Wednesday, September 1, 2004

Mi Picasa, su Picasa

PRODUCT REVIEW

By David Gewirtz

If you've been reading my articles here in Connected Photographer this past year, you've learned I'm profoundly annoyed by photo album software. Most album programs work fine for a limited number of images, but don't scale well as you add more images and don't make moving the albums from computer to computer (say, after you do an upgrade) particularly easy.

Picasa, shown in Figure A, is sadly no different. Other than having a cleaner user interface, reminiscent of Apple's iPhoto, the programs only really compelling feature is that it's now free. Picasa was bought by Google back in July and so you can now download it for free.

FIGURE A

Picasa organizes your images. (click for larger image)

Picasa contains an uninspired feature set that practically mirrors every other photo album product's uninspired feature set.

Will it scan your computer for images? Check. It it smart enough to separate out your digital camera photos from those "special" pictures you've downloaded or even pieces of art that might be included as part of other programs? No way. So is the scan-your-computer feature useful in any way? Of course not.

Can you rotate, crop, and remove red eye? Check. Should you be using some selective image processing program like Photoshop, Elements, or Paint Shop Pro instead of brute-force fixes in the album? Of course.

Can you easily move your albums around, albums from your laptop to your main desktop, or otherwise manage albums beyond the current Windows install? Of course not. You're screwed if your system changes much. What's worse, is that if you have to rebuild your database, everything you've done from an organizational perspective is shot, as this quote from the Picasa FAQ attests to:

Rebuilding the Picasa database will return your pictures to their original location, matching the folder location in which they are stored on your hard drive. If you had moved pictures between albums from within Picasa, you will need to move them again after the rebuilding process is complete. Also, if you have assigned any keywords to your pictures, you will need to recreate those keywords.

Can you display your photos in a timeline? Check. The demo for Picasa claims they "invented" a new way of displaying photos. It's just a timeline. Like that's something we haven't seen before.

Can you export your album as a Web page using a few mediocre templates? Check. Like most other programs, you can select an album and generate some pages with thumbnails. Pretty easy.

There are a few other gimics included, including a feature called "Hello," which is basically an instant messaging service for images. If the other people you want to IM are also running Hello, you can send them notes.