Catalogs and Caches - ON1 Photo RAW 2020 & 2021
One of the significant differences between ON1 Photo RAW and other raw processing applications is the fact that you don't have to import your photos to browse and edit them. Photo RAW lets you get to work faster after a shoot and gives you more flexibility in where your photographs are stored.
First, let's talk about the way other raw processors work. They require a cataloging, or importing step. You have to tell the application where your photos are and then wait for it to read-in the photos before you can view or edit them. If you are cataloging many photos at once, this can take a long time. For example, if you buy a new program or computer and you want to catalog all your photos, or you come back from a wedding or extended vacation and have several thousand new photos. In these applications, there is a catalog file, which is a database, but think of it as a document that you open and save. The catalog keeps track of where your photos were when they were cataloged, plus all of the metadata and settings you add to them. In some cases, the actual original photos are put into the database and are no longer on disk in a place where you can access them. Catalogs are generally locked to the computer they are built on or are at least hard to move around.
There are other ways to view your RAW photos; of course, you can use a browser instead. Browsers are faster when it comes down to only looking at your photos. Some high-volume photographers use browsers to sort and cull their photos before they send them to their raw processor. Browsers don't give you fast searching capabilities of a catalog, and if you go back to the same folder frequently, it must build new thumbnails every time. And of course, they don't do your raw processing.
ON1 Photo RAW is a bit different. It combines the best of both cataloging and browsing. You can easily point it to any folder, and it works as a browser. You can quickly view tons of photos and do your sorting and culling. You can still search and sort within the current folder and create lists of photos (called albums) without having to make copies of the photos.
Then when you want the benefits that a database provides, like fast searching across all your photos or publishing your photos to ON1 Sync, you tell Photo RAW to keep watch where your photos live. You do this by creating a Cataloged Folder. A Cataloged Folder is any folder structure you want. For example, it would be an external hard drive where you keep all your photos or your My Pictures folder. Photo RAW keeps an eye on it for you in the background. It keeps track of all the photos and videos, plus their metadata settings. If you add, delete, move, rename, or edit in another app, it knows. Everything just stays in sync. It also creates a high-quality preview, so it is faster to browse and in some cases, faster to share and export. It gives you the benefits of cataloging without having to wait for cataloging or having to worry about opening a catalog. If you work on multiple computers or share your photos with other workers in a studio, ON1 Photo RAW makes that easier too. It stores each photo's metadata, settings, and adjustments along with the photo so that anyone who views it can see the changes. When someone else adjusts a photo, and when you view it on your computer again, it will automatically pick-up the changes so you can see them. You don't have to worry about moving a catalog back and forth or fixing up broken paths, plus your photos can live on network drives.
Cataloged Folder FAQs
Q. Do I have to create a cataloged folder to use Photo RAW?
A. No, you can browse your photos wherever they live. If you want to search across multiple folders or drives, or if you want to use ON1 Sync, you must create a cataloged folder.
Q. Where does the data that backs up a cataloged folder live?
A. The data is stored in two locations. First, every photo you catalog or edit has an .on1 sidecar file created next to it. This small text file contains the photo's metadata and editing settings. These make it easy to move and share photos across multiple computers. They also provide a back-up for your settings. Second, there are caches of preview images and database files for metadata and settings. These live inside your application support (app data) folders.
Q. How much space does the cataloged folder cache and databases take up, and can I move them?
A. The preview cache can grow to be pretty significant. Its size depends on the number of photos cataloged, the size of the primary display, and the preview size option you select when creating a cataloged folder.
You can set the location of the image caches in the Preferences dialog. Moving the cache to a fast external drive can free up space on your boot volume. The cache folders cannot be moved to another computer at this time.
The databases live in the same application support folders. They use a relatively small amount of storage and cannot be moved at this time.
Q. I have tons of photos that live on a NAS (network-attached storage device), and I use a laptop as my primary editing computer, what should I do?
A. If you have a ton of photos, it's essential to be able to find and view them quickly. Unfortunately, laptops usually have small hard drives, making it difficult to store large previews. In this scenario, we recommend creating a cataloged folder of your NAS and using the minimal preview option. This stores just the metadata and a small thumbnail. This makes your NAS searchable and gives you a thumbnail so you can see which photos are which. Then when you need to look closer or edit the photos, the larger preview or original photo is accessed.
Q. I work with multiple computers, what's the best way to sync my photos and edits across them?
A. Currently, the best way to sync your photos and edits across multiple computers is to use cloud storage and sync services like Dropbox, Google Drive, or MS OneDrive. If your photos are located in the cloud, so are their sidecar files. When you make a metadata change or editing change, all of your computers that have Photo RAW and access to the cloud stay in sync.
Coming in early 2020, ON1 Sync will provide a turn-key solution to keep all of your photos, their metadata, and settings in sync across all your devices, including mobile devices, without having to store your original photos in the cloud.
Q. What are the proper settings for me in the System tab of Preferences?
A. Let's start at the top, the memory usage sliders. There are sliders for system usage (RAM) and video usage (VRAM). The default is 80%. The only time you would want to reduce these are if you are multi-tasking with another memory-hungry application at the same time.
Next is the Scratch Folder location. In rare cases, when you run low on physical memory, your hard disk can be used as extra memory. This only applies to large output from the Resize module. If you have minimal space on your boot disk, setting this to another fast drive, such as an SSD can improve performance in these rare instances.
The Browse Cache stores small .jpg previews of photos you have previously viewed or cataloged. These make it faster to browse and preview the same photos again. You can adjust the amount of disk space used for previews of non-cataloged folders by adjusting the Cache Size. The default 5000mb (5gb) size is enough to store previews for about 5,000 photos (depending on screen size). When you reach the cap you have set, the oldest previews are removed. .Jpg previews of photos in Cataloged Folders are not removed and are not governed by the Cache Size slider. You can also Move the cache location. This is handy if you have limited space on your boot volume. If you are working on a laptop with a small internal hard drive, setting the cache location to an external disk, such as the one you store your photos on, allows you to catalog more photos. Emptying the Browse cache removes all the previews for stored for frequently browsed photos; Previews from Cataloged Folders are maintained.
The Performance section tunes how your video card (GPU) is used to render photos. First, let us cover the Video Card Strength slider. It controls how frequently the image processing of the preview is updated compared to using tools and controls. When the slider is set towards the Low end, tools like the brush and gradients, as well as slider adjustments, are faster and more fluid. However, the underlying image preview updates less frequently. When the slider is set to the High end, the underlying preview updates more frequently, but can cause tool and slider usage to be sticky. As a guide, you want to set the slider as high as possible until you experience a sticky brush painting.
The Fast Panning checkbox increases the panning (moving) of the preview when you are zoomed in by reducing the quality of the preview temporarily. The Fast Preview checkbox also improves performance by reducing the preview quality when brushing or making other active image adjustments when the video card is struggling. If you do not like the preview quality changing while brushing, turn this option off. The GPU render checkbox allows your video card to be used for secondary rendering such as preset previews, building cache previews, and exporting. This makes these tasks much faster. The option should always be on unless you experience garbled or black output. If that occurs, your video card may be underpowered for the task at hand. Disabling this option falls back to the CPU and should resolve the garbled or black output.
Q. What do I need to back-up?
A. It's always wise to keep a back-up of not only your photos but a whole-system back-up of your computer. There is no need for specific back-up copies of the ON1 caches and databases. They create and manage back-ups on their own.