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Seeking online gallery software

I’m looking for a flexible (if not powerful) online gallery package. What are the free, preferably open source choices for online galleries? There are quite a few!

Wikipedia has a photo gallery comparison article. However, it’s not comprehensive since it’s a stub which needs cleanup (e.g., lists only basic features, and doesn’t mention other projects like Phormer and Plogger). Wikipedia also has categories for free image galleries and free photo software, but again, they don’t quite have the information I seek. If you know of better comparison sites, please tell me about them. My search-fu hasn’t had much success. I’d like to read an actual article comparing features and requirements, or hear about your own experiences, rather than spend time sifting through forum threads.


I know there are free services out there, but I should describe what I want in a web-based photo gallery application. Moreover, because I don’t produce huge numbers of photos at a high frequency, I’m more interested in an online gallery rather than a photoblog. AFAIK the first two points below will eliminate choices like Flickr and Picasa. I’ve been impressed by what I’ve seen at SmugMug, but it’s not free.

(A numbered list, more for reference than priority.)

  1. Can be hosted on my own domains at no additional (monetary) cost.
  2. Ability to customize to my heart’s content. Not just open source (ideally), but also well organized markup and code. Ability to easily install, modify and remove plugins, if available.
  3. Requirements for the client side must be browser and operating system independent.
  4. Easy to install, backup and upgrade.
  5. (X)HTML and CSS for included themes should validate out of the box. Duh.
  6. Pretty URL structure (permalinks) for human readability and search engine optimization (SEO) should just happen. Fiddling around with URL rewrite settings should be kept to a bare minimum, as well as straightforward. It would be nice to be able to easily prevent (ideally control) hotlinking, too.
  7. Reliable responsiveness: It doesn’t have to be lightening fast all the time. Just something that isn’t a memory hog, or has frequent server timeouts.
  8. Can dynamically resize images and generate thumbnails. I.e., I want to upload only one version of each image.
  9. Clear, concise UI for viewing (users). Choice of themes including simple, accessible designs. (I like minimalist, streamlined designs.)
  10. Clear, concise UI for administration. Ease in modifying settings, adding, editing, deleting and rearranging images and albums.
  11. Offer syndication (RSS).
  12. Support for subalbums.
  13. Provide search. Tagging and categories would be an optional perk.
  14. Ability to control users and comments by default. For example, from my current gallery usage: To have a single user (me) and turn off comments.
  15. Preferred implementation in PHP, with database support for MySQL.
  16. WordPress (WP) integration: At the very least, allow a random thumbnail from the gallery in my WP site.
  17. While I don’t allow comments or ratings, plugins to control comment spam and spambots, à la Akismet, Bad Behavior or Spam Karma would be nice to see (at least in the future).
  18. (Optional perk) Easy support for moblogging.
  19. Last but not least, clear, well organized documentation (often an ongoing project, understandably), and an active, responsive development community. Free support forums. News and version notifications through syndication.

A potential package I’ve played with is Zenphoto. Unfortunately, the current release lacks a few critical features (10 partially, 11, 12, 13, 14, 17, and 19 partially). According to the roadmap, most of these would be implemented by version 1.1, but search won’t be available until v2.0, which has no projected date (it’d be no earlier than Spring 2008). For a long time there have been only one or two developers working on Zenphoto, and recent inactivity made me worry that the project had come to a standstill. But after reading a couple of forum threads, the good news is that they’re reorganizing (with more developers), and are earnestly working towards releasing v1.1 in a couple of months.

Update (5 Nov 2007): Yowza, looks like the Zenphoto 1.1 release contains the features mentioned in the previous paragraph. A serious contender! Wonder how tricky it’ll be to migrate my Gallery 2 content…

Update (6 Aug 2008): Another encouraging reason to switch: Travis Wu created a Gallery 2 to Zenphoto migrator.


I’ve used Gallery 2 since last Summer and, I’m sad to say, have become more annoyed with it. Whenever I’ve updated my installations, the process kills my modified theme (overwritten by the unmodified version, which doesn’t even validate out of the box) and horks the .htaccess file. The URL Rewrite plugin is such a friggin’ pain; my Big Wish would be for pretty links (permalinks) to occur automagically. Honestly though, something like the near-effortless permalink setup in WordPress and Zenphoto would be perfectly reasonable and acceptable. Good thing I’ve got file backups.

(Manually and locally speaking, I’d need to set aside server configuration files like the .htaccess for both WordPress and Gallery. However, for my live sites my hosting service provides a quick one-click method for updates which somehow intelligently avoids touching such files for WordPress. But not for Gallery.)

Moreover, I am so tired of erratic, uninformative timeouts which occur with my gallery site. I have no desire to run a production site in debug mode for any extended period of time just to catch unpredictable errors. In addition, I’ve taken a few simple steps for performance optimization, even though there’s less than 1,000 images uploaded. Yet performance remains sluggish, whether viewing pages in a web browser or accessing feeds from a news reader.

Gallery does have a lot going for it. It’s amazingly rich and extensible, including the ability to block hotlinks, various print services (online photo labs) tools, image randomization, password protection, and so much more. While I’m unimpressed by the documentation, I’ve gotten fast and accurate help from the Gallery forums.

I know I said I don’t want a photoblog, but I do want a decent content management system (CMS), where the primary content happens to be images. I wish Gallery were more like WordPress when it comes to maintenance, especially with installation and upgrades. WordPress is such a dream in those respects! There, I said it. The “why can’t you be more like your sibling / coworker / other friends?” complaint.

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