Yet, it wasn’t all that long ago when we lived in caves, wore animal skins, carried torches for light, and used our computers with an affliction called the ‘command line interface.’ If you don’t remember the days of CLI, then you’ve used a Mac for many years, so thank the digital gods for allowing us to leave our caves and walk upright. Metadata is an important part of media, and what better way to explore metadata for photos, audio, and video than the command line. For free.
CLI For Fun, Not Profit
Journey with me back to the early 1980s when everything on a computer could be accomplished without the constraints of point and click, but instead every command had to be entered– by hand– from the keyboard. Yes, that’s how computers worked back in the days before the Mac (and for many years afterwards).
ExifTool is a command line tool that lets you read, writer, and edit metadata for photos, audio files, video files. This blast from the past is perfect for the Mac geek who already has everything, including a Mac notebook that runs Windows, Linux, and a flavor or two of Unix. All at the same time. That’s good because ExifTool is written in Perl and pretty much runs anywhere there’s Perl and geek to steer her by.
There’s not much to display about how ExifTool works, looks, or functions because it all happens at the command line level. No point and click for you! However, ExifTool is incredibly powerful, very fast, and reads and writes metadata about as well as anything that requires a mouse or trackpad.
Frankly, I’ve never seen anything quite like this since dBase II and the green dot.
ExifTool is multi-lingual, reads and writers maker notes from most digital cameras, has custom output options, extracts thumbnail images, sets the file modification date, and automatically backs up the original image when writing or editing metadata.
It’s almost crazy how much metadata can be pulled from a photo file, audio file, or movie clip.
With apologies to the Hollies and their groundbreaking hit, ‘This ain’t pretty, it’s geeky, my brother.’ Chances are very good you’ve never browsed metadata the way you can in ExifTool, and if you have, you’re already older than you think, you closet CLI user, you.
ExifTool is the most incredibly comprehensive app I have used in a few decades (going back to the green dot days of dBase II, once the database of choice for CLI critters). It is not for the faint of heart. If Terminal.app scares you, stick with iPhoto or Photos and don’t even bother with metadata manipulation. But if you’re in for a challenge, don’t mind typing your life away, you’ll be rewarded with a massively powerful app– written in Perl– that does to media metadata that which you only imagined could be done.