Dec 18, 2016: This documentation refers to versions 0.9.0 or newer, and is a work in progress. The older 0.4.0 series of releases is documented here.


Rapid Photo Downloader imports photos and videos from cameras, phones, memory cards and other devices at high speed. It can be configured to rename photos and videos with meaningful filenames you specify. It can also back up photos and videos as they are downloaded. It downloads from and backs up to multiple devices simultaneously.

This documentation contains a description of Rapid Photo Downloader's features and how to make the most of them. If you notice any errors or have some suggestions for how it can be improved, please don't hesitate to let the author know.


Read how to install Rapid Photo Downloader.

Getting Started
Downloading specified files

Work through the window from left to right. On the left are the download sources—where you'll be downloading files from. The left side also includes the Timeline, which shows dates and times your source files were taken. In the middle of the window are the thumbnails. Use the right side to specify and preview where you want to download your photos and videos to—the destination folders. The right side is also where you specify how to rename your files and back them up as you download them.

Download Sources

Rapid Photo Downloader downloads from two different types of sources: automatically detected devices, and from a folder on your computer. Each type has its own panel on the left side of the window.

Use the toggle switch located in the right side of each panel's title bar to turn on and off each type of download source:

You can hide or display the download sources by clicking on the name or names of the download sources at the top left of the program window:

Downloading from Devices

Devices are things like cameras, smartphones, hard drives, memory cards and other things you can plug into your computer that contain photos and videos. You can download from multiple devices simultaneously—as many as your computer can handle at one time.

You can plug in a new device at any time—before starting the program, after the program has started, or while a download has already started.

Tip: In its default configuration, Rapid Photo Downloader looks for a DCIM folder in a device to determine whether it is a device from which to download. You can change this by adjusting the program settings.

Tip: If automatic detection of backup devices is turned on, Rapid Photo Downloader will always check to see if it can use a device like a hard drive for backups before it will it will seek to use it as a device from which to download.

Downloading from Cameras and Smartphones

Unlike devices like hard drives or memory cards, when a camera or smartphone is plugged into your computer, only one program at a time can access it (the same applies to any MTP or PTP device).

Because only one program at a time can access the camera or smartphone, if another program is using the it—Gnome Files, for example—where possible Rapid Photo Downloader will request the other program give up its exclusive control of it. For programs using Gnome technology (GVFS to be precise), that means "unmounting" the camera / smartphone.

Unfortunatley KDE provides no mechanism for other programs to request a KDE program to give up exclusive access to the camera / smartphone, so if Rapid Photo Downloader cannot access your phone or camera, the only way to solve the problem when running KDE is to close and KDE programs that may have accessed it.

Enabling Downloading from Smartphones and Tablets

You can download from smartphones, tablets, and other such pocket computers, provided they are supported by gphoto2 and are connected via a USB cable.

Smartphones and tablets must be unlocked before they can be accessed by the computer. Rapid Photo Downloader will prompt you to unlock a smartphone or tablet if it cannot access its files:

Enabling File Transfers on Android 6.0 Devices

In addition to being unlocked, Android 6.0 devices must also be configured to allow file transfers every time you plug it in. To enable file transfers on an Android 6.0 device:

  • 1Swipe down from the top of your device's screen.
  • 2You should see the "USB for charging—Touch for more options" option card.
  • 3Touch the option card.
  • 4You will now see a list similar to this:
  • 5Choose the option "Transfer files to Windows or Mac (MTP)"
  • Ignoring Devices

    For those devices which you want Rapid Photo Downloader to permanently or temporarily ignore, you can right-click on the device and choose one of the two options:

    To temporarily ignore a device means to ignore it only until the next time the program is run. To permanently ignore it is to blacklist it.

    Downloading from a Folder on This Computer

    You can specify a folder on your computer from which to download. Any photos and videos in its subfolders will be included too.

    Working with Thumbnails
    Previously Downloaded Files
    Using the Timeline

    A download always includes all files that are checked for download, including those that are not currently displayed because the Timeline is being used.

