Sending keywording and other information in spreadsheets is a great way to update image metadata without going through the laborious process of re-uploading the images themselves. But be warned, there are ways that spreadsheets can also cause disasters.

The basic problem is that the various columns of metadata can be saved or added to in the wrong order. Putting the wrong information/keywords with the wrong file names and, as a result, the wrong images.

This problem often arises when file names are changed. Depending on how the spreadsheet handles which name comes first – eg does A come before 1, or 001 before 100? – the renamed images may not appear in the spreadsheet in the same order as they do in the folder window. It is tempting to then just reorder the filename column to reflect what’s in the folder window. The result is chaos, as the filenames then fail to line up with the rest of the information in each row. Keywords for a picture of a businessperson might be realigned with a picture of a cow.

Unfortunately, once a mistake is made, it is very hard to tell the problem even exists, and to fix it. Some rows will appear correct, even after a botched sort, because they have been moved to line up with similar images.

The simple solution is to obey the golden rule of never sorting any less than all columns and rows at once, albeit you use one, or a few, of the columns to sort with. It pays to become familiar with how the Data-Sort mechanism of the spreadsheet works before blundering in, and also to always keep a copy of the original spreadsheet in case things go haywire.

For information on professional keywording, click here.