10 Things I love and hate about Google Picasa

Most of you may have noticed the fancy little galleries on my blog. Basically, these are the result of serious photo management using Google’s free tool Picasa. Since a weekend of traveling produces between 2 and 6 gigabytes of pictures, it needs a little more than simple put-them-in-a-folder-and-use-Windows-Picture-and-Fax-Viewer to keep track of all those beautiful pictures. 😉

After having used Picasa2 for more than a year now, I believe I can definitely say what I think is great about it and what pretty much sucks when managing a massive amount of pictures.
Please don’t get me wrong. I still think Picasa is a great tool for photo archiving. Otherwise I wouldn’t be using it all the time. However, there are still some improvements possible that could make it a lot more comfortable.

10 Things I love about Picasa

  1. Ease of use
    There are few tools that are as easy to use as Picasa. Many sophisticated features in few controls help to achieve this. For instance the constant-speed-scrolling-control helps you to let your mousewheel chill while admiring your photography skills. Simple, but great… 😉
  2. Fancy visual effects
    Every time I start Picasa, I once more fall in love with those awesome visual effects. It starts with the smooth scrolling through the thumbnails and ends with the very cool spinning star when starring a photo.
  3. No originals are harmed
    Thanks to (proprietary) incremental storage of edits to an image no originals are harmed unless you want them to be changed. And even if you decide to persist the changes, the originals are still available.
  4. Storage of the caption right inside the image file
    Picasa utilizes the non-proprietary IPTC standard to store the image’s caption (and keywords) directly in the JPEG file. Many other graphical editing software or online gallery tools are able to read these values (only Windows Explorer can’t 🙁 )…
  5. XML and plain HTML exports
    Simple and effective. The basis for my galleries inside of my blog posts. However, custom theming as well as support for semantically flavoured picture XML (some kind of RDF) with support for Geotags would be great.
  6. One overview of all your pics
    Sounds incredibly trivial. But being able to scroll through all of your pictures is simply great.
  7. Thumbnail caching
    Thanks to cached thumbnails, Picasa is really quick in displaying a fair amount of pictures on the screen. However, I’d love to be able to select the drive where the cached thumbnails are stored.
  8. Locate on disk command
    Another one of those features that you probably start to miss if they disappeared for whatever reason… Only multi-selection of files would be nice to have in addition.
  9. Nice looking histogram & camera information
    I got no idea why it’s the symbol of a propeller hat but the basic camera information hidden behind this button is quite useful if you want to find out who of your mates took this particular picture.
  10. Comprehensive printing options
    The print contact sheet option in particular lets you print your favorite pictures on glossy paper very easily.

10 Things I hate about Picasa

  1. Album labels are not stored inside the directories / No tagging support
    I tend to organize my pictures using the “albums” option. However, when moving the folder containing the pictures to my external harddrive or a network share, the albums are completely lost. This workaround describes a pretty bad way of moving labels between different machines requiring the path not to change.
    Honestly, I don’t understand this. The keyword feature in Picasa is somewhat redundant to albums. They are much more like tags and stored inside the JPG file. Why does the UI support for keywords suck like this? Come on guys, get us a cool tagging approach using the already implemented “keywords” with a nice UI. We know that you can do great UIs… 🙂
  2. Some annoying UI bugs
    Occasionally, when deleting a picture the view changes to the last picture in the album. The Photo Tray sometime behaves unintuitively. The HTML Export is based on the selection and not the folder even though this is the name of the menu. Stuff like this…
  3. Consolidated display of subdirectories
    Sometimes I’d wish to have the pictures of the subdirectories merged into the upper directory inside Picasa. Of course, one could do this with albums, but this pretty much isn’t very nice.
  4. No dual monitor/multi screen support for slideshows
    Ever wanted to show some pictures on a party using a projector? There’s no way of getting Picasa to show the slideshow on the secondary monitor (the one without all icons on the desktop)…
  5. Primitive folder manager
    It’s damn slow. The icons in the tree view sometimes do not correspond to the list of watched folders. Could be much better…
  6. Issues with the export functionality
    • no support for PNG/GIF export (when originals have this format)
      This is especially interesting for screenshot management.
    • malformed XML in XML export
      Ampersands (&) in the path of a picture are not properly escaped
    • no quality options for HTML export and email export
      Why is it there for the normal export, but not for the other types of export?
  7. Cached thumbnails of photos on removable media/network drives are not displayed when disconnected
    The entire photo collection seems to “shrink’ on disconnect of your external HDD or a network share. However, the nice thing is that the thumbnails remain cached. Would be nice to have the thumbnails and albums displayed partly transparent or something to at least be able to see what’s there… 🙂
  8. Very rudimentary movie player
    There are no controls at all for starting, stopping, pausing, etc. of a movie clip.
  9. No 5 star rating
    Wouldn’t an iTunes-like 5 star rating be much cooler than the simple starring of photos?
  10. No full EXIF support
    Would be nice to have all EXIF values displayed. Ever wondered what your cam stores? Check out ExifTool

