Picasa

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Description

Launched in 2002, Picasa was bought by Google in 2004 and is now in version 3.9. It is a powerful and flexible tool for managing photo libraries and a respectable set of photo-editing tools.

Features

Picasa’s main function is keeping digital photo libraries in order. By photos, it means anything it recognizes as an image file, which can include scans. It organizes images using three criteria: albums, people and folders. Albums are the digital equivalent of real-world photo albums, they are made up of images on a common theme chosen by the user. The images can be stored anywhere on the computer, but Picasa will show them together.

People is a very helpful feature when organizing family photos. Essentially it allows users to identify people they know, Picasa will then look for other photos with the same facial features and check if they are the same person. Folders works essentially as the name suggests, they show images organized according to the folders in the user’s computer. Users have the option to add metadata such as location data, this helps keep track of photos in large libraries. Picasa has the capability of searching on this information.
As well as its ability to organize images, Picasa can be used for basic editing (such as straightening, cropping and removing red eyes). This is essentially so that photos can be tidied up before being shared on the net. Picasa links with Google+ albums and with Blogger, both of which require Google accounts. There are also options for turning digital photos into real-world mementos such as posters, collages and gift CDs.

Comparison

In terms of photo management there are a number of free alternatives available, although many of them are obviously based on Picasa. An honourable exception is DigiBookShelf, which has a particularly attractive user interface. As its name suggests, it creates virtual photo albums which look like real ones. This can make it easier for older people to grasp.
Another free option is Studio Line Photo Basic 3, this has a more demanding interface than Picasa and is substantially less user-friendly with regards to organizing photos, but does have greater photo-editing capabilities. Having said that, those who are interested in heavy-duty editing would do better to download the Gimp for free, or buy a photo-editing program such as Adobe’s Photoshop Elements. There are also paid-for programmes such as Serif Photo Plus, ACDSee Pro and Adobe Lighroom. These do have more power and flexibility than Picasa, but this comes at a hefty premium.

Conclusion

While the paid-for options may be the only realistic choice for professional photographers or amateurs with significant photo libraries, for most people, Picasa will be more than sufficient for their storage and organization needs. For many people it may also be sufficient for editing.

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