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CSV import for hierarchical tags


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I have been using a Digital Asset Management (DAM) system for many years for taking care of my collection of photos. It is a database-only driven system and not very modern in its appearance and functions. The latest version was a complete disaster and I became very worried that I could lose what I built over many years. I had lots of hierarchical categories and customized fields that were solely in the proprietary database and very awkward to deal with. The system had become unstable. Any operation was difficult and I needed to experiment a lot before using most features.


In the meantime, other DAM systems have evolved and some are making extensive use of information stored inside the photos (EXIF, IPTC and XMP formats).


The beauty of these formats is that the information resides inside your files. In case of a disaster with the DAM database the whole system could be rebuilt from the files and you are not stuck with a proprietary structure that could kill your collection if you are not extremely careful with managing it properly.


I did a thorough investigation of DAM softwares and I came up with a short list of interesting options including Daminion. There are a few things about Daminion that really attracted me:


  • All information is kept inside the photos at least for the JPEG and TIFF that my collection is made of.
  • The interface is clean and functional.
  • The input boxes are easy to use and expand as more text is added.
  • The list of tags is so easy to customize and we can hide all the information that we do not use.
  • It is easy to build hierarchical categories that will be stored inside the photos as well.
  • Search is quite powerful and simple.
  • There is functionality to import files and associated metadata (the main purpose of this blog).

So I decided to migrate from my old system to Daminion. I spent days extracting and cleaning the metadata information from the old system using poorly documented, unstable and unreliable tools.


I copied my photos to a new directory structure and imported them in a Daminion catalog. This was really easy but the metadata and all the customized information was left behind for many thousands of photos. I thought that I would be able to import the photos first and then the metadata for the photos. I did not really understand well the information on this page:


CSV Daminion Help Page


What you need to understand is that the photos and the metadata must be migrated at the same time. In the CSV file you need to provide a path for each photo to be loaded and the metadata that goes with it. Here is an example of a simple CSV file. It only contains references for 3 files and 2 pieces of metadata: Title and Description. I used a TAB as delimiter and it worked very well. It seems to require an extra tab at the end of the line and it certainly does not hurt to have one.


Here is the simple CSV file I started with:




You import the files and metadata from the File menu in Daminion (do not get confused with the Import under the Catalog menu.





The three files are now in the catalog and the information has been imported as you can see under properties in the right part.




My greatest worry was about the hierarchical structure I maintained in my old DAM. I need a multi-level classification system to categorise my photos. As an example I do many sports that I can categorize as Water and Land sports. Under Water I have Canoe, Kayak, diving, etc. The same idea applies for Land sports. I also have top categories for Families, for Friends, for Trips and Continents, etc.


I knew Daminion supports this kind of hierarchy but I had a lot of trouble importing it. A photo may have more than one hierarchical structure. If my wife is in the kayak I will categorize the photo as Sports\Water Sports\Kayak but also as Families\The Smith\Louise. This is this complexity that took me quite a while to resolve. Here is how it needs to work in the CSV. I am only showing the Categories part of the file. The Title and Description and all other tags and their headers have to be in the same file.




Do the same kind of import as previously in Daminion.


As you can see the hierarchical structure has been reconstructed in the Tags window on the left. The tags can be used to search for photos associated with the tags and you can drag and drop photos on the tags to associate photos with the apropriate tags.




Importing the hierarchical categories was the most difficult part with my migration to Daminion. If you know how then it is easy.

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Our lives and work are now often stored in digital file cabinets, and the necessity of migrating from one to another database driven system is something many eventually will experience.

If a dentist for convenience joins colleagues in a larger office community his through time collected digital records must be merged or converted into the system in use at his new work place. As there exist many different professional office applications the same undertaking of migrating text and images you eventually have succeeded in is similar to the dentists, and a common but difficult task. Even governmental approved procedures performed by professionals is imperfect.

As CSV files is a least “common denominator†in these circumstances and exist in a variety of formats your luck by using the CSV tab delimited form when migrating must be a valuable information.

I myself use Daminion as a DAM for managing a project with less than 200 files in various formats where the appearance of thumbnails in a non obtrusive environment support my visual memory, which is my best.

Congratulations with your conversion to this application which I believe not will disappoint you.


Edit: tab delimited CSV files are also known as (tab delimited).txt or .tsv files. The tab value is invisible and inserted by pressing the TAB key.

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