Open multiple libraries at once in separate windows
Copies and moves media between libraries
Advanced export options
Works with images and videos stored in iCloud Photos
PowerPhotos provides the missing management features needed in the Photos app and adds powerful deduplication, an alternate search approach, and a list view.
Apple has matured its Photos app for macOS significantly in the years since the company cut the thread for iPhoto and called Photos its new approach. The current version is very similar to the one that was introduced, but with everything working reliably most of the time. However, Photos still has significant library management missing pieces. Fat Cat Software’s PowerPhotos has held that role since 2015, and the company released a major update to version 2 in 2022 that offers even more refinement.
The app solves many of the Photos problems people regularly write to us about on Mac 911. The program lets you merge Photos libraries, view multiple libraries without leaving Photos, and reselect them (including in separate windows at once) , create libraries on external files, and move or copy images and videos between libraries without losing information you’ve added or edits made.
You might think of PowerPhotos as a sidecar of Photos rather than a replacement: the two only overlap in certain ways. PowerPhotos relies on Photos as an engine to power its management, search, and export options. It also offers both a thumbnail and list view unlike Photos, which only shows thumbnails. But you turn to Photos to create and manage albums, view and apply metadata, and edit images and videos.
The new version of PowerPhotos improves export options well beyond the limited, convenient choices within Photos. The core deduplication feature in PowerPhotos has expanded its utility by allowing visual matches that you can limit or refine based on image data, such as dimensions or the embedded timestamp. (macOS Ventura, iOS 16, and iPadOS 16 include a machine learning-supported Duplicates album, but as with most things Apple does, it’s automatic, quite handy, and not configurable. Apple doesn’t reveal its logic so that you can understand why it selected some images as duplicates and not others.)
Version 2 also fixes an issue that made the app useless for people who depended on iCloud Photos with optimization turned on. With version 1, PowerPhotos could not access media stored in iCloud; version 2 takes care of that. It enables previews and other actions, and downloads any images or videos to your Mac when they are needed, just like Photos.
The PowerPhotos search features provide an alternative to those in Photos. For simplicity, Apple either lets you search a single field and then refine it from a pop-up set of matching results, or use a smart folder to add criteria for more complicated matches. PowerPhotos also lets you start with a single search field. You can choose to search the entire library, favorites, albums, or other subsets. After you enter a search query, PowerPhotos allows you to narrow it down to a file name, caption, keywords, or other elements.
What it comes down to:
Not everyone needs PowerPhotos. It’s well worth the price if you routinely experience frustration within Photos for tasks it misses or is bad at, such as library management and searches. It’s the only reasonable solution in a variety of circumstances: if you’ve created multiple Photo Libraries for different purposes, divided a huge collection into smaller chunks, or are working with libraries stored on a mix of internal and external drives, especially volumes you generally saves offline.
You might also find the price tag worth it for a single Photos library merge, because there’s no other way to get the job done. PowerPhotos 2 costs $29.95 for new users and $14.95 to upgrade from PowerPhotos 1 or a version of the discontinued app, iPhoto Library Manager. It requires macOS 11 Big Sur or later and version 2.1 is ready for macOS 13 Ventura.