the state when the dialog popped up. Pressing Cancel will ignore any changes and close the dialog. OK will apply the changes and close the dialog.
Almara's scale is really powerful, and lets you scale in three basic modes:
Advanced users may want to chose a specific scale algorithm, and supply a custom Blur parameter. Blur is a factor that will multiply the default, algorithm specific, radius around a filtered pixel. Setting blur to more than one will blur the image, while setting it to less than one will sharpen the image.
As stated before, most operations will only be logged into the album file, and the original will be kept untouched. As always, there are exceptions to the rule... a couple operations cannot be undone, and the originals are modified:
Print, Export and Export to web are all exporting operations. They perform all the logged operations on the image, but unlike Commit, they don't modify the original. Instead:
almara_webexport1_binbackend. You can specify the compression/quality level and the size of the clickable thumbnails that will appear on the webpage.
Exporting the images may take quite some time. A small window with a progressbar will pop up, and the operation can always be aborted by selecting the Cancel button in the window.
Naturally, unlike other operations, printing and exporting to web will yield different results when done on a group of images at once and when doing it repeatedly for parts of the group -- the backends work with all the images they get as a whole.
Almara comes with advanced cropping features. They are all controlled with the mouse.
CTRLand release the left one. A persistent selection will appear.
When no selection is active, clicking and dragging the right button will
pan (scroll) the image. You can select from two panning modes. A GIMP-like
mode is default (dragging the image over the screen); by pressing
CTRL, you can switch to the reversed (GV-like) mode.
Left-click with no drag will jump to the next image. Right-click with no drag will jump to the the previous image.
Album operations can be found in the Album menu and always work on the whole album, regardless what image is chosen, or whether any images are selected.
The Commit, Export,Export to web and Print items will do the same as their counterparts in the Image menu, but on every image in the album.
Save is not really important, as the album is automatically saved on close, and also in a user defined time interval. This is further explained in the "Configuration dialog" section.
Whenever you do one of the above image operations, Almara will remember what it was, and what the parameters were. You can then repeat the operation by selecting Image|Repeat last operation. The operation will be repeated, with the original parameters, but acting on the currently selected or chosen image(s). Repeating an album operation will perform on the whole album, however.
There is also an Undo menu. This allows undoing any number of
operations performed on the album since
started. When undoing more than one operation at a time, you will be
asked for confirmation.
almara_album will automatically detect that it is working
with a movie, and display some extra items in the Image and
Play movie will appear both in the Image and in the
Album menus. It will compose a movie file from the individual
images and play it through the
An Export movie item will appear in the album menu; this prompts for a filename for the new movie to be saved in. If you select an existing movie (and confirm), the original will be lost.
Almara comes with a clipboard copy and paste function. You can copy an
image, or selected images, to the clipboard using
Edit|Copy. Doing Edit|Paste will paste the
contents of the clipboard to the current album. This works both within
the current album and between more running instances of
By pasting an image to the album, the original image from the source album is copied, as well as the operation log of the picture. Thus, by copying images through the clipboard, you don't lose image quality. This is also a simple way of adding new pictures to an existing album -- simply open the directory with the images you want to add with Almara, and use copy and paste.
You may be wondering how long you will have to wait before you see what you've done, or what exactly it is eating up all your CPU time at the moment. Let's have a look at the progressbar, located on the right of the statusbar.
By now, you should know that image operations are internally performed
almara_cht which runs a number of processes.
More than one operation may be processed at the same time. Also,
operations may be queued if CHT is too busy. Because some operations are
more important than others, they are given priorities. CHT's internal
scheduler does its best to first finish operations with greater
priorities, while leaving lower-priority requests to be processed later.
The most important requests are those that are necessary to show the selected image. If any of those is pending, you will see their progress in red.
Almara pre-renders the images following and preceding the chosen image. As a result, when you go to the previous or next image, you won't have to wait that long. Rendering of these images is run at the second highest priority, and the progress of these requests is marked in green. You will see this progress if all "red-progress" requests are done.
Rendering thumbnails is done at even a lower priority. Their progress is shown in blue, and you will see it if no "red-progress" or "green-progress" requests are pending.
Occasionally, you will see a yellow progressbar. This shows requests, whose result will probably not be needed any time soon, but once they were started, we'll let them finish.
Progressbars that show when printing, exporting, committing or doing similar operations will be displayed in a separate window (which will allow for cancelling the operation) and are independent of the main progressbar.
When you select Options|Configuration, a configuration
dialog will appear, that will let you configure several global options
almara_album. All these settings will be saved and loaded
automatically on every program startup.
