Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Google updates Picasa and Picasa Web Albums

Google had a busy day today! The Google Chrome web browser release was the shot heard around the world. But in the shadow of Chrome's news, Google also released updates to it's Picasa line of photo editing and sharing products... Picasa 3 and Picasa Web Albums.

Picasa 3

Picasa 3 is Google's latest release of their photo organizer and editor software for Windows. I use Adobe Lightroom for my needs, but I am warming up to Picasa and tend to recommend it to friends and family who have a Windows computer but don't need the features of Lightroom. I didn't care for the first version of Picasa because it just seemed awkward and difficult for a novice to use.

Picasa 2 addressed many of my concerns and I installed it on my parents computer when they got a digital camera a few months ago. Picasa was simple enough that they learned how to use it to import and organize/display photos. They can also upload photos to Picasa Web to share with family and friends.

The release of Picasa 3 brings several new features. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Add multiple word tags: Enter 'New York' as a tag instead of entering 'New' and 'York' as separate words.
  • Capture screen: You can now press the Print Screen button and have the screenshot automatically put into Picasa.
  • Retouch images: Ability to remove blemishes from an image. Similar to the clone tool in Lightroom and Photoshop.
  • Add text or watermark: Easily add text or a watermark to a photo. You can set the text attributes and easily choose the location and angle of the text.
  • Create movies: Picasa 3 includes a movie editor so you can create movies from your video clips. I don't have any videos to try this out, but it appears to be very simple to use.

There are several other features. Visit the What's New and What's Changed pages to see what has changed. Google also released the following video to explain what's new in Picasa 3.

Picasa Web Albums

Google also updated their Picasa Web Albums photo sharing service today with a couple of new features. I have been a longtime Flickr user, and I feel that it is the superior service for it's community aspects, but Yahoo! sorely needs to invest in updating the Flickr technology or they are going to lose ground to Picasa Web Albums and other services. With these latest changes that Google has made, I may be recommending friends and family that aren't involved in the community aspect to use Picasa Web Albums instead of Flickr.

Name tags: Name tags use clustering technology to identify photos with similar faces so that you can tag those photos quickly and easily. You can then display groups of photos with a specific person or set of people.

Explore page: The new Explore page displays recent photo contributions from people around the globe. There is a slideshow of new photos from members around the world, and you can also display photos by popular tags. There is also a fun game called 'Where in the World?' where you are presented with a string of photos and have to place a pin on a map of where you think that each photo was taken. You are given points based on how close you are to the actual location. I don't know the object of this game (besides to earn points), but I quit after a few rounds.

I think that Google is headed in the right direction with Picasa Web Albums. In some ways they have surpassed Flickr, but overall they are still quite far behind. In addition to the lack of community (which they appear to be working on), Google really needs to re-evaluate the amount of storage they provide.

You get 1 GB for free with Picasa Web Albums. Adding 10 GB of shared storage (used by all Google products) will cost you $20/year. Other annual plans include: 40 GB for $75; 150 GB for $250; 400 GB for $500. With online storage services such as ADrive providing 50 GB storage free, Google's pricing needs to change if they want to stay competitive.

1 comment:

  1. I've been totally enamored with Picasa 3... just downloaded it tonight,and I'm already up way past my bedtime!