Why Historian Is Still The Best Photo Management Software

Why Historian Is Still the Best Photo Management Software

(This post was originally published on 6/8/2016.  Updated 9/20/2020.)

A few days ago, I was wavering in my loyalty to Historian.  I have used this software (in its varying versions and names) since it was first released, which I believe was around 2007.  I have taught it to others for that long.

And since that very first version, I have begged and pleaded with everyone to use Historian, if for nothing more than the easy timeline and the shadow copy feature.
The shadow copy saved me again today, and it's for that reason that I still believe in Historian and use it as my tool of choice for my library of photos almost a decade later.

Yes, I've been a consultant or affiliate or now an ambassador for whichever company has owned this software since that start date, which means I received a commission for teaching about it.  And I can tell you that this software is so stable, built so well, and does it's job to the point that it hasn't even needed an upgrade for years.  If it ain't broke, don't fix it, right?

I've seen other software come and go over the years, but Historian has held strong.  It allows me to find the photos I want, when I want them, and then gives me the peace of mind knowing that when my computer fails, I don't have to worry about a single picture.  The only photo solution I trust this much is Forever's Permanent Storage, which is a subject for another day.  There are great reasons to use both.

Get Your Shadow Copy Set Up Today

While the shadow copy feature is an absolute life saver, I know that less than half of the people I work with understand it or have it set up.  Let me see if I can try to simplify it, because really, it's that important.

To set up a shadow copy, you need an external drive of some sort.  It can be one that you plug in directly to your computer through a USB cable, or it can be a personal cloud drive (not to be confused with cloud storage services), which is an external drive that plugs into your modem or router instead of your computer and can be accessed remotely via wifi.  (I have been using this set up for a while because it allows me to be lazy … it will shadow without me having to plug a cord into my computer to get the job done.)

Let's say that you're planning to use an external drive that you plug into a USB port on your computer.  You'll want to make sure that's plugged in.

Now, open up Historian and click on My Media Library.  Along the menu ribbon on the top, you'll see a tab marked Vault.  Click on that tab to open it.


In the Vault ribbon, click on the icon that says Shadow Copy.


Next, you'll see a box that pops up.  If this is the first time you have set up a shadow copy, it will look something like this.


Click on Start protection.

Next, you'll get another box that will let you browse to where you want to save your shadow copy.  As I mentioned before, picking a location on a separate drive like an external drive is best.


Once your location is selected, the hard part is over.  You'll see this box:


You can either choose to Update now if you want to start the shadow copy immediately, or go ahead and hit Close if you have other things you want to do in Historian.  Once you start the process, you'll have to let it finish before you can do anything else in Historian.

But the cool thing is, once you have the shadow copy in place, it's a set-it-and-forget-it system.  As long as your external drive is plugged in, Historian will automatically update the shadow copy when you close the program.  If your external drive isn't plugged in, Historian will keep a list of the items that have changed and update them all the next time your drive is plugged in.

It's really not that hard.  Please give yourself (and me) some peace of mind, and make sure you have your shadow copy set up right now!

Until the next time, Enjoy!  (And rest easy …)


40 thoughts on “Why Historian Is Still The Best Photo Management Software”

  1. I am looking for a photo program where I can tag faces and maybe other information about the photo and it will stay with the photo when I email that photo to my family or friends. Does Forever Historian do this. I have not bought or downloaded this program yet.

  2. Hi, John.

    Historian does write the metadata like the facial tags to the photo. I just tried tagging a photo and adding comments, then saved the photo outside of Historian to my desktop. If I go to the photo properties and check the details tab, both my Tag and the Comments I entered are saved with the photo. It also includes the camera I used, date taken and other related metadata.

    Does that help? Great question.

  3. deb, I am having difficulties with Historian and thinking of changing to a different software program. I too have sold the software back when it was through CM. However, I have run into complications with it. It is puzzle piecing my photos and error-ing in metadata when I try backing up. I have contacted the company numerous times but still have no solutions. What software is there that is comparable? I have not been able to work on my photos since this summer and I take many photos. I can not NOT have a reliable software and I am getting way behind in my photos.

  4. Hi, Linda.

    I get what you’re saying, and I’m always trying to evaluate what works best for me. I don’t actually have a software-based, computer option that I like better right now. I do have a Lightroom CC subscription that I’m working with, and I use that more frequently for editing than Historian, but I still keep my photos in Historian mainly for the shadow copy feature. I have been doing most of my photo management for the past 4-5 months directly in the permanent storage I have through Forever because I feel like I won’t have to do it again there.

    I’m sorry you haven’t been able to work on things since the summer. I wish I had a different software option for you. Other than the permanent storage option, I’m not sure what to recommend.

