Shotwell is a great photo manager for GNOME. It imports photos to conventional ~/Pictures, stores meta information as well as thumbnails somewhere deep in hidden directories. Now consider my requirements:

  • Need to keep media files on a portable USB HDD, because my computer may have limited SSD
  • Need to keep meta information and thumbnails close to the photos to simplify backup
  • Should be able to stick into another GNOME station and have the photo collection ready to use.

The solution is blazingly simple: mount bind directories from the portable media to usual locations before launching Shotwell, and carefully unmount afterwards.


# Launch shotwell on portable photo collection

# Usage:
#   ./

set -e

# Assuming this script is located inside portable Pictures
pics_dir=$(readlink -f `dirname ${BASH_SOURCE[0]}`)

echo "Source directory is $pics_dir"

    echo "$cleanup_actions"
    eval "$cleanup_actions"

trap cleanup EXIT

    msg="$1"; src=$2; dst=$3
    echo "Mounting $msg from $src"
    mkdir -p $dst
    # Cone could use fuse bindfs to avoid entering password
    sudo mount -o bind $src $dst
    cleanup_actions="sudo umount $dst; $cleanup_actions"

mount_directory "pictures" $pics_dir ~/Pictures
mount_directory "shotwell database" $pics_dir/shotwell ~/.local/share/shotwell
mount_directory "thumbnail cache" $pics_dir/shotwell/.cache ~/.cache/shotwell


Now it’s awesome to realize that media library is persistent across multiple PCs!