software and webware

Playing with Picasa

I’ve felt disenchanted with Facebook lately, if I ever was enchanted. When I read that VC Fred Wilson called it just a photo-sharing site, that was a eureka moment for me: Facebook has become merely a place where I share photos, but it’s not even very good for that. I used to use Flickr to share photos and could go back to that, but in the interest of feeding my need for novelty, I’ve started playing around with Google Picasa and Picasa Web Albums.

Little did I know that when I went looking for a better way to share photos I’d happen on a great tool for managing all my photos, not just the ones I want to share online.

Picasa is a desktop tool that indexes and organizes your photos on your hard disk. When you launch it for the first time, it searches your drive (or specified folders on your drive) for photos and lists them by folders. Then it searches the photos for faces. You can label the faces with names and if you’re signed into Google (e.g., Gmail) you can link them up with your contacts. Pretty cool.

Right from there you can fix up the photos — correct red-eye, adjust color and contrast, etc. There’s even an “I’m feeling lucky” button to correct the whole photo at once. Nice. I had been using a mix of free tools my laptop came installed with to manage and correct photos; the integrated approach Picasa offers is much more convenient.

I haven’t uploaded anything yet, but you can do that right from the desktop tool also. You can set entire folders to sync, so (I assume) anything you add to the folder would get uploaded. You can specify what size to upload, so that if you’re uploading photos for blogging, you don’t have to use up too much space. You get 1GB for free and can upgrade to 20GB for $5 a year. That storage is shared across your Gmail and Google Docs apps too.

Obviously Facebook is at the same time more than a photo-sharing site and less than the combination of the Picasa desktop tool and Picasa Web Albums: they’re not aimed at the same thing. I’m not going to say a complete goodbye to Facebook, because it’s not just for photo-sharing, it’s also a (not-so-great) contact manager. I don’t want to misplace all the friends I’ve refound there! The other aspect of Facebook that I might like to replace is sharing status updates and links, but maybe I will go back to Twitter for that. Twitter is a better mix of the social and professional than Facebook.