Perfect for home

Organize, edit, and share photos, videos, and collages in Picasa 3.

Google's Picasa: Peer at it closely and you'll find an app teeming with features that do everything from import to edit to upload to share photos and videos online. Let your eyes glaze and that feature set blur, and Picasa is still as easy to use for the photo management basics as it was when it was first conceived, before it came into Google's fold. Firmly in the consumer camp, Picasa doesn't strive to be the most powerful image manager or editor in its class, but for all its tools, this freeware middleweight does hold the distinction of being the most easygoing option for a wide swatch of home users.

Picasa scans your hard drive for photos and organizes them by folder, making it easy to find pictures and videos taken over the years. Editing tools include light adjustment, straightening, effects, and retouchers to cover over blemishes. You can annotate and geotag photos, and can turn pictures into collages, and pictures and video clips into movies. But where Picasa really shines is in its online storage and sharing tools. Syncing and sharing buttons on the album level let you keep folders up-to-date on your free, online Picasa Web album--all without leaving the desktop app. The same goes with sharing. Select contacts and Picasa will e-mail them the link to the online photo album as it simultaneously uploads photos to that very album.

The latest version integrates facial recognition technology that spots faces and lets you identify them with an address from your Gmail account, or just with a name. Although time consuming at first, the genius of this exercise in visual metadata is revealed the next time you hunt for an image and find yourself searching not by an individual album, but by the name of the subject within that sought-for snapshot.

There is one caveat: Picasa eats a lot of memory, so be wary of a performance drag, oh ye of modest memory. In every other respect, this free photo editor and organizer program is an excellent choice for amateur shutterbugs with plenty of photos to lightly edit and share.

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