One of our vocal readers, Joe, advised me that Google’s not a software company. Took a while but I came up with an example of Google making great software (his point was that because their core business is brokering ads their software is therefore inherently shitty – and that I should “remember” his telling me that because it was important no matter how big a douchebag I think he is, the feeling behind which I suppose is mutual). On top of that, in some instances their software is unparalleled and if that’s open to debate, I’m making it wide open to debate right now so we can get it over with. But hey, I’m a hack, what do I know. And the only thing that’s crazier than I am is that they let me write here, ain’t that right Joe?

I haven’t explored the competition of Picasa at all but maybe you have and would chime in, then I’ll try it (unless you say iPhoto) and if you’re right you will have blown my mind. Actually to add some incentive to that for you, I’d better just say this so you can see this as an opportunity make me look stupider than I manage to make myself look without your help: Picasa is the best, hands down, it will always be the best and if you say otherwise you’re either just wrong or you’re some sort of privacy nut who’s also wrong. I didn’t even read up on iPhoto and I know that that statement’s right on target. I haven’t tried it on a Mac but I would be very surprised if even on Apple’s home operating system turf it failed to trample upon iPhoto across the board. My mother, who’s happily nestled onto Kubuntu Linux, enjoys using it – nice of Google to accommodate all the moms in her Linux shoes.

It can’t do everything you can do in GIMP or Photoshop but it comes close enough. Check this piece out, straight out of Picasa. Work of art right here to the left, modern art with zero redeye entitled Gloves Coming Off. Notice the subtle rotation effect I applied which to me symbolizes that to a degree (two degrees specifically) I am in control of the situation. I’m an artist now.

Packed with useful goodies. For example, its facial recognition is excellent. Damn near magical, except it seems lost when it hits my foot enthusiast album. It goes through your photos, clumps everyone together that it thinks are the same person, you correct it as needed, along the way it trains itself a little bit more, and then you identity each person, and as you do that it autocompletes like composing an email and then latches that person’s identity in Picasa to their Gmail account. Helpful way to organize things and one subtle neat trick I just discovered is that if you right click on one of the faces from the recognition section you can set that thumbnail headshot as that person’s picture in your Gmail contacts which in turn syncs up with your phone which makes the picture/contact thing.

Also if you want you can link it up to your Google Picasa account, sync albums, individual pictures, whatever you want to share after you’re done doctoring pictures up either for color levels or to do low-level photoshop things with an I’m Feeling Lucky button or some sliders that generally do a decent job. Then when you go on your Google phone which you’ve logged into your Google account just one single time and without having to install any extra software, hit the Gallery and voila, your Picasa pictures. Take pictures on the phone, make an album or whatever, hit the button, then they’re on Picasa and your computer. Turn on Google Maps, hit Latitude, see where your friends are and hey, how about that, they’re represented on the map with the picture you clicked in Picasa. It’s all tied in like that. Yes the other guys, Apple and Microsoft and even Adobe I believe, are trying to catch up but face it, they’re nowhere near Google at least with respect to everyday photo management software and the general integration of it into other services and vice versa.

That’s one perk you get with Google’s approach to business of throwing everything against the wall to see what sticks and then tasking some of their thirty thousand employees to get busy on it (with an extra reminder to the Street View team to drive carefully). The result is that the company ends up providing all sorts of different services covering a lot of your digital needs, many of which have overlaps and then they straddle the overlaps with finesse, then they keep improving those things that stuck while hiring more guys and gals as needed to work on new things that stick to the wall in subsequent tosses. They’re eclectically prolific.

Though I haven’t used iPhoto, because Apple isn’t involved in all these different games, it’s hard to imagine them producing something that’s better than Picasa. Please feel free to disagree. I have no idea what Microsoft’s up to on this front but I submit anyway that Google is not only better, they’re practically the only game in town and they would not have earned their way to that point if their coding was low rent and other than getting goats to mow their lawn software is an integral part of every single thing they do.

One more shout out to my man Joe who can suck it.

Doug Simmons


  1. Wow picasa does sound pretty awesome. I’ve tried gimp for photo editing and just use the default microsoft photo viewer. I think I will give it a shot.

  2. You should mention Google SketchUp 3D. Combined with their open “3D Warehouse” where you can download all kinds of 3D models, it’s the absolute best free* 3D modeling tool out there.
    *There are a ton of better paid programs, but for the low, low cost of an ounce of sunshine, it’s saved my butt a few times when I needed to make a good graphic in a pinch!

  3. MS has their Live Photo Gallery – similar in concept, but I’ll admit that I haven’t played around with it too much because we were hooked on Picasa earlier (when MS really didn’t have much in the game). I’d say Picasa is better, but if someone didn’t want to use a Google product, I’d feel somewhat comfortable recommending MS’ offering. One advantage to the MS offering is that it links to SkyDrive for online photos – 25GB for free. Picasa just gives you 1GB for free last time I checked. Guess it’s worth another look at the Live Photo offering just to see what’s different/new, but not likely to switch. Google really does have a good blending of pics/app/web in this case.

