First thoughts on Picasa

Well, I haven’t been posting in this blog as often as I’ve thought, although I write a lot of drafts in my head during the day and I never get them past the editor… Oh well, on with this one or it’ll get filed away as a mental draft too.

I think I want to talk about Google’s Picasa. I’ve installed it two or three days ago and I have been very pleased with it. It did take a bit of hard drive space, as I feared, but I guess I will live with it for the time being. What I really ought to do is back up all the stuff in my computer, making plenty of free space and stop worries about that.

For those that don’t know what Picasa is yet (I didn’t know much about it until recently), go to Picasa’s homepage and read about it. Also, there are a couple videos posted by Google in YouTube, which cover version 3 and 3.5:

I haven’t explored all the features yet, so far I wanted it to organize my photos. To my surprise, it also takes care of videos, which will probably make me shoot videos a lot more now, knowing they’ll be as easy to manage as photos.

I like the scrolling, which feels smooth like the iPod Touch’s, and the thumbnails don’t lag like Windows Explorer. Selecting photos is simple, with several options like ctrl-click to add individual items to a selection, or shift-click for a range, as well as selecting areas. Batch actions aren’t complicated either, drag-and-drop makes some actions pretty fast and intuitive.

I love how you can filter photos by album, people, keywords, and then only work on the matching set of files, combined with the features mentioned above.

Like I said, I didn’t particularly explore the features set, like editing or uploading yet. I did find that you can add more features like uploading not only to YouTube or Picasa’s Albums, but also to other services like Facebook or Flickr, with the proper plug-ins (or whatever they are called in Picasa). I imagine there are some for other web apps, like WordPress, which I could do a quick search for, but am lazy at the moment.

The feature that I liked the most, organization-wise, has been people tagging. You can name the people in your pictures and then use those tags to filter the photos down to the set of individuals in them. Like a certain photos folder and then clicking on your kids face, will show just the photos in that folder where your kids were tagged. Pretty nifty when you have tons of pictures and you need to find the one you want to share.

This comes with a little disadvantage, though, you have to tag them. Picasa simplifies it to a certain extent, though. Right after adding the photos to the application, it’ll scan them to find faces. It does a pretty decent job, but it’s still far from perfect. It’ll find faces of people, but also faces in pictures inside the picture, like the ones on the shelf at the back or a street ad poster; statues will also be picked some times. At the same time, several pretty obvious faces will be ignored, and some not-so-obvious ones as well. In other words, if you want to do a complete job, you will have to go through each picture and add manually the missing people.

Anyway, after it scanned the pictures and found some faces, it will attempt to group them by person. It displays them in an “unnamed people” group where you’ll proceed to name the groupings. It’s a good way to save some time, although you’ll later have to go to each person’s set of faces and confirm they are all correct, because you can’t preview what Picasa grouped as a same person (not that I found how) and will only find out after you named him/her. You can batch confirm they are right or not, you can also move wrong picks under their right name quite easily.

To make things simpler, if you have a Gmail account, you should log in to it from Picasa and it will pull your contacts list. This will give you a drop-down list of options under the field where you name each person, making the process much faster: type the first letters and then arrow-down and enter, or click on the right name. If the name is not in the list, just finish typing it and press enter, you’ll be prompted a box where you can create a new person and it will later show in your options list too.

People tagging is great, but very time consuming, so either you not do it at all, or you half do it but I don’t see the point then, or you do it fully spending tons of time to it. First thing, then would be to decide whether you really need it or want it, and if so, don’t try to finish in one go unless you love looking at pictures and typing for hours on end and have nothing else to do. What I am doing is spending a bit of time each day, trying to complete a full folder of photos at a time, and making progress in order so I don’t skip one set by mistake. If I continue, I will eventually finish some day.

I haven’t checked if you can export all this tagging with the pictures once you back them up in a disk, but if Picasa doesn’t do this yet, I’m quite sure it will get implemented in the future, or so I hope. After all, this just seems to be the first version with the people feature, so it can only improve.

As I try new things and have more to share, I may post them here.

Share this post, comment on it, please participate! That will keep me motivated to do more. :)

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  • Tamara Hernandez

    Like your comments. I will try it out!