  5. I am considering Hustorian. Can you print from it in addition to storing and editing? I used to have CM Memory Maker. I have not done any scrapbooking for 5 years, but I have kept taking pictures. Nadine

  6. Hi, Nadine.

    Yes, you can print from Historian. It works the same way that Memory Manager did. It’s really the same software (updated) that was made for CM, made by the same company, but under a different name after the original CM closed their doors. Depending on which version of Memory Manager you used last, it may be very similar.

    Congratulations on wanting to work with your photos!

  7. Oh, Nadine … I forgot to add. If you are considering Historian, make sure to check the Deals tab on Forever’s site. Right now, Forever is offering 25% off of Historian through the end of February, and you can find the coupon code on that page. If it’s after the end of February, just take a look there to see if there’s a different offer that might help you out.

  8. Deb, I also used Memory Manager back when but had a problem with images that somehow became corrupt (for lack of a better word). The SW is on my old laptop and I want to get my photos stored in it to my new mac. Is there a way to do that without sacrificing more lost photos?

  9. Hi, Lisa.

    I just saw both questions, and I hope it’s ok if I reply to both of them here.

    Answering your last question first: Memory Manager probably won’t recognize Forever because it didn’t exist when Memory Manager was made. But if you can try to export your files from Memory Manager to an external hard drive or another location on your computer, you can upload them from there just by doing a drag and drop into Forever. I haven’t had a working version of Memory Manager in at least four years, or else I’d show you screenshots of where to go for that.

    Worst case scenario: all of those photos are still there on the hard drive of that computer and they are in individual folders inside the memory vault folder. If Memory Manager isn’t working for you anymore, you can still retrieve all of the photos from those folders, they just won’t be in an organized order that makes sense to you. Your vault definitely will not work correctly if you start accessing things and moving items in the folders (they’ll be named just with numbers like 1,2,3 and so on), but if you aren’t trying to use the vault on a new computer with Historian, that’s probably a sacrifice you can make.

    Let me know if I just created more questions.

  10. I use Historian and love the timeline to view photos. But i am considering getting Lightroom for more editing features. what is your method of using the programs together?

  11. Hi, Kristi.

    I love this question. I have just recently started playing with Lightroom (I am affiliate for Adobe, too, so this is my personal link), and so far I’ve been editing my photos and then exporting them from Lightroom and storing them in Historian. I will look at this process more today and try to post an update for that.


  12. I have been using Lightroom 5 for several years, and like you said I love the editing features. I have used the “Layout” feature and created pages of photos which I’ve printed, placed in plastic protective covers and then put in 3-ring binders for my grandkids. But I would like to create something a bit more classy and try some digital scrapbooking and publishing.
    So, refering to the above question from Kristi, did you find that it was possible to export your edited photos from Lightroom to Historian?…or perhaps Artisan which is the Forever Digital scrapbooking software? Did the edited data transfer with the photo?….and is the photo still synched with the original photo stored on the hard drive? This is super important to be able to use the photo, so I’m wondering what happens to the original photo?Lightroom’s concept is vague to me when it comes to exporting photos with data. Can you help me understand this feature? Thanks!

  13. Hi, Carolyn.

    I apologize for the delay … it has taken me days to get logged back into this site because of an issue with my security software.

    I have exported my edited photos from Lightroom to use in Historian and in Artisan. The edited photos work as exported in the software. I’m not sure if I understand the question about “is the photo still synched with the original photo stored on the hard drive.” Once exported from Lightroom, I’m using the exported version in both of these software programs. I am not an expert in Lightroom, and when I usually export photos from Lightroom, the photos are exported to a different file and not part of my Lightroom library anymore. I’m not sure if I’m capable of answering that question.


  14. I am trying out Historian and am considering purchasing but cannot find any good tutorials on how to use all the editing options. I know you can do just about anything as I watched my friend work magic with her photos. Can you suggest a good tutorial on using all the tabs in Historian to create the perfect photo?

  15. Hi, Julie. I just made it back from vacation.

    I will admit, editing is not my strong suit. My best suggestion would be Pixels2Pages.net. I think they have some things that you can view without a paid membership, but I don’t know the extent of the free training. Let me see if I can find some things for you.


  16. Julie, I took a look, and pixels2pages doesn’t have good editing videos in their freebie section. I will keep digging …

  17. I’m struggling to find a program to manage my photos since the lost of Memory Manger. Which means my thousands and thousands of photos before and after that are all disorganized. We have since both bought new computers and since that switched from PC to Mac. I thought i found my savior with Forever Historian until I learned its for PC only. Anything similar for Mac users. I am fine with lightroom for storage and editing but I really miss the organization of Memory manager.