As described before, instead of modifying the original images, Almara
logs operations in what is called an "album file". While working
with an album, all this information is stored internally in
almara_cht's memory. "Saving the album" means dumping
all this information to the appropriate album file. This is done:
Selecting this too small will speed up things a lot, but the images will
be viewed in very poor quality. Setting it larger than your largest images
will result in best quality viewing. See the explanation in the chapter
almara_cht for further details.
Users with slow machines will want to set the resolution low, and only
see images in full quality when they explicitly request that. This is
what the View|This image in full quality menu item will do.
This will re-render the image bypassing
optimizations and caches. If the image is a jpeg and any operation
requiring decompression has been performed on the image, the image will
be re-encoded and re-decoded to/from the jpeg format, so that the result
will correspond to the real achievable quality. This operation is
therefore slow. In the View menu, you can also toggle the Full
quality option. This will render every image in the full quality
described above. This will bypass important optimizations and will
severely impact the performance. If you find
unresponsive, please check that this option has not been turned on by
This is also explained in greater detail in the
chapter. Setting the cache larger will make Almara faster, because
results of some image operations will be cached. The cache is located
/tmp directory, so it might also be cleaned by system
maintenance scripts or by the administrator
Using these settings you can set whether the arrow keys are used for panning (scrolling) the image, or whether they are used to navigate in the image list. You can also select whether falling off the bottom of the image list will get you back to the top and vice versa, or whether the cursor will stay on the first/last image.
Theoretically, setting the correct gamma correction should not be left upon applications - it should be performed by the X server. In practice, however, people often don't bother to set it up properly, or they are not allowed to. Because correct gamma setting is crucial for good image viewing experience, Almara can perform gamma correction on all images being shown on the display. Go to Options|Display and either key in the values manually, or click on Wizard and a sequence of dialogs will guide you through setting the correct values.
Most of the main window's widgets can be either hidden, docked or floated. A docked widget will appear inside the main window. The size allocated to the image list, image area and exif widget can be set by dragging the separator between the widgets.
Hidden widgets don't appear at all. Hiding the widgets gives you more space for the image. Once you get used to all the keyboard shortcuts, you might want to hide the toolbar for example. On the other hand, if you only want to quickly skim through your album (perhaps while editing a movie) you might want to hide the image area. This will prevent rendering of images, and will significantly relieve the CPU load.
Widgets can also be floated. This means, that the widget will appear in its own toplevel window, and your window manager will define its behaviour. As almara does not support fullscreen viewing yet, you can easily use this feature instead -- most window managers can do fullscreen on any window, so you can float the image and then use your window manager's fullscreen feature.
Go to Options|Widgets and set everything according to your taste. The statusbar can only be shown or hidden -- not floated. You can use the Float all and Dock all items to quickly change the settings for all widgets at once.
All the settings in the config dialog, your widgets' layout, size and
docking state, export quality and format, and many more options are saved
.almara/almara_album.conf file in your home
Feel free to modify this file. It is well commented, so it should be
easy to edit. Deleting the file will make
with reasonable defaults.
Manual editing of the configuration file is the only way you can change the external image and sound editors and sound players.
The keyboard accelerators that you can modify at run time are stored
.almara/accelerators. Exif widget's settings are saved in
.almara/exif_widget.conf. You can also edit or delete these
almara_print is a small application for printing images.
almara_print_bin is an Almara compatible backend, that uses
almara_print to do its work.
will be run automatically each time you will print images from
You can use
almara_print independently of all other
Almara modules. You can give it a list of image files on the command
line, and they don't even need to be part of an album.
almara_print is based on the
library. Its user interface is basically just one complicated dialog with
multiple tabs. All of them, except the Layout tab, come from
gnomeprintui. See the
documentation for details.
The Layout tab lets you specify the number of images per page,
their borders and page margins. Selecting Autorotate photos to best
fit will allow
almara_print to rotate the images to
minimize empty space on the page. Stretch photos to best fit will
change the images' aspect ratio to fill all the available space.
Each image can have a white padding around it. You can specify its width in Photo padding. You can also specify the page margins.
almara_print can also print some of the metadata with
each image. In the right half of the tab, you can select the information
you want to print, specify the text position relative to each picture,
and choose the font to be used.
All the settings can be saved to
.almara/almara_print.conf using the Save config
For up-to-date instructions, please visit Almara's home page at http://almara.sourceforge.net/ and look for the INSTALL file.
A copy of this file, valid at the time of writing this guide, is attached as an appendix.
We hope you (will) enjoy using Almara. Your feedback, sane suggestions, and bugfixes will be greatly appreciated.
Those interested in writing new backends and frontends or in helping with the development are advised to read the Programmer's Guide, which describes Almara's internals in greated detail
The Almara team, 2003 - 2005, http://almara.sourceforge.net/