When using jAlbum you should feel that you're in full control of how your images are managed. Some software titles that handle images give me gray hair! This is because I don't know what they are doing to my images - some just start indexing my hard-drive collecting all the images. Hey, I didn't ask for that! Others copy my images to some unknown location and soon my whole disk is completely fragmented with images all over the place. With jAlbum you get the choice to work with images your way.
Enabling the alternatives
Before continuing, open jAlbum preferences and switch to the "Album" tab. Now ensure that the "When adding files" setting is set to "Ask". This will make jAlbum pop up a dialogue window when adding files so you can decide on how to work with those files.
Makes copies by default
jAlbum defaults to copying the images you add to a project folder located under a "My Albums" folder (the location for this folder can be set under Preferences). This has the advantage of creating "self contained" album projects. That means that they don't rely on where your original images are located and deleting images within jAlbum doesn't affect any files outside of your album project. This is what most users expect, but there are more ways.
Work directly on existing images (default)
Let's say that you don't like copies to be created for sake of disk usage, or that you already have a huge folder structure of images that you wish your album project to "mirror", so that changes, like rearranging folders and adding images outside of jAlbum automatically makes it into the final album on the next album build. In that case you should drop an image folder onto an empty project window and use the "Use folder" method. jAlbum will now move into that folder and use it as its "image directory" (its image source). Any change to the contents of that folder, or its sub-folders will show inside your new album project and vice versa: Any change you make to images (moving, deleting, renaming) within jAlbum will affect the real files under this folder. This way of working enables you to use jAlbum as a file manager for your existing images. You just need to hit "Make album" to have your web album updated.
(To manage custom file ordering and metadata like captions and ratings, jAlbum keeps a couple of support files and a ".jalbum" folder under the "image directory". Don't use this option if you're concerned about not having these support files added to your existing image directory.)
Work with links
This option strikes a middle way between copying files and "Use folder". A project folder is created under the "My Albums" folder, but it is filled with links to the images you add instead of being filled with copies. This has the advantage of saving disk space and keeping jAlbum stuff separated from your existing files. Links are simply references to the original location of the images you add, so jAlbum will rely on them being present.
Please refer to this table for a better understanding on the effects of these options:
Adding picture(s) a copy is created in the project's folder will link to the original image – Adding a folder folder and contents is copied a link to folder is created will use the whole folder as is Self conatined
(everything is in a single folder that you can carry / backup)
yes no yes Disk use 2x 1x 1x Deleting a file in jAlbum deletes the copy no effect on source files deletes the original Renaming a file in jAlbum renames the copy renames only the link renames the original file jAlbum support files added in source folder no no yes After changing the original (e.g. in Lightroom) you’ll have to add the picture again
(you’ll lose the comment)
processed automatically in the next “Make” processed automatically in the next “Make” Same file in multiple albums yes, new copy will be created every time yes, using the same source image no Using the OS’s file manager to organize albums yes, but only the copy no, might break links either yes
You can use combinations of the SHIFT, ALT and CTRL keys as you drag folders and images onto jAlbum to automatically trigger a "Use folder", "Copy" or "Link" behavior. You can observe the mouse arrow to know what behavior will be triggered. (Mac users use combinations of SHIFT, ALT and CMD instead).
I hope this blog post has explained the pros and cons of the different ways jAlbum can handle images. Now you probably have enough information to make use of jAlbum in the way that suits you best. For more reading, please see this blog post.