I’ve heard some really good things about both Flickr and Picasa, and as I’ve been trying to migrate myself off my old CSUA account, which I’d have to secure FTP to (a bit of a hassle, that), I finally decided to start looking around and evaluate these two on their merits. They’re both very well received, and score very well with PC World’s reviewers. In fact, Flickr gets 4½ stars, while Picasa/Hello gets 4 stars. However, since Picasa also serves as an editor, it won out, since I’ve been interested in getting a replacement for ACDSee Classic. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a great program, even if ACD Systems no longer hawks it; but I wanted something a little more modern.

My research showed that Picasa really had the best features between the two. According to their guided tour to features, these are just a few of the things Picasa can do:

  • Make a label.
    Use labels to tag your photos into quick groupings inside Picasa. Viewing and sharing the pictures you grouped under a label is easy – they make great slide shows and movies or you can email them to friends.

  • Add a star rating.
    Give a gold star to any photo you love: it turns your favourites into visual standouts at a glance. Picasa even has a star search that reduces your entire photo collection to the best of the best in less than a second.

  • Keep one picture in multiple albums.
    Picasa creates a new “instance” of each photo you label without taking up more space on your computer, so you can put the same picture into multiple albums.

  • Password-protect collections.
    Have photos you want to keep to yourself? You can add passwords to any of your Picasa collections (this does not affect which pictures you and others can see on your computer’s hard drive).

  • Write captions that stay with the picture.
    Picasa makes captions the way journalists do – using the IPTC standard. That means your captions are saved within their pictures and stay with them, whether you export as a web page or make a CD presentation. Picasa captions are fully editable and searchable, and you choose whether to display them or not.

  • Know how to use a camera in manual mode?
    Photography aficionados can now fine-tune their photos with Picasa’s EXIF display. This window shows you all the camera data that is stored in a picture’s original file – such as camera model, date the photo was taken, even if a flash was used. The EXIF display also has a RGB histogram, a real-time graph that shows the intensity of colors in your picture and how they change when you make edits in Picasa.

  • Turn your photos into a movie.
    It’s so easy to play filmmaker with your pictures. Select your best shots, then adjust the delay time, dimensions, and video compression settings. That’s it – Picasa will render a movie, complete with title graphics, that you can play and share.

  • Make a personalized desktop picture or screensaver.
    Your best pictures are now on display. Pick a favorite photo as your desktop picture or add several into your screensaver rotation. What better way to enjoy your photographic genius at your desk?

  • Create a poster.
    Picasa can tile any picture you select, allowing you to print each part and reassemble them at poster size – up to 1,000% larger than the original.

  • Make picture collages.
    Select a group of pictures, choose one of the beautiful templates, and Picasa will create a collage that expands your creative horizons. Picture pile it. Make a multi-exposure image. Create a contact sheet. Done? Simply save your collage to a folder, as a new desktop background or as a screensaver.

I especially like that individual files can be used in multiple albums. I’m not particularly worried about disk space; I’m more concerned about the hassle of having to remember where a source photo comes from. I have a pretty straight forward way of naming my picture files: yyyymmdd[_nn]_[x]xx.jpg, where yyyy is the year, mm is the month, dd is the day, and xx is the series. The formulation allows for different events. (Signified by nn, an “event” simply acknowledges the fact that some days, there will sometimes be more than one distinct group of pictures.) While this is great for archiving, it can be a bit daunting when it comes to creating albums. For example, if a given picture portrays the family on a vacation to Hawaii, should that picture be categorized under “vacation”, “Hawaii”, or “family”? The most basic categorization is, of course, the year, but the filename already covers that. What if I want that picture also to be part of a collection of pictures of my brother? With Picasa, I can create albums without having to manipulate the underlying files. Thus, each file can have more than one reference. Simple database concepts brought to life!

Finally, the opportunity to use the IPTC standard for captioning digital pictures, which means that captions, which is one way I’ve been implementing “albums” in ACDSee, will now travel with my pictures, instead of requiring the transfer of icky Windows “hidden files”.

I’ll post again when I’ve had a chance to really take this for a test drive. If I forget, remind me.

[Cross-posted at Between Worlds]

4 thoughts on “Picasa”

  1. Thanks for the review. I blogged my initial impressions of Picasa a while ago.

    Like you I was dissatisfied by Picasa’s failure to recognize my directory hierarchy (like you I store images by date). However, a little searching on Yahoo’s Picasa user group (which you can find via the Picasa website, IIRC) revealed that the Picasa developers were trying to keep the Picasa DB as independent of absolute pathnames as possible, in order to make the DB as portable as possible (e.g., so you can upgrage your HD). It appears that inability to display directory hierarchies is a cost of this DB portability.

    A workaround is to create a “collection” for each higher-level directory, which in my case means for each roll of film. It’s a bit of a nuisance to do this for all of the hundreds of rolls of film scans that I have on my computer, but once it’s done it should be relatively easy to keep the list updated by creating a new collection every time I scan a roll. Time will tell if this workaround is adequate.

    The only other feature I would add is a clone tool to deal with dust spots, but this is mainly an issue for film users so I doubt anything will be done about it.

  2. Do you take camera RAW files? If so, how is support in Picasa?

    I’ve tried ACDSee and Bibble and Phase One, and preferred the latter. But the focus has been less on storage and more on RAW workflow. I’d like to work on storage as well.

  3. Picasa’s help file says that Picasa is compatible with files in “RAW format (.CRW, .NEF, and others)”, though I have not used it with RAW files.

    I have no experience with Picasa’s help-ticket support system. I’ve been able to answer my questions via experimentation or searching the archives in the Yahoo Picasa user forum (here).

    I find Picasa to be generally well thought out and easy to use. I suggest downloading it and trying it for yourself.

  4. Sorry — I take it you meant, “How is support for my particular RAW version?” Again, I suggest you search the Yahoo user group if you can’t find the answer in the product documentation.

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