Playing with Picasa

Playing with Picasa

Image by Gini~
I downloaded Picasa 2 yesterday and I’ve only had time to play with it a little. It does some cool stuff. The photos here have borders, which doesn’t look that great in this collage. But I like it anyway

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8 Responses to Playing with Picasa

  1. justmouse says:

    what is picasa? is it like a photoshop type program?

  2. Gini~ says:

    It is a google product. I like it a lot as a browser.

  3. Gini~ says:

    Will find you some links…

  4. Gini~ says:

    This is a New York Times article ——————————— January 20, 2005 STATE OF THE ART New Ways to Manage Your Photos By DAVID POGUE F you’re not already aware that 2004 was the Year of the Digital Camera, here are a few clues. It was the year that Kodak stopped making film cameras, the year that digicams were even more popular holiday gifts than DVD players, and the year that three professional photographers I know each decided, with much grumbling, to buy a digital camera – just to see what all the fuss is about. And if this month is any indication, 2005 will be the Year of the Software to Organize the Pictures You Took With Your Digital Camera. This week alone, two companies are releasing versions of popular photo-organizing programs: from Apple comes iPhoto 5 for the Macintosh. From Google (yes, Google) comes Picasa 2, for Windows 98 and later. These two programs are very similar in design, features, visual effects and a bend-over-backward effort to keep things simple. IPhoto is part of Apple’s new iLife ’05 suite, which also includes iMovie (for video editing), GarageBand (recording studio in a box), iDVD (designing DVD menu screens and burning discs) and iTunes (a music jukebox, which is still a free download). The whole package costs $80 (even if, alas, you bought the previous version). ILife also comes free with every new Mac. Picasa 2, on the other hand, is completely free. Not free as in "time-limited tryout," not free as in "ads in the margins," not free as in "you will be assimilated into our mailing list," but really, truly, no-strings-attached free. You can download it right now from (So how does Google plan to make money from Picasa, whose pre-Google version cost $30? The company says that will come later. Google does promise, however, not to get everybody hooked on Picasa and then turn around and start charging or taking away features.) If you’ve never used iPhoto or Picasa, you’re in for a treat. These are elegant, visual, nearly effortless programs. Your photos appear like slides on a giant scrolling light table, at any size you like. Both programs handle every conceivable photo file format, including the RAW files preferred by hard-core shutterbugs, and even digital movies. You double-click on a photo to edit it, and to find out where the programmers have been putting much of their effort. IPhoto has always offered quick-fix buttons like Rotate, Crop and Brightness. But now you can summon a floating palette filled with sliders for geekier things like color temperature, exposure and saturation. You see the changes in the photo itself – still visible behind the see-through adjustment panel – in real time. (Advanced shutterbugs should note that iPhoto and Picasa 2 now have a live color histogram – a graph of the photo’s three underlying color layers. It’s so similarly designed that you have to wonder if Apple and Google sent spies to each other’s labs.) This is all welcome stuff. But the editing tools in Picasa 2 are much more powerful, not to mention easy to use, deliciously visual and even witty. For example, nestled among the usual quick-fix buttons (Auto Contrast, Auto Color and so on) is a button called "I’m Feeling Lucky." The wording comes, of course, from a similar button on the Google search page, and in this context, its meaning is clear: "I don’t care which parameters you tweak, just make this picture look better." As with iPhoto’s Enhance button, the resulting improvements are often astonishing. (Picasa makes the changes look even more magical because it animates the edit, making your photo cross-dissolve from Before to After.) Both programs are now capable of straightening a photo, too – for example, where the horizon line isn’t quite parallel to the edge of the picture. Just rotating the photo isn’t good enough; that would make the image sit askew in its rectangle, introducing skinny blank triangles at the corners. So both programs subtly enlarge the photo as you turn it, just enough to eliminate the gaps. (IPhoto and Picasa always apply your editing to a copy of the original photo. Months or years later, you can rewind the photo until it looks exactly the way it came from the camera. That’s a safety net worth its weight in gold, but it’s also a hard-disk glutton; over time, you generate hundreds of duplicates – edited and original.) Now, one huge advantage of digital photos is that you can do so many things with them: turn them into slide shows or desktop pictures, export them as Web-page galleries, send them (in scaled-down form) by e-mail, order prints by mail, and so on. Both programs excel in this department. Picasa’s sharing tools go the extra mile by providing tight integration with Google’s other recent software acquisitions, like Blogger (a Web-log kit) and Hello (instant photo sharing). And Picasa lets you order your prints from a choice of companies (Kodak, Wal-Mart and so on). IPhoto 5, on the other hand, expands what was already a blockbuster feature: the ability to design and order a gorgeous, hardbound coffee-table gift book with just a couple of clicks ($30 for 20 pages). You can now specify double-sided pages, softcover books and a choice of three booklet sizes. For example, the little wallet-size booklets (3.5 by 2.6 inches; $12 for a matching set of three) are fun to carry around, hand out as party favors or drop in the mail. (Picasa offers no such built-in feature. It does, however, let you upload your photos to Shutterfly, a Web site that offers similar, though more limited, book options.) Picasa and iPhoto can each create a double-clickable file that fills the lucky recipient’s computer screen with a musical slide show – a terrific distribution method. IPhoto 5 even gives you control over the timing and transitions of individual slides – and, in conjunction with iDVD, can save the result as a spectacular DVD that your admirers can play on their TV sets. Picasa’s standout features are its simplicity, smoothness and speed. Whereas iPhoto 5 can accommodate about 20,000 photos per library before it starts bogging down – for the true digicam fanatic, that’s about one afternoon’s shooting at Disney World – Picasa handily juggles 250,000 photos without breaking a sweat. Unfortunately, Picasa tracks your picture files right where they are, in their existing folders on your hard drive (rather than storing them in its own database, as iPhoto does). That approach makes sense until you want to organize these photos into thematic groupings – virtual folders, in other words. In iPhoto, you click a + button to create a virtual folder, then drag pictures into it. (You can even create folders within these folders.) But Picasa’s virtual folders appear in the same panel as the list of folders on your hard drive, and creating a new one involves using a pop-up menu elsewhere on the screen. Picasa is one of the world’s least confusing pieces of software, but this aspect of it is a humdinger. Now, Picasa 2 and iPhoto 5 don’t really compete with each other, since each requires a different operating system. No, the company that should really be sweating right about now is Adobe, whose Photoshop Elements 3.0 (for Mac and Windows) is only a few months old. It, too, is a terrific piece of software, but it’s much bigger, more powerful and more complex; in addition to all the iPhoto-Picasa-type features, it can do things like keep track of offline photos (those on your CD’s, not on the computer), superimpose text on your photos, stitch together pictures into a panorama, and so on. But Elements costs $85 online, which is quite a bit more than free. In a world of software that’s so bloated it actually intimidates you, the polish and grace of programs like Picasa and iPhoto are a breath of fresh air. Here’s hoping that 2006 will be the Year of More Programs Just Like These Two.

  5. Garnite says:

    Thank you amiga, especially for the link. The pics look great, mind you having that model helps some. I’m off to download Picasa, life is good.

  6. Gini~ says:

    No problem, Garnite. I was actually looking at your Junco just now!

  7. Nannydaddy says:

    Wow, thans for the info. I feel like a guy on bicycle in the Indy 500 after reading that!!!!!

  8. justmouse says:

    dangit, wouldn’t you know i’m at work right now, and i can’t download ANYTHING! let’s hope i don’t forget about it by the time i get home 😉 thanks for the info!

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