  18. I’m sorry, Kim. I wish I could help, but I’m not a Mac and I don’t have an answer for that one. I have been organizing my photos in my Forever permanent storage because it’s not hardware specific. I can access them from my phone, my tablet or any computer. I have mostly switched to use this first and Historian is just my “back-up” solution now for when I don’t have internet access. But I like being able to access my tagged and sorted photos from anywhere and the knowledge that I don’t have to worry about a computer dying on me and moving my photos around anymore.

  19. I hope you can help with this question. I currently have Photoshop Elements 11 and I would love to transfer all my 22,000 photos to Historian 4. In my Photoshop program I have several tags and journaling underneath each picture. Will the tags and journaling transfer automatically to Historian? I have been watching tons of YouTube videos and reading forums nothing talks about that. Also, what is the difference between “shadow copy” and “full copy?” Thank you for your help in advance.

  20. Hello, Glenda.

    If the tags and journaling you have with your photos in Photoshop Elements write that information to the metadata on your photo files, they should transfer to Historian. If I were you, I would try downloading the free trial of Historian and importing a handful of photos to see if it brings in the information you want. I wish I could be 100% certain, but I don’t know how Photoshop Elements 11 managed that information with your photos.

    As for Shadow Copy vs. Full Copy, it relates to how and when the backup is made. If you do a Full Copy backup, it’s generating a full backup copy of the vault as it is at that moment in time to be stored on another drive or CD. It’s a one-time backup that you initiate. The Shadow Copy is a feature that maintains kind of a running backup image of the vault that it monitors and adds any changes to each time you close the program (if the drive with the Shadow Copy location is connected when you close the program). It doesn’t require you to manually remember to back up; it automatically checks to see if the shadow copy location is connected and then updates the information for you. It is also a full, updating backup of your vault (if the drive is connected) and is the easiest backup to restore from, in my opinion. Both ways work.

    I hope that helps!

  21. I did a google search for Historian, and came across this post. I am in desperate need of a photo organization program, but I don’t know where to start. Historian comes highly recommended. My question is, when I install Historian, are all of my current photos moved to Historian, or does each photo have to be manually moved and placed into an album. If they are moved immediately, how hard (time consuming) is it to create albums and move photos to them? Thank you for any advice and help you can give me.

  22. Hi, Anne.
    With Historian, the software will prompt you when first used to see if you want to look for all of the photos on your computer. The amount of time it will take to import them into Historian will really depend on how many you have, how big the files are and how powerful your computer is. There are a lot of factors that will influence that.

    If you do import all of your photos into Historian, they will automatically be sorted by the date that they were taken. If you have photos that were scanned or are from a source that will not have the time embedded in the file, they may still be out of order. Then you are able to tag photos to sort them as you would like. There’s also a facial recognition component that will allow you to tag large groups of photos in one sitting.

    Historian also has an album planning feature that is very simple to work with once you have a group of photos selected. I would be happy to answer more questions about that if you want to give it a try.

    If you are interested in creating digital albums, another option would be to try the free Forever storage account you can receive for signing up with Forever. There are options to create digital albums from uploaded photos directly through the site, and you can similarly upload, tag and sort photos into albums through the storage account. I personally use both Historian and Forever Storage, but I use Forever Storage as my go-to for saving and organizing my photos because it’s simpler and I can access my photos from anywhere.

    I hope that helps and let me know if this creates more questions!


  23. Shannon Landriault

    My forever rep told me historian is a good way to do auto-tagging vis facial recognition. Do I do that on my pc and THEN move pics to forever storage and it keeps the data?

  24. Hi, Shannon.

    It’s a personal choice. You can tag in Historian and then upload to Forever Storage and the tags will import to Forever with the photos. Or, if you auto-upload from your phone, you can tag in your Forever Storage and then download to add to Historian and the photos will import to Historian with the tags you created in Forever Storage. The key is to use the same tags in both places and to be consistent. Because the majority of my family’s photos are taken with our phones, I choose to do it in Forever Storage first and then download them to Historian with the tags. It’s completely your choice.


  25. Is storybook Still in operation I haven’t made a booking a buyer long time also if it is how long is the turnaround time thank you

  26. Sorry my comment should’ve read is the digital story book projects still in operation if so how long is the turnaround time to get a book back

  27. I tried to email panstoria which I have an account with and it came back system error cannot find address
    I would like to do another book but want to know if it is possible

  28. Hi, Lois.
    Panstoria sold their software Artisan (which was called Storybook Creator when Creative Memories sold it) to a company called Forever about 5 1/2 years ago. Forever is the place you would order books through now if you are using the software.

    Do you still have Storybook Creator operating? Please let me know if you need help and I will email you directly. Thanks.