    Checking and Unchecking Files for Download

    You can simultaneously apply a checkmark to multiple files, setting whether to download them or not—there is no need to manually place or remove a checkmark for each file. There are several ways to check and uncheck multiple files. The first is select the thumbnails, which can be done with the Select All Photos and Select All Videos controls at the bottom right of the window, or with the mouse, illustrated here:

    Once the thumbnails have been selected, check or uncheck one of the files you have selected. This will affect all of the selected files:

    The second way to check or uncheck multiple thumbnails is to use the checkbox beside the device or This Computer folder in the Download Sources on the left side of the window:

    Downloading Files

    Rapid Photo Downloader can download from multiple devices simultaneously. For example you can download from one or more cameras at the same time, or one or memory cards, or any combination of them. It can also back up to multiple devices like external drives simultaneously, while it downloads.

    Configuring Downloads

    One of Rapid Photo Downloader's most useful features is its ability to automatically generate download subfolders and rename files as it downloads, using a scheme of your choosing.

    To specify where you want your files downloaded and how you want them named, open the appropriate panel on the right-side of the application window: Destination, Rename or Job Code.

    The Download Directory Structure

    When storing your photos and videos on a computer, they are organized into a hierarchy of folders, called as the directory structure. Before finalizing that directory structure for your photos and videos, choose wisely—plan on using the same directory structure scheme for many years!

    It's impossible to overempahsize how helpful it is to use a scheme that systematically and consistently places your photos and videos into a predictable destination. As the American Associate of Media Photographers put it, the photo and video directory structure "should be stable and scalable; it should not fundamentally change, only be added to".

    Devise a download destination scheme that takes advantage of Rapid Photo Downloader's ability to automatically generate download subfolders using file metadata, such as the date the photos or videos were created. You can also add text to folder names at the time of download.

    Designing a Good Download Directory Structure

    When thinking about your download directory structure, keep in mind two different types of directory:

    • 1The Destination folder, e.g. "Pictures", "Photos", or "Videos". This directory should already exist on your computer.
    • 2The download subfolders, which are directories that will be automatically generated by Rapid Photo Downloader. They need not already exist on your computer, but it's okay if they do. They will be generated under the Destination folder.

    You can download photos and videos to the same Destination folder, or specify a different Destination folder for each. The same applies to the download subfolders for photos and videos—download photos and videos to the same subfolders, or use a different scheme for each type.

    Automatically generated subfolders can contain further automatically generated subfolders if need be. For example a common scheme is to create a year subfolder and then a series of year-month-day subfolders within it, which is the scheme I use myself:

    destination subfolders tree

    The above image illustrates several useful attributes:

    • 1The Destination folder is in this instance "Pictures". The name of the Destination folder is displayed in the grey bar directly above the tree, with a folder icon to its left and an icon of gear to its far right.
    • 2The Destination folder tree shows the download subfolders already on your computer (those in a regular, non-italicized font), and the subfolders that will be created during the download (those whose names are italicized)
    • 3The folder tree also shows into which subfolders the files will be downloaded (those colored black)
    Typical Subfolder Name Elements

    Download subfolder names are typically generated using some or all of the following elements:

    • 1File metadata, very often including the date the photo or video was created, but might also include the camera model name, camera serial number, or file extension e.g. JPG or CR2. Naming subfolders with the year, followed by the month and finally the day in numeric format makes it easy to keep them sorted in a file manager.
    • 2A Job Code, which is free text you specify at the time the download occurs, such as the name of an event or location.
    • 3Text which you want to appear every time, such as a hyphen or a space.
    Using Presets to Configure Directory Structure Schemes

    To configure Rapid Photo Downloader to automatically create download subfolders as it downloads, you can use one of Rapid Photo Downloader's built-in presets, or create a custom preset. Click on the gear icon to bring up a drop-down menu:

    subfolder generation menu

    Using the drop-down menu, select a built-in preset or click on Custom to configure your own scheme using the Photo or Video Subfolder Generation Editor:

    Photo Subfolder Generation Editor

    The image above shows a custom preset named "My custom preset".

