Picasa is free software offered by Google for organizing and editing photos. I do not have many photos, but what I do have is hardly organized, more accurately described as haphazardly strewn about my hard drive. Picasa makes it easy to find all of those images, categorize them, and then edit, share, upload, burn, etc. So let’s examine it.
Installation is quick and painless. Note that Picasa connects to the Internet for the various uploading services it offers. The final step of installation is choosing whether you want a Quick Launch Icon, Desktop Icon, and/or System Tray Icon. Normally this is not noteworthy, but too many programs install all of those things without asking, much to my dislike, so I thought I would point out the consideration of the authors.
When you boot up Picasa for the first time, it asks where it should search for images, all of your hard drives, or just My Documents, My Pictures and the Desktop. I chose the latter and Picasa quickly found everything and indexed them into categories and years. If you are working with images often and find yourself searching your folders for a certain one, Picasa makes it simple to find just what you need in a hurry because everything is in one convenient place.
After the indexing is finished, you’re ready to go. Picasa is very easy to pick up, with a simple, yet effective interface. Your categorized folders are all listed on the left side, with the main photo window in the center. Most controls are on the bottom of the window, with a few along the top. On the bottom of the window is your Picture Tray. Here you can group together the files you want to work on. Once they are all together, you can simply label them, or use the other buttons to Print, Email, Collage, Hello, Blog This!, Order Prints or Export.
Printing opens a printer wizard, similar to Windows XP Photo Print Wizard, allowing you to specify sizes, printers, resolutions and number of copies. E-Mail lets you send the photos with your default e-mail program, in my case it was Outlook Express, of course GMail or Picasa Mail. Collage is just an artsy way to display photos so they look like a pile of Polaroids, grid, or multiple exposures. Hello is companion software that you can use to send and browse photos with friends. BlogThis! opens a connection to Blogger, so you can easily upload your new vacation photos to your family blog. Order Prints lets you connect to various photo services such as Snapfish from HP, Shutterfly and Kodak EasyShare. And lastly, Export lets you send your group of photos to a new directory, for easier organization.
Further features include importing from scanners and digital cameras, slideshows, a timeline view that shows all of your photos broken down by year, and the ability to burn picture CDs for gifts. Finally, double-clicking on any image will open it in Image Editing view. Picasa gives you some basic tweaks to add to your photos like crop, straighten, redeye reduction, contrast and color correction, as well as filters for grain, black & white, sepia, etc. There is nothing to write home about here in terms of editing abilities, but the fact that they are included in the program is a big plus.
Overall, Picasa is a photo program for the everyman who just wants to organize and edit photos for sharing with family and friends. Nothing too fancy, but that’s the point. I think Picasa serves this purpose admirably. Anyone who needs a little more then Microsoft Paint and Windows, but doesn’t want all the hassle of Photoshop and organizing numerous folders manually, should check out Picasa. Not only is it a well made program, but you can’t be that free price tag.