I have a large collection of digital photos on my Synology NAS (currently a DS-209II running DSM 4.2). Managing this with iPhoto is quite a challenge, because it cannot handle the photos being stored somewhere else. It copies everything across to its library, which can grow quite big. With current expensive SSD storage this is not what I want. Trying to host the iPhoto library on the NAS doesn’t work, because iPhoto requires an HFS+ formatted drive, which you can’t create on your Synology NAS (although you can mount an external HFS+ formatted drive).

So I looked at various other native Mac Photo Management applications, like Shoebox, Lyn and finally Picasa. Although you can see that Picasa is not designes specifically for OSX, it has some great management features in which it outperforms iPhoto easily. First of all, it doesn’t copy photos, it only indexes them and creates a metadata database. Secondly, most editing actions you can perform are not saved to the original picture. Although you can do this, it is at your command when your original photo is actually changed. This means that it can easily index all the photos on your Synology NAS without actually changing them.

On the downside, it still stores all metadata about your collection locally on your Mac harddisk, so although your photos are stored centrally, you can’t easily store the database on your NAS. Since Picasa 3.9, there is an entry in the Experimental menu which allows you to move your database to another location. Unfortunately, when you try to move it to a NAS volume, Picasa doesn’t allow it and states that the database must be stored on a local hard drive. Tough luck?

Fortunately not! You can trick Picasa easily with a simple Terminal command: create a symbolic link. Before you do that, move the database to your NAS by following these steps:

  1. Make sure that Picasa is NOT running
  2. Locate the Picasa metadata directory which (on a Mac) is located in
    ~/Library/Application Support/Google/Picasa3
  3. Copy the complete library to a destination of your choice on your NAS
  4. Rename the Picasa3 directory to something else (just in case something goes wrong)
  5. Create a symbolic link by entering the following commands:
    1. cd ~/Library/Application\ Support/Google
    2. ln -s /Volumes/[your path] Picasa3
  6. You can now launch Picasa and it should show you all the photos you had categorized before. Do note that depending on your NAS speed and network speed starting up does take a bit longer, since the database needs to be sent across the network.

Note that it is very easy to create multiple databases on Windows with a program called PicasaStarter. Unfortunately, an OSX version for the Mac doesn’t exist for this program. Also note that there are still some settings in Picasa which are stored locally.