    If you haven’t tried it and don’t have a problem with Google, it’s worth it. The basics that it can touch up really help and it’s got some nice features to make working with photos a little easier. Basic video, collages, collections, face recognition, tags – they all add up to make it a bit easier to manage your photos.

  4. Doug, disappointed that of all photos, you elected to show bunion-riddled feet straddling a wine glass. C’mon man, get your game up.

  5. Live Photo Gallery 2011 is much smoother and easier for “moms”. Have 4000+ photos and live photo gallery handles that better than picasa does any day. This is one of my main reasons for switching from picasa to photo gallery.

  6. LOL! I’m impressed that you took my posts so personally, that you decided to dedicate an entire article to me. It really is sad that you take this shit so seriously. Are you so personally invested in Google that you take offense to someone thinking they suck, that you’d go to the trouble of using your job to argue otherwise? Jesus! Take a breath, go outside, and live a little.

    I follow all of the important tech blogs, and a few less important blogs, and I’m certain you are the worst tech writer on the internet. I don’t know you personally. You may be a great guy. But your extreme bias and inability to form an objective opinion, makes you unfit to cover or review technology.

    As for this article, you need to do some research. Google did not create Picasa. Google bought Picasa in 2004. Picasa existed two years before Google came along and snapped them up. So you fail once again. Idealab created Picasa in 2002.

    The actual quality of Picasa is decent at best. As Jon already posted, there are far better alternatives to Picasa, depending on what you want to do.

    Try some research next time.

    “I haven’t explored the competition of Picasa at all”

    This says it all. It’s why you have no credibility. It’s why you’re a tool.

    “Picasa is the best, hands down, it will always be the best and if you say otherwise you’re either just wrong or you’re some sort of privacy nut who’s also wrong”

    LOL! More idiocy from the mind of Doug Simmons. Comments like the two I quoted are comedy gold. Please don’t stop, because reading your articles are a riot.

  7. By the way, unlike you I have used various programs. If I haven’t used a program, I don’t render an opinion, also unlike you. You might want to actually try something before you talk shit about it, for example Windows Phone 7.

  8. Picasa is great, but far from perfect!

    I just switched from Picasa, having used it for years, to Microsoft Live Photo Gallery because I like my photos organised by the year/month in which they were taken. MLPG does this automatically. However, there is an annoying bug in Picasa ( where Picasa sometimes thinks a photo was taken months before it actually was (i.e. not the date in the EXIF meta data) – when you view your photos in timeline view you will see photos out of sequence.

  9. I’ve used both picasa and MS live photo gallery, including the current editions of each.
    I’m no expert with either.
    They each have their strengths and weaknesses.
    First, I’d say to the bug mentioned above that the big report linked may be no bug at all. The report is confusing and the OP never comes back to follow-up ultimately with just what he was trying to do or exactly how he was going about it.
    The ‘dates’ for files and folders are multiple and hardly straight forward. There are dates in image meta-data, dates in file-system meta-data from your OS, and then possible dates assigned by and program which keeps its own data.
    It may well be a bug in picasa, but from that report it also may well be a misunderstanding on the part of the OP as to what he is doing exactly, or at least how picasa is responding to what he is doing.
    In any event his explanation attempts clarity but leaves big questions really about his meanings.

    MS does give 25GB free with skydrive. However, they provide no easy way to make use of it for arching or moving large collections and that limits its usefulness a good deal I think.
    One thing live image gallery lacks a good deal in comparison to picasa currently is the ability to not just upload pics and create online ‘galleries’ but to create ‘galleries’ with the app itself and keep track of their upload status and sync them.
    Picas does allow you to deal with native folders or its own ‘Albums”, which are constructs of its own database and do not exist physically on disk.
    The ability to create these albums lends a good bit of power I find.
    You can easily upload to picasa web albums folders or albums – though I think online it addresses them all as albums, not that it matters really.

    The new interface of live gallery is quite slick, picasa could use some TLC in that regard.

    I like the album feature in picasa as I use it to make sets to easily keep track of things.
    For instance I might select 10 pics I want prints made of.
    I put them in an album, do any adjustments to them, upload them with picasa to where ever I like to order prints. Now, a few days or a even weeks or months later if I have any questions about what prints I had made or whatnot, the information is right there.
    I simply look at the album and I know exactly which pics I sent for print last week or two months ago or whatever.
    Same for publishing online to share with friends. It’s neat and simple and doesn’t alter the location of pics on my disc at all.
    Maybe live gallery has similar ability but I have not found it so far.
    Of course I have spent too much time looking, but at first glance I see nothing indicating adding pics to such a group/set/album/whatever.

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