Picasa is a great photo manager.
Overview: Google’s Picasa software is my answer to managing all the digital photos that I have. The software comes in both desktop & online flavors that complement each other. Picasa 3 is the desktop version – available here for Windows XP/Vista, Mac OS X, and Linux (my first choice of operating system). All versions also link to the Picasaweb.com online version. There are third-party applications for web-enabled TVs, DVDs, iPhone, Android and similar devices. No additional application is actually needed for Android devices since an upload function is built into the newer releases of the OS and you can view your photos directly on most Android devices using the Gallery application. A browser is all you need to use PicasaWeb. In this review, I assume that you have already established a Picasa account. If you have not, visit the Google Picasa Accounts Website to sign up – it is FREE.
How to: I will describe how things work on my Linux laptop, Android devices (HTC G2 phone, Viewsonic G-Tablet, & B&N Nook Color – all rooted and running CyanogenMod 7.0.3) and PicasaWeb. I am pretty certain that the Windows and Mac versions operate in a similar manner.
- First, upload your photos:. With my G2 Android phone, I can upload the photos directly to PicasaWeb.com using the Gallery & its “Share” function. However, to save on mobile data usage, and to store everything locally, I prefer to transfer my photos to my computer as the first step. This is much quicker and easier than the 3G (or Edge) connection that I get in this area – and I can group the photos into separate folders on the laptop. So, fire up the Picasa desktop program, connect the camera (phone or other device) via USB, and (within Picasa) click on Import – select the device – choose which photos to upload (I transfer all and delete from the phone), then chose a location to save and hit “finish”. This gets the photos on my laptop (and if desired, removed from the camera) and they are included in the Picasa (desktop) program for further management. (Note: Picasa will also search your computer for photos and allow you to manage them from their existing disk locations.)
- Second, (within the Picasa program) choose all associated photos and “add to album.” If the album exists, just select it – or, create a new album. The photos are not physically moved but (for management purposes) albums “sort” your photos into groups. If you have previously elected that an album should “sync to web” then all new photos which are added to that album will be automatically uploaded to the PicasaWeb site’s album of the same name as the local version – and available for view according to your privacy settings. If you create a new album (on the local computer), then you can just hit the “sync to web” button and the album will be created on the web and all photos in the local copy will be uploaded to the new online album.
- Third, log in to your PicasaWeb account (here) & review your privacy settings. I will not go into detail about all the setup function since Google offers such help already. Click on the gear button (upper right corner of the page) and you will see an option for “Photos settings” or “Photos help.” Click on the settings link and a new page will display. I recommend that you edit ALL settings but you should definitely click on the “Privacy and Permissions” tab. On that page, you can set some important settings. You can even set the licensing and conditions of any reuse. When you have finished with the “Settings” pages, click on the “My Photos” tab (in the top menu). At the top of the page will be a count of your albums and a link to “Edit Visibility.” Click on that link to set the visibility of each individual album (“Public on the Web” means that anyone can view the album; “Anyone With The Link” means that people with whom you share the web address can view the photo; & “Private” restricts access to Google Account users that YOU have specifically authorized.)
- Upload photos directly online. Most new smart phones and many of the newer cameras have web-access built in and allow you to upload your photos directly to PicasaWeb. This is a viable plan for many users but I would highly recommend that you still visit the PicasaWeb.com site and manage your photos directly.
Useability: The real value of Picasa is the ability of making your photos so widely available.
- The first level of value is for yourself. My computer, all my Android devices, my HDTV and many other devices ALL have full access to all of my public PicasaWeb photos. You have never seen your photos until you see them in high definition on a large screen HDTV! I can even have a slideshow on my TV. I have all my photos available on my phone – anywhere that I have data connectivity. They display on each device in the Gallery app separated into the albums just as if they were all saved locally on that device. Just think – all your photos on every device – where ever you are!
- Sharing photos may be more important than just keeping them as personal memories. When we are separated from our friends and family by geographic location, we can bring them a bit closer via our shared photos. If you subscribe to a user’s Picasa account (while visiting an account, the right panel, immediately below that person’s name is a link to “follow.” If you have a Picasa account and you click on the “follow” link, the system will send you an email whenever new pictures are added. It is always a great joy to see the pictures of my children who live several hundred miles away. Those pictures are available immediately after they are uploaded.) Also, you can post a link to your photos (or albums) in email, on Facebook, Twitter, or other almost anywhere. Actually, Facebook loads the link and it appears pretty much the same as if you had uploaded the photo to F.B. The difference is that photos uploaded on F.B. are not protected in any way, must be uploaded individually, and can only be viewed on Facebook – only by those with F.B. accounts. The simplest way to post a link is to display the photo or album in your computer’s browser and then copy the address in the browser’s address book. You can then share that link by pasting it in the desired venue.
Review: In summary, I highly recommend Picasa as both a desktop photo manager and an online photo sharing site. All functions are free but the amount of storage is limited to one Gigabyte. That is enough space to store about 500 photos from a 5MP camera. Photos less than 800×600 pixels and videos less than 15 minutes in duration no longer count towards your 1GB quota. If you do need more space, you can purchase 20GB for $5 per year. So far, I have not had to purchase additional storage.