    Program Caches

    Rapid Photo Downloader deals with three types of cache:

    • 1An image cache whose sole purpose is to store thumbnails of files that have not necessarily been downloaded, but may have. It is called the Rapid Photo Downloader Thumbnail Cache, and is only used by Rapid Photo Downloader. It is typically located at /home/USER/.cache/rapid-photo-downloader/thumbnails/. (The actual location may vary depending on value of environment variable XDG_CACHE_HOME). The thumbnails are saved as jpegs using 75% compression. If a file in the cache has not been accessed for 30 days, it is deleted when the program exits.
    • 2A temporary cache of files downloaded from a camera, one for photos and another for videos, which are used to extract thumbnails from. Since these same files could be downloaded, it makes sense to keep them cached until the program exits. They are located in a temporary subfolder in the download destination.
    • 3The thumbnail cache, in which Rapid Photo Downloader stores thumbnails of RAW and TIFF photos once they have been downloaded. Programs like Gnome Files, Nemo, Caja, Thunar, PCManFM and Dolphin use this cache too, meaning they will display thumbnails for those RAW and TIFF files as well. While generating these thumbnails does slow the download process a little, it's a worthwhile tradeoff because Linux desktops typically do not generate thumbnails for RAW images or large TIFFs. Finally, if the path files are being downloaded to contains symbolic links, a thumbnail will be created for the path with and without the links.
    Thumbnail Cache and Program Performance

    Rapid Photo Downloader uses its own dedicated Thumbnail Cache because it makes the display of thumbnails almost instaneous for devices that have previously had their thumbnails generated. While useful in many workflows, it's not useful if you always download all shots from a shoot and never keep the downloaded shots on the camera or its memory cards. In this workflow, using the Thumbnail Cache slows down rather than speeds up Rapid Photo Downloader. For such a workflow, it's better to disable the Thumbnail Cache, which you can do via the program preferences.

    Command Line Options

    Several of the program's preferences can be set from the command line, including download sources, destinations, and backups. Additionally, the program's settings can be reset to their default state, and the Thumbnail Cache and remembered files cleared.

    Improving your Workflow
    Choosing Suitable Image Filenames

    No two photographers might ever agree on what makes an ideal filename for an image, but there are general principles that you might like to consider:

    • 1nothing except the extension of a camera generated filename is important enough not to replace with something better
    • 2unique names mean you will never be confused as to which photo or video is which
    • 3consistently including a classification component in the filename, linked to the subfolders it is stored in, makes it easy to locate whenever one of its derivatives is on a website or with a client
    • 4if exposure information is useful as you evaluate the quality of photos—for example, "was the shutter speed dangerously slow, or was a high aperture used?"—then consider making photo metadata a prominent part of the filename
    Sequence Numbers and Letters, and Uniqueness

    If you use sequence numbers or letters as part of your photo or video filenames, ensure as much as possible that unique filenames will be generated, or you could be in for some unexpected results. Consider the following scenario:

    • 1you store all your photos from any one day in separate subfolders
    • 2following good practice, you include in the filename the year, month and day it the photo was taken
    • 3you have already downloaded 326 photos today
    • 4you rely on the Downloads today sequence number to ensure your generated filenames are unique, for example 20090115-0327.cr2
    • 5for whatever reason, there is already an photo with the filename 20090115-0602.cr2 in the download subfolder (perhaps someone manually placed it there)
    • 6you have turned off the option to add a unique suffix when a duplicate filename is detected
    • 7you attempt to download another 550 photos from two memory cards
    • 8the download of photos 327 through 601 proceed as expected, but when the program attempts to download photo 602, it cannot do so, because of the filename conflict with the existing image
    • 9because the download does not occur, the Downloads today sequence number is not incremented, which means that none of the other photos can be downloaded either

    Tip: Scenarios like this are an example why turning off error messages when duplicate filenames are detected can cause you to overlook unanticipated problems.

    American Society of Media Photographers Guidelines

    The American Society of Media Photographers' Digital Photography Best Practices and Workflow website contains guidelines on coming up with an excellent file renaming system. The project was funded by the United States Library of Congress through its National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program. These folks know their stuff!

    Tips for Downloading from Multiple Memory Cards

    To be able to download large volumes of photos and videos from memory cards with minimum fuss, keep these suggestions in mind:

    When configured like this, as soon as you attach a memory card, its photos will be downloaded. When the download from that memory card is complete, another one can be inserted. It will automatically start to download from that one, even if it is currently downloading from other cards.