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Around 10 years ago I wrote a custom gallery in php it was nice and all but since it is abandoneware it is starting to get less and less usable. So I decided on Gallery 3 to replace it and I thought Id share some observations on it here. So how does Gallery 3 stack up? Was it all the modern “web 2.0 social experience” I expected?

The good

Well first off lets start with the positive. Gallery 3 has a solid plugin foundation (not Wordpress galore with thousands of them but then again there is only one plugin per feature so you don’t need thousands of them) but still a sizable amount somewhere in-between 150 and 200. Many of the plugins do what they announce and just work without any issues. They solve most common problems easily without any custom fidgeting and it is thus a breeze to get started. The plugins I use are:

  • Custom Menus Provides the ability to add custom menus to the UI
  • Exif GPS Data Provides google maps integration
  • Facebook Comments Adds a box for facebook comments (default it has its own).
  • Photo Annotation Tagging framework used by wlp face tagging plugin later on.
  • Rebuild items Allows you to easily rebuild thumbnails
  • Rectangle Thumbnails Allows you to se the aspect ratio of photos (to make thumbs look better)
  • Tag Albums Allows you to browse tags (a rather strange approach but works).
  • XMP Imports Windows Live Photo Gallery tags (this is where I get my face tags).

This is pretty much what I would expect. It is a bit low on the social side but that is not uncommon and there are some interesting plans in those areas.

Apart from the solid set of plugins things are working quite well and everything seems solid enough. So happy story all the way?

Not really, because once I had things running smoothly I was forced to scratch the surface as I wanted to make the style look like my Wordpress theme. And here is where it all starts to fall apart once you start scratching you end up with some rather mind bogglingly strange things.

The bad

First off why is there no out of the box way to configure the sizes of thumbs and photos? Why is there no way to configure the layout? Hell why is there no way to configure pretty much anything?

Perhaps they want themes to provide all this?

That is the direction which Greydragon went. Greydragon is a pretty solid all inclusive theme which seems to add a workaround for most of the oddities and adds many of the configuration options I would have expected out of the box. Unfortunately the theme in it self looks rather dated something easily solved with some minor customizations and CSS you’d think: right?

Layout and design aside, it is after all up to taste, there is a lot of things I would have expected in a modern gallery software which is missing in gallery 3.

  • Ajax powered Seriously, no ajax at al?
  • Built-in Slideshow Coloris is a nice touch but no lightweight built-in slideshow?
  • Next image? Why is there no way to click the image to skip to the next (or perhaps better yet, some modern version of the popup ajax thumbnail browser I had in my gallery see screenshot) ?
  • Zooming thumbnails Why cant I get at least some javascript goodness (I quite frankly had more ajax in my 10 year old gallery).
  • Interesting widgets The included widgets would not have been exiting even 10 years ago.

Another thing which really bothered me was the lack of concept such as views and trees. I would have liked to switch view to something less spacious like a list view or tiles view. And it would have been nice to be able to browse a tree somewhere as it is rather slow clicking around.

Another point I really missed was alias in my previous gallery an album could reside in multiple folders making it possible to group things in more then one way. I guess tags could replace this but browsing tags is an extension and not out of the box. Also tags are "more photos" then albums.

The ugly

As a developer my approach to problem is to fix what I feel is broken. So the first thing I did was open up vi and start to dabble here and there trying to make things at least look fresh and modern (in my humble opinion).

And that’s when it start to become really ugly.

Graydragon has pretty much recreated most of the features which would be found in a gallery in the theme (probably as the API seems limited).

To make matters worse since there is no standard way to interact between the various models and views the only way to add support for new features is to recreate the functionality again and again and again.

A good example of this is the “tag_album” module which in theory could have piggy backed on the normal thumbnails views just replacing the data with photos based on tags right?

Wrong! instead they opted to recreate the page-template, album page-template, and thumbnails-template to facilitate the tag browsing. This as there seems to be no easy way to create an instance of an “album” and say: Hey, lets render this guy for me.

This means when I want it to integrate nicely in my theme I ended up having to add the same hard coded stuff in my hacked Greydragon to make it look nice.

Perhaps this is due to inexperienced plugin developers, perhaps a badly designed API? I havent looked at Gallery 3 enough to make up my mind. But regardless of the reason the end result is leaves a lot to be desired.

And before I get carried away lets end this by briefly mentioning the clobbered mix of php, html and what not found in parts of the code. Hello ASP and welcome back to the year 2000!


Now don’t get me wrong Gallery 3 is a really nice gallery it is one of the best (and I have tried a myriad of them) it really works handsomely. But it seems that Gallery 3 (and many others) are stuck somewhere between 10 years ago and now. Where is all the modern stuff? Ajax, javascript, hell even some flash would have been a welcome change.

If you are looking for gallery you cant really go wrong with gallery it has most features you will require albeit packaged in a pre-web 2.0 edition. But for most people this will not be a problem.

So just don’t expect a lot of cool stuff and make sure you like on of the included themes (as creating a custom one can be a huge endeavor).