Please note that all this stuff is based on v2.7 (Build 36.40) of Picasa.

12 thoughts on “10 Things I love and hate about Google Picasa

  1. sheryl

    hey, i totally agree with your 10 ten you like/dislike about picasa. i have a question about #1 dislike. i want to move a group of pics in an ‘album’ for another folder in another program but i can’t find them except in picasa! i am so stupid i can’t fiqure out how to do this. please help~

  2. Torben Post author

    I guess what you’re trying to do is not possible directly. If you organize some pictures in an album, this album is only accessible within Picasa.

    In order to get a copy of all selected pics inside the album into a different physical folder you need to mark the album and explicitly export the pictures…


  3. Ivadell Daer

    I ‘lost’ an album last night as I was moving pictures into one main album name. I found them this morning in My Pictures. Now, can you tell me how to import them My Pictures into Picasa. I was so surprised when one day, I say the Picasa Icon on my comptuer and found moat of my pictures on there. Thank You very much for this. Ivadell Daer

  4. Ian Clifton

    A very good list. I just started using Picasa and was impressed at the speed with which it imported my photos. The biggest confusion I have right now is related to your #1 issue. There is no clear explanation of labels vs. keywords. Going through the thousands of files I’ve imported, I’m not sure if I should tag things (e.g., persons name, “sunset,” “long exposure,” etc.) using labels or keywords. There doesn’t seem to be an easy way to go through the full list of files and see which ones have what labels/keywords. The search feature is awesome, but is there a way to search for “notlabeled:blah” or similar?

  5. Dislike

    The folder management suck big time. This part is so unstable and so primitive that the product is absolutely useless.
    Faulty features:
    – cached thumbnails go out of sync with actual images
    – thumbs database clears itself when finished scanning directories for no apparent reason
    – image caching is slow and uncontrollable
    – some actual folders become invisible making it impossible to enable/disable scan of that folder
    … my 5 cents. Don’t even know why I bother commenting it. I will go purchase a decent product instead.

  6. boo

    found a “fix” for issue #4 – getting the slideshow to display on secondary monitor. download and install the excellent slimkeys (google it). run picasa and start the slideshow. it starts on the primary. now press CTRL-WIN-5 (the 5 on the numeric pad), and the slideshow moves over to the secondary monitor. only caveat: the picasa win stays on the primary and won’t show the mouse. if you minimize it, it will also minimize the slideshow. sure as heck beats Vista Media Center slideshow which hogs the mouse in maximize mode!!

  7. Brent

    I tried the slimKEYS fix for the secondary monitor. The slide show image moves over to the secondary screen, but the show does not progress through the photos (it stays static on one unless I click it). Any solutions to that?

  8. Brent

    ignore my post above; I needed to restart Picassa, but Picassa seems to freeze up before any of my slideshows can complete. It seems unstable.

  9. Russ

    I can have Picasa open and windows explorer open at the same time. Images I can clearly see in a folder in Explorer are not shown in Picasa for the same location. “Refresh thumbnails” doesn’t help either. I even tried “scan each time”, but that didn’t result in the new photos being visible in Picasa. I like the photo editing capabilities of Picasa as opposed to the software that I paid for, but if Picasa doesn’t even show the photo, the editing capabilities are pretty much worthless.

  10. Mike M

    I used control panel/display/settings to temporarily swap primary and secondary screens for the slide show but the TIMER didn’t work!

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