Verdict

AfterShot Pro - 3/5
Gimp - 0/5
Shotwell - 3/5
digiKam - 4/5
Darktable - 1/5
Fotoxx- 1/5

Interface

You've got the package, now how easy is it to get around?

AfterShot Pro - 5/5

AfterShot Pro

If you've used a RAW editor in the last decade or so, the layout of AfterShot Pro will be instantly familiar to your eyes. On the left, you have the browsing controls - a file manager, a library viewer and some settings for filtering and searching for shots.

In the middle is a digital light table that shows thumbnails or zooms to individual pics for editing. Over on the right, meanwhile, are the editing tools. Laid out in a fashion not designed for efficient use of screen space, but named and ordered in an intuitive fashion such that most photos can be edited from the default tab, with advanced options for harder work cascading behind.

It's not the prettiest or most modern photo editor, but neither does it look dated or make the user work to find essential tools. Top marks.

digiKam - 3.5/5

Digikam

Few things are more than a click away. It opens up onto a library manager, and you can rearrange the view according to title, date taken, metatags, ratings and more, or switch to a fully-fledged RAW importer and photo editor.

This is also a problem, as by default there are icons running down both sides of the main frame, and lots of controls to remember. It's perfect for someone who handles a lot of images and wants to stay within digiKam for everything, but if you aren't going to use the extra controls, it's cluttered.

Plus some of the cooler features - like the spinning globe for GPS tagging photos - are slightly buggy. The date sorting panel looks great, but is less usable than Shotwell's dull folder tree. Being a native KDE app, though, it is eminently tweakable.

Shotwell - 3/5

Shotwell

Now Google's Picasa is no longer maintained for Linux, Shotwell is the next best thing to a dedicated library manager that focuses on helping you find a photo fast. By default, it sorts images by time taken using a timeline on the right that looks rudimentary, but is easier to get around than the one in digiKam.

You can also view by tag or EXIF information - although these options aren't obvious and require going through the View menu. There's a one-click photo fix button, and it uploads shots and albums directly to a vast number of photo sharing sites.

Shotwell is simple, but not yet elegant. The rounded icons used for folder and album views look slightly out of place, and the functional sorting column on the left could do with a little love.

Darktable - 3/5

Darktable

The guiding principle for Darktable seems to be to take the established design of a traditional RAW editor and simplify it. To this extent, it is a massive success. The library view is simple and straightforward, and the editing tools seem initially straightforward too. Then there's the little flourishes, the swirls that are reminiscent of a silent movie panel that decorate the black background.

But while it looks simple, Darktable is a challenge to use. Editing menus are labelled with icons rather than words, and named unintuitively. Controls are divided into Basic Group, Tone Group and Explicitly Specified by User. Some of the more commonly used controls aren't available, but have to be added from the hidden Plugins menu.

Set it up right, and Darktable is an efficient tool laid out to your way of working. But for most, the learning curve is staggeringly high.

Fotoxx - 2/5

Fotoxx

There's something a little Windows 98-ish about the interface of Fotoxx that will put most users off trying it. Not to give it a go, however, is to miss out on some of the wonderful lunacy that's gone into the design.