The Good: Efficient, well designed, speedy, uncluttered.

The Bad: A bit pricey, could be a fraction more polished.

The Bottom Line: A little expensive, but if you regularly need to perform the task of duplicate deleting, you won’t find a better app for it.


As Apple finally calls time on the long-ignored Aperture, the options for organisation are narrowing for budding photographers using OS X. Soon, Yosemite will bring along an all-in-one Photos app, but the likelihood is that it will be even bulkier than the already hefty iPhoto.

That’s where a third-party app such as Photosweeper (£6.99/$9.99) comes in. Although it visually resembles the behemoths of image sorting, its functional scope is actually quite restricted — this is purely an environment for comparing images and removing duplicates. But does the simplicity equate to an overly limited workflow? I went hands on to find out…

Setup

Photosweeper is a niche product. Not everyone takes dozens of similar images, and given that all the major library apps have batch sorting tools, Photosweeper really must dominate the narrow gap it occupies.

Unlike those library apps, Photosweeper does not have a library. In fact, it is designed to work as an adjunct to iPhoto, Aperture and Lightroom, simply speeding up the particular task for which it was designed. As a result, there is very little setup required, post-installation. Any libraries you may have lying around on your hard drive are scooped up into the in-built media browser, and from there they can be dragged into the main window in order to load their contents. Alternatively, any folder can be dropped in.

After that, the scanning process is impressively speedy. My test folder of approximately one hundred large JPEGs took under ten seconds to load and become workable. Inevitably, RAW and video files — both of which are fully supported — take significantly longer to process, but even these multi-megabyte files do not cause an unexpectedly long delay.

The Environment

I have never been one to preach a right or wrong approach to presenting images. However, the (ironically) dark interface of Lightroom seems to have caught on as a template for other apps in the genre, and it works reasonably well. Photosweeper follows the trend, although it can’t quite match the polish of Adobe’s app.

PS3
Other than those light grey squares, the interface very slick.

The main section of Photosweeper’s interface is taken up with a grid of image previews. These are displayed at a relatively low resolution, but Quick Look is utilised to provide better quality with only a small delay. The backdrop is made up of familiar near-black tones, but each picture is set within a bright square — perhaps the only misplaced piece of design here.

The controls, on the other hand, are set out nicely. Located in the right-hand sidebar and at the bottom of the window, they are both visually clear and unfiddly to select. One final bonus for UI nerds: once you’ve scanned a library or folder, you get a fancy slide transition through to the sorting screen.

In Use

With a tool so simple, there is little higher praise available than to say it just works, as is the case with Photosweeper. Although, there is plenty of opportunity to pull the levers yourself. To start the process, it is necessary to adjust a few variables as to how duplicates should be detected (time, bitmap analysis, histogram similarities, or a combination thereof), and how precise that detection should be. This last slider is imperative, as it means that marginally differing images taken in the same spot can be rooted out, and not just duplicated files.

PS2
There are two ways of comparing duplicates — this is one…

With the method of sorting prescribed, the centrally located blue Compare button at the bottom of the window sends Photosweeper to work. Once again, the speed with which images are inspected is impressive, and the small previews of comparison provide a nice piece of human-centric feedback as to the app’s progress.

PS4
…and this is the other.

When this task comes to an end, Photosweeper uses the aforementioned sliding animation to serve up the results, which are neatly displayed in rows. The idea is then to mark out the images to be deleted, and the employed layout makes this easy to do. To aid your decision making, the full array of EXIF data is displayed in the sidebar, and there’s the option to display large, side-by-side previews of duplicates for closer inspection.

Additionally, Photosweeper offers automarking, with judgements being based on the priorities you set in the Preferences area (e.g. Aperture above iPhoto, 5 stars above 4 stars, etc.). I would never trust an app to make such calls with my pictures, but the idea is a good one.

Extras

PS5
There are plenty of settings to be adjusted, including this list of auto-sorting variables.

The Preferences panel also has a couple more tools in store. File formats can be individually ignored or included with searches, and other options for cache management and sorting can be found here, too.

Verdict

Photosweeper is not an app that is going to win design awards or revolutionise image processing. But it doesn’t need to be. This is a workmanlike tool, and it performs the role of duplicate finder with distinction. While the addition of a rating system wouldn’t go amiss, there’s nothing to complain about apart from minor UI details, and the price — £6.99/$9.99 might be a little high for a duplicate finder. However, if you need to perform this task regularly, you won’t find a better way of doing it than Photosweeper.

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