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Hey Joe, Isn’t Picasa Fantastic?

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