Phoshare allows you to liberate your images and a lot of the data you entered into iPhoto or Aperture. It creates and maintains a folder tree of your images outside of your iPhoto or Aperture library that replicates your event and album organization. In addition, your image titles, descriptions, dates, keywords, rating, places, and face tags are exported into image metadata, so that other programs like Picasa, Adobe Bridge, Adobe Photoshop Elements, Adobe Photoshop, Windows Live Photo Gallery etc. can see the data. Phoshare works very well with Picasa on the Mac.

Phoshare is very fast. It can synchronize a 20,000 image iPhoto library in less than a minute. Your first synchronization of course will take much longer, because phoshare has to create the full folder tree.

The code is available at Google Code (both source code and binary in the same .zip file).

Check News for information about updates. Use the phoshare-users group for discussions of phoshare.


Phoshare works with iPhoto '06, iPhoto '08, iPhoto '09 and iPhoto '11 on Mac OS X Mountain Lion, Lion, Snow Leopard, Leopard, or Tiger. It also supports Aperture 3.1.2 and newer.

If you use any of the options to update image metadata, then you need to install ExifTool for metadata support. ExifTool is another great piece of free software that allows the manipulation of image meta data. Make sure you grab the Mac OS X .dmg package. If you don't plan to use this feature, you can skip this step.

Phoshare is a Mac OS X application, but can also be used a command line utility and embedded into other scripts.

Limitations - No Keywords in iPhoto 9.4 and Aperture

iPhoto 9.4 no longer shares keyword metadata with other applications like Phoshare. Once you've upgraded your library, Phoshare is no longer able to export keyword metadata. This also applies to all versions of Aperture. However, with Aperture, you can work around this by updating the images in the library before running Phoshare. Use Metadata -> Update IPTC Metadata in Originals...  (if you didn't make any changes to the images) or regenerate the previews (if you edited the images in Aperture).

Getting Started

  1. Download the most recent package from the Google Code.
  2. If your browser doesn't automatically unzip the downloaded file, click on the downloaded Zip file to expand it. This will create the application Phoshare in your Downloads folder.
  3. If desired, copy the application to your Applications folder.
  4. Double click on the Phoshare app to launch it.


I like managing and editing my photos with iPhoto, but I don't like having my work kept hostage inside iPhoto. I also like Picasa from Google, for its speed and easy management of online albums (check out the "Sync to Web" feature), and it's ability to automatically discover images, even if stored elsewhere on your network. And sometimes I feel like using Adobe Bridge. So it's important to me that any work I invest into my photo collection (edits, organization, annotations, tagging) is not tied up in one application. That's where phoshare comes in. I've used variations of this tool for many years.

How does it work

phoshare exports all your images from your iPhoto library into a folder tree outside of your library. It preserves the following information:
  • Event and album organization: each event, regular album or smart album becomes a folder in the export tree. You can annotate your albums and events in iPhoto to store them in subfolders.
  • Edits: if you have edited your image in iPhoto, both the original and the edited version are exported.
  • Titles: phoshare uses the iPhoto image title as the export file name.
  • Descriptions: written into the caption-abstract field in the image meta data (JPEG only)
  • Dates: written into DateTimeOriginal in the image meta data (JPEG only)
  • Keywords: written into the keywords field in the image meta data (JPEG only). Note: Not available in Aperture or with iPhoto 9.4. See above.
  • Ratings: written into image meta data (JPEG only)
  • Faces: exports the face tags and face regions using the XMP mwg-rs tags, and merge the face tags with your other keywords, and written in the keywords field in the image meta data (JPEG only). Note: With iPhoto 9.4 and Aperture, face regions are based on the original image, and will not line up with the faces if you cropped, rotated, or straighted the image.
  • Places: GPS coordinates are written into the image meta data (JPEG only)
Besides a full export, phoshare can also synchronize any changes you made in iPhoto by simply running it again. It then only applies your changes: new images, updated images, and deleted images. This is a one-way synchornization, and changes you made in your export folder are not copied back into iPhoto (actually, they will most likely be overwritten with the version of the image stored in iPhoto). 

Phoshare has two modes:
  • copy (default) - all images are copied. Your export folder can be anywhere, but you basically double the disk space needed to store your photos. Updates the image meta data only in the copied files.
  • link - exported images are just hard links to the image files in your library. Needs very little additional disk space, but only works if the export tree is on the same drive as your library. Updates the image metadata in the files in your library.
Phoshare currently does not preserve the following information:
  • Album/Event descriptions

link mode

In link mode, phoshare does not actually copy the images from the iPhoto library into the export folders. Instead, each image is just a link back to the file in the iPhoto library. This has the advantage that you need very little additional disk space - just enough to store the folders and links. It actually works very well, with no real risk to accidentally damaging your iPhoto library. Lets look at what happens in a couple of scenarios:
  • You delete a file in the export folders: this removes only the link to the to the image file, and it remains in your iPhoto library.
  • You rename a file in the export folder: this only changes the name of the link, and does not rename the file in the iPhoto library.
  • You edit the file in the export folder: Your average image editor writes a new file on save. This replaces the link with a new file, and you end up with two independent copies of your image. Which is good, because iPhoto does not tolerate modifications to image files in it's library.
  • You modify the image meta data: some apps allow edits in place, while others make copies (same as edits). Except for geodata, iPhoto looks at image meta data only during the initial import, and will ignore all other metadata changes.
  • You create a new image in your export folder: it will not show up in the iPhoto library, because your export folder is actually a real folder outside the iPhoto library.
So as you can see, link mode is quite safe. But you can only use it if your export folder is on the same drive as your iPhoto library - hard links cannot cross file systems.

Working with Picasa

If you export your photo with Phoshare, you can then use Picasa from Google to browse your pictures, or to upload your photos to Picasa Web Albums. This works very well if you add your export folder to the folder managed in Picasa, and enable the "Sync to Web" option for a folder. Every time you make changes in iPhoto, after you run phoshare, Picasa will automatically detect new, deleted, and updated images, and synchronize it with your online albums. Picasa picks up all the exported metadata, including titles, captions, keywords (with face tags if you use the option), and GPS coordinates. If you have an edited photo, Picasa even recognizes your edits, and offers you the Revert option. phoshare does not sync iPhoto faces itself to Picasa face tags, only the face names to keywords. Ratings are not supported by Picasa either.

You can also edit your images in Picasa, including assinging tags, without worrying about corrupting your iPhoto library. However, if you use phoshare to synchronize updates and deletes (options -u and -d), any changes you make in Picasa will get overwritten. Picasa creates files in your folders to track edits and online status - phoshare will not disturb these files, even when using the -d and -u options.

If you want to transition some photos from iPhoto to Picasa, simply use Picasa to move the exported folder to a location outside of the export folder tree before you make edits.

Picasa for the Mac can also see photos in your iPhoto library, but it doesn't know about your edits, titles, descriptions, keywords, face tags, or albums. And if you are using iPhoto '09, which doesn't organize the folders in its library by event anymore, your event structure is not shown either.

License and Copyright

Copyright 2010 - 2012 Google Inc.

Code License: Apache License 2.0