While watching the Eagles and Falcons freeze themselves silly this afternoon, I also tried the new version of the picture management software from Google, Picasa 2. I’ve used Adobe Photoshop Album since it was first released two years ago, and it does a good job of cataloging our family digital pictures (of which we now have about 12,000). However, Album has enough quirks and annoyances to make me want to look elsewhere to see if there is something better.
Picasa makes a great first impression. It starts up very quickly and when you first run it Picasa searches your entire hard drive for images. You can configure the application to automatically scan certain folders you choose for new images, which makes getting new images into Picasa pain-free (this can be one of the big hassles with Album). Overall, it is one of the best looking Windows applications I’ve ever seen. The transitions from one mode to another are silky-smooth, and the look and feel of the application as a whole is attractive without being so over-the-top that it impedes usability
Picasa provides simple editing tools that allow you to adjust the color and contrast, fix red-eye, and crop images. It also includes some great effects, such as ones to turn an image sepia or black and white. It provides the ability to add labels to pictures, which allows you to find all images with a given label either by clicking on the label or by typing in the label in the search box at the top of the screen. I was hoping for much more flexibility in the labels feature; in particular I was disappointed that there seemed to be no way for me to group labels hierarchically. And although Picasa allows you to group sets of pictures into collections, such as “Work Pictures” and “Family Pictures”, any labels that you add are visible across all collections. In Photoshop Album I use about 60 labels to help organize our photos, and if I were to try to do the same thing in Picasa it would quickly become unmanageable. These shortcomings make Picasa best suited for managing hundreds, but not thousands, of pictures.
While I think Picasa is a great application, I won’t be giving up Photoshop Album quite yet, at least not on the family desktop computer where our family pictures are stored. I will keep Picasa around on my laptop, where its ability to scour my system for images is sure to come in handy every so often. I encourage you all to download and try Picasa for yourself. It’s free, so if nothing else the price is right.