Picasa is the first stand-alone product owned by Google. Actually the product is the creation of Picasa Inc., a company which was discovered by Idealab. Google bought all the rights of this product from Idealab. The first version delivered through Google was 1.618, which was far from being a prefect product. But because it was free, the product got better and better and version 2.2.0 is the most stable version. There is already a 2.5.0 version, but still in beta phase.
The product supports all major platforms such as Windows, Linux and Mac. You will realize from the first glance that the interface is very similar in terms of design with Mac applications. That's why one of the bad characteristics of this product is the lack of physical path of any file. You will not know exactly where is the location of a file. A tree representation in future version will be very useful.
The main important feature of this product is scanning function. From the first use, the application will scan all your hard drives and will find all the pictures from your computer. You will surprised how many pictures you just forgot that you have them. All the pictures found will be automatically organized into albums selected by date. If your pictures are saved in folders, in general Picasa will take the title from every folder by default and use it as the title of the album.
Besides the scanning function, you can also import pictures from different locations, including digital cameras. Although the albums, that include local pictures, are made based on the date of creation of every picture, if you import them from your camera, the date displayed will be the one of the importing moment, not the one of the creation.
The program works with all major image formats such as JPEG, GIF, BMP, PSD, and movie files and is compatible with most digital cameras. Of course, you will encounter some problems if you use Imagestation from Sony. That's because they proprietarize all their products. But Picasa 2 is compatible with all other photo sharing products and digital cameras.
The editing tools are very basic and includes cropping (standard or custom), removal of red-eye, and enhancing--even switching from color to black and white. Unfortunately the red-eye effect is very hard to remove, because the application doesn't have the ability to zoom in the eye of the person. Instead you have to make you selection from the fullscreen view. The good thing about the using of any effect or filter, is that you can see the results instantly, without having to wait until the preview renders. The multiple levels of the undo function makes it very easy to coma back to the original form, if you don't like the result picture after applying several effects and filters. If you make a comparison between the displying time of the Windows Explorer thumbnails and Picasa thumbanils, you will see that the gap between both of them is huge. Picasa can do this almost instantly. But there is a price for this. Users with older computers will encounter problems. That's because Picasa uses a lot of memory when displaying these thumbnails.
The application comes with full integration with Hello an instant picture-sharing software that lets you share hundreds of photos in seconds with you friends and chat in real time with them . You just need to install it and create an account . Then from Picasa, you can select whatever pictures you want and share them online with other Hello users.
You can also e-mail photos with Picasa's built-in client and order photo-lab quality prints. You can also print prints at home if you have the necessary gear.
The only backup solution is to burn the pictures in CD or DVD. This can be made with a built-in writer which allows you to select the pictures with or without an integrated slideshow function and with or without the Picasa application. The application will automatically calculate the amount of CD, or DVD discs that you need in order to write all the pictures that you want.
The AutoFix button usually works well and the results are remarkable. It doesn't matter if you want to apply the auto contrast or the auto color, the results occur instantly on the picture.
Pluses: beautiful and intuitive interface; Autofix function; the scanning function; the undo function; full integration with Hello instant picture-sharing software; the ability to print high quality prints; the Timeline viewer;
Drawbacks / flaws: you cannot zoom the image when you want to remove the red-eye effect; no tree representation of the folders; importing the pictures from digital camera by changing the creation date with the omporting date;
In conclusion: The application doesn't outdo in any ways, but because of its beautiful and intuitive interface and because of its basic editing tools which are very well implemented and not to mention the full integration with Hello share-pictures program, this application is one of the best in its field.
version reviewed: 2.2.0
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