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Full user review
"A free photo editing and cataloging tool from Google."
It is free and it is from Google. Picasa is very fast and has excellent suite of photo-editing and cataloging / album-making tools. It has comprehensive features for searching images reminiscent of Spotlight and what it does with words for the MacOS.
Picasa is comprehensive and therefore will take quite some time to learn in its entirety. In all probability most users will only use a small subset of its features. It is not always intuitive in its operation.
Photo / image management isn't yet at its zenith but there can be no doubt that Picasa is heading in the right direction. For example, see Picasa's web extension for Web Albums. This extension allows a user to synchronise albums in his Picasa collection with those published on the Web for easy sharing and hosting.
Picasa is equally adept at managing photos and videos while offering basic photo-editing features that are very useful to the amateur and professional photographer.
Picasa 126.96.36.1996, the latest version, is absurdly quick and launches instantly if a camera is connected via cable to a USB port on the host computer. Once launched the user is presented with various ways of easily categorising their photos and images by batch renaming, tagging / commenting or adding 'stars'. The folder hierarchy is easy to manage and navigate and is largely intuitive.
Sharing photos is easy with built-in buttons for emailing, uploading to other Picasa Web-based albums and the user has the option to install third-party plug-ins to allow integration with other Web-based services such as directly uploading photos to Facebook or Twitter.
A key feature of Picasa is the ability to edit photos and images. The photo editor is very basic compared to PhotoShop Elements (say) but is comprehensive enough for the amateur photographer or artist. Editing features include cropping, straigtening, constrasting, highlighting, shadowing and colour effects, including toning: monochrome, sepia, halftones, etc. Once the edits have been saved, Picasa makes a separate backup copy of the original file in a hidden folder: a useful feature if the user wishes to abandon the edits and revert back to the original photo / image.
Picasa 3.x.x.x features tagging. For example, human faces are automatically tagged and as long as the user names them initially, Picasa will automate the whole process in subsequent usage.
Web Albums is probably Picasa's most useful feature. The user can synchronise their photos with the Web and hence share them with others via privacy controls to determine who has access to them. The Web interface is very easy and intuitive to use.
Doubtless future versions of Picasa will include many more enhancements.