darktable vs ART

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Chris Dubea
Chris Dubea Senior Member • Posts: 1,957
darktable vs ART


With all the foolishness recently coming out of the Capture One camp, I've decided to investigate other retouching tools.  I love what C1 does for my images, but my confidence level in their business practices has fallen to virtually zero.

As such, I've decided to go open source. If I'm going to learn a new process, I want one that will provide complete freedom from commercial foolishness. To preface, I'm on Windows 10 exclusively in my processing capability.


Initially I was drawn to darktable .  Well thought of in the community, a goodly amount of support materials (videos and such on youtube), very actively developed, been around for a long while, etc. I installed a version on my laptop to play around with my local photos storage on that machine. DT "markets" itself as a tool for library management, with more about that later.

My "good" imagery is stored on a Synology NAS box with mapped drives, but I wasn't ready for DT to be touching that yet, mostly due to the way DT handles xmp files, which is part of the problem. DT creates xmp files and then saves them as <filename>.<filetype>.xmp.

They are very careful to state that when DT initially opens a file, it reads the xmp file if there is one,  but after that it never looks at or updates the original xmp file.  This makes interacting with other retouching tools a bit tenuous at best. So I imported my local images, which is mostly stuff I've downloaded off the web, for testing purposes.

The modules in DT seem very good (if a bit many), but as many here on dpreview have pointed out, they all don't need to be used. The ability to create masks and such seem extremely powerful, but honestly the interface is very non-intuitive to me.  I've had to do internet searches to figure out how to do simple things like show folders, etc.

The glaring omission in DT is file handling.  This is none, or at least none that I could find. If files need to moved, it's done outside of DT.  If a file needs to be renamed, the sidecar files all need to be manually renamed as well. This is a major deficient in my little mind.

A thread on the pixls.us website suggested using digikam for file management in conjunction with DT. Decidedly sub-optimal in my little mind.


The other tool I'm looking at is ART  ART is a fork of Raw Therapee, and contains all the power of RT, without the complexity.  The author continues to be very aggressive in refactoring the tools in RT to be more user friendly, and more logical.  He has done a great job. It's amazing how much one, obviously skilled, coder can do.

A cursory review (i've spent about as much time in ART as I have in writing this message) shows a face that, to me, makes a lot more sense. The browser is just that, a browser.  You navigate to the folder desired, pick a photo and edit. That simple. The editing tools include masking and such so are on par with DT.

There are two downsides to ART.

  1. One author.  While he is exceedingly active at present, I don't see this as being viable in the long run.  What happens to ART when life gets in the way? Hopefully by that point there are others involved, but for now he is all we have.
  2. Lack of documentation. The only documentational materials are literally for RT. While the tools work the same in both, they are not configured in the same manner. I guess it's like studying to repair a Mercedes and then trying to fix your Toyota. The same, yet vastly different.

In my little mind, I'm going to have to resort to another tool for file management with either package. I've recently gotten  XnView MP  installed and working as desired on all my Windows boxes and could probably just use that, with the alternative being DigiKam.

Would love to hear the thoughts from others about the comparison.


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