  29. So I have the software that I used to use which is called what is called story book creator then went to panstoria and artesian which is the one I think I have running now so can I make my book with that software and then Where do I send it to get printed and again what is the timeline as I have a very sick friend I would like to get it done ASAP thank you

  30. Lois,
    If you have the Panstoria version of Artisan I think/hope that you can open it and run it for updates and it should connect to Forever’s servers. Then you can upload the book from the software as you would have previously and Forever will print the book. The software will definitely need to update first because it has been several years.

    If that doesn’t work, Forever does have some simpler Create & Print book options that can be done online without the need to worry about the software. You can preview those options at the following link if you need to get a book done more quickly:

    Please keep asking questions if you need help. I’m happy to do whatever I can to help you get it done.

  31. Thank you for your response I hope my previous comment makes sense looking forward to getting an email from you

  32. Hi Deb,
    I just came across your website and the information regarding creating a shadow copy of your vault. I currently own Memory Manager 4 from CM and never realized it had a shadow copy option. I followed your instructions in the article and received a message saying This shadow copy is out of sync with your vault. You will need to resynchronize this shadow copy. What does this mean? Thanks for all the tips! I am thinking of converting my programs from CM to Forever and your information is very helpful.

  33. Hi, Susan.

    This just means that your shadow copy is old and needs to update. I can’t replicate the exact message you’re seeing, but I’ve seen it before. You can go ahead and let it resynchronize, or if you are worried about doing that, you could stop protection and then start protection over again with a new shadow copy altogether. That would create a new shadow copy instead of updating the old one. Both ways will work. Depending on the size of your vault, it could take some time, so I like to let it run when I’m going to leave my computer for a while.

    Please let me know if you have more questions. Thanks for asking!

  34. Jackie Weninger

    As I’m reading the questions I was thrilled to see some from this year! I used to be a creative memories consultant, but because life happens I got really behind on organizing pictures. Every year I want to get caught up, but I get to the same holdup: I want to organize them in a way that even when software changes in a few years or 20 years the photos will still be organized. I absolutely loved historian especially because I could organize the pictures by person and by event. I have two questions: currently I have a historian on my laptop, but haven’t used it in a few years. If I want to put it on a desktop computer will I need to buy a whole new subscription? And number two, the biggest of all… How will I easily take big groups of pictures from this program to somewhere else, say… My computer dies in 5 years or the software changes in 10 years… Yet my photos are just being organized there and saved in the shadow copy. It’s disheartening to me to think I could organize for hours and days on end, then lose All that organization. If my house burns down and my shadow copy is saved… Will somebody have to have the software in order to be able to see the photos organized the way I had them in historian? Or does the organization stick with it? I’m not kidding, I’ve gone from historian to Google photos to Amazon photos, to historian back to Amazon… I feel so discombobulated and super appreciate your help as I am preparing for my son to graduate high school. I wish I could talk to you in person!

  35. Hi, Jackie.

    Great questions! Let me see if I can break them out for you.
    1. If you have Historian 4 right now, it is still the current version! (as of today) It has been so solid for years that it hasn’t been upgraded. If you move to a desktop computer, you will just need to contact Forever to have your registration key reset so it can be reactivated on the new computer. They are used to hearing from folks who have to change computers and they can get you going quickly.

    2. That being said, there are rumors that Historian will be upgraded to a new version in the future. So if you keep organizing in Historian, you may someday want to upgrade your software to keep the organization going. If a family member were to inherit your photos, they WOULD need to have the software to view them organized the way you have them now.

    However, if you have your photos all tagged and organized, and then you opt to organize them in a Forever Storage account, those tags will follow the photos when uploaded to that account and will be available and accessible. All of the metadata you include with your photos in Historian will travel with those photos to a Forever Storage account. Plus, once you own the storage space, you don’t need to upgrade it. In fact, Forever will upgrade the photo file types for you over time so they are still usable when the world decides to stop using .jpgs down the road. And, you can designate beneficiaries to inherit your account when you are gone. I personally now do all of my organization in my Forever Storage account and then download my photos with the tagging and metadata to Historian so I can work offline if I want to. But my main organization happens in the storage account where I don’t have to worry about a hard drive crash, etc. You can find out more about Forever’s Storage options here: https://www.forever.com/ambassador/debrodriguez/forever_storage

    I hope that helps. Please let me know if I just created more questions for you. I’d be happy to answer them.

  36. Hi! If I have my first shadow copy made, then work in historian organizing and deleting photos, will the photos I deleted from historian be deleted from the shadow copy once the shadow process runs again? I’m basically wondering if the shadow copy keeps getting added to, or if it’s a true shadow of what is left on historian. Thanks!

  37. Great question, Jackie.
    Historian makes a true shadow copy, so the deleted photos will be deleted from the shadow copy as well. If you have the shadow copy updated and then have to restore from it, it restore an exact replica of what your cabinet/vault was when it was last updated.

    I hope that makes sense. Please let me know if it brings up more questions.

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