Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Picasa 3

I have a LOT of photos on my computer (approx. 23,000). They range from family snapshots to references for various art projects to charts and diagrams relating to topics that interest me and so on. I currently use Windows Explorer to sort out my images, and as of yet, I haven't found anything that works better. If explorer had tagging or virtual folders or something, it would be all I needed. All of the programs that DO offer those things do so in a poor manner or are seriously lacking in the stability / usability areas. I tried Picasa when Google first bought it, and found it wanting in a number of areas, but uninstalled it because it was unstable and caused my computer to crash. Now that Picasa 3 is out, I thought I'd give it a try. My thoughts, and a wish-list:

The Good

It's stable now! I've added all my pictures, and it still runs. I can't add hundreds of photos to the photo-deck thing without it getting pretty slow, but i can offload them fairly easily.

The collage maker is awesome, and I used it to create the back of a calendar yesterday, and it was great. The only thing that would make it better would be to allow you to individually move the photos around, rather than relying on "Scramble" to put them in the right place.

The thumbnail view is pretty good, the slider bar on the right takes some getting used to, but it's cool when you do.

The Okay

The User Interface has a lot to be desired, but once you find what you are looking for, most tasks are easy and straightforward. Exceptions will be covered in a sec.

The Bad / Annoying

When you're importing your initial collection, you cannot import a single set of folders, sort them into albums then add a second set of folders and still be able to easily see what you just added. You can sort by creation date, but when you have such a variety of images that isn't helpful - new folders appear randomly in the folders list. The same goes for all of the folder sort options. You can sort albums by when you added them to Picasa, but not folders.

Albums are great, but you can only place them in the Album collection, not in any user created collection. This is my biggest beef with Picasa - collections AND albums are both virtual organizers, why do they not work together? If this was added, I think it would finally do the one thing I want a program like it for: to organize my photos.

You also cannot place a folder into more than one collection! This means that there is no way for me to put a collection of photos in more than one place. What if I want to put my photos from a Grand canyon trip with other photos from that year, with other photos of my family and with pictures of the Grand Canyon. Currently, there is no way to do this efficiently. Either, I have to create an album for each subset of images which multiplies quickly and gets to be too much to deal with (remember, I have 20k photos) OR, create collections and choose one collection for each folder. Since there are no other sub folders, this also multiplies fairly quickly.

If I could only add photos to Albums, with a way to have subsets IN the albums (even if it just kept track of which folder it came from) and then add those to my custom collections.

After adding all my photos to Picasa, I ended up with 500 folders that got stuck into the Other Stuff folder. There is no difference (for me) between these photos and the ones in the Folders collection, so, I want to move ALL of them to the main Folders collection. There is NO way to move more than one folder to a new collection at the same time. It might work well for five or sic folders, but I don't want to individually move 500 folders (right click, choose move to collection, choose Folders from a list, repeat).

How does Picasa decide what gets imported into Folders and what gets imported into Other Stuff? About a third of my folders went into the Other Stuff collection rather than the Folders collection. I looked it up on their website, which told me that these are folders which have other types of content in them. But, I looked at the source folders, and many of them are all JPGs - I think this must be a bug.

The Missing

I wish I could select multiple photos between folders. I know I can push-pin them into the "shelf", but this gets annoying, and it's easy to forget that you are required to do so. It's also easy to forget to empty the shelf after moving them somewhere.

Currently you can only email photos with a Gmail account or Thunderbird. I know why, but it would be nice to be able to send with other clients (hotmail, yahoo, outlook, etc)

I remember tagging was a big thing in the older version of Picasa, but it conspicuously hard to get to without using CTRL-T or CTRL-K - and you can't see them either, or look at a list of tags or ... I think they are trying to phase them out, which is too bad - a well designed tagging system can be used for almost anything - which is what a good app can do. It's like a food processor that can only accept foods that are a certain size or shape or color. It seems arbitrary to the people who are trying to use it.