Tuesday, January 25

Picasa 2: Know what you are getting

I recommended the new Picasa 2 software on the air last week. It's backed by Google, free to download from www.picasa.com, and it's the slickest organizer I have seen yet for your digital photographs. If you've seen iPhoto, which is part of Apple's iLife 05 suite, Picasa 2 is very similar. It will find all your existing digital photographs, keep watch over designated folders for new photographs as they arrive, and display them for you in a colorful, easy to use format. Oh, and did I mention that this thing is fast? No, not fast. Fast with a CAPITAL F. It also improves the look of your digital photos with some of the smartest automatic enhancement tools I have ever used. Fast, smart, and free. Is this the perfect software? As with most things, there is one small, teeny-tiny little quirk. You see, Picasa 2 is not a photo editor. Yes, it does give you tools for improving your digital photos. You can crop them, sharpen them, add flash fill, improve the color saturation, etc. Wait!, you say, that sure sounds like editing to me. Ah, it would indeed, except that Picasa 2 isn't making any of these changes to the actual file on your computer. No, Picasa 2 is creating a database of where your digital photos are, and what edits you've specified for them. The photo you see on your screen through Picasa 2 is a combination of your original photo and any applied edits, created for you in the blink of an eye. If you want to actually change a digital photograph, you need to export the image from Picasa 2 back into a file on your computer. This includes such changes as resizing the image, by the way. Do I think it makes Picasa 2 a bad program? Heck, no. It never claimed to be an image editor, and it's not. But, I do not see any of the other glowing reviews of this program making this point: It may look like you are improving your photos, but you are not. You are improving Picasa 2's version of your photo. Why does this matter? Well, as long as you're using Picasa 2 to handle all your digital photos, I suppose it doesn't. But, if you use Picasa 2 to fix up a passel of your pics, and then you email them or burn them to CD right from the Windows folder instead of using the email and burn to CD functions provided by Picasa 2, you might be stunned to see that you've just emailed or burned the ugly original versions and not your spruced-up Picasa 2 editions. Hey folks, this is still a great tool. Just be aware of what it is and what it is not. It is a great tool for displaying your digital photos on your computer. It is not a tool for editing them, at least not without the extra step of exporting a new, edited image.