Picasa 2: goodness

Picasa 2.0 kicks butt. I found the original Picasa a few years ago and loved it. I’ve only been playing with the latest version for an hour or so but it looks like they’ve cleaned up all the shortcomings of the original software and then some. And the best part is, it’s FREE! Google bought the Picasa company and is giving it all away. It looks like their strategy is to get ahead by being a part of the picture making process and being a preferred (but not required) vendor for some photo related services. Darn it, they hope to get ahead by being the best. And I think it might just work.

Get Picasa.

PS. I want to know who wrote the readme.htm. It is wonderfuly written. Uplifting, conversational, tremendously informative, witty without being smarmy, well laid out… The damn thing is a model of what a readme should be.

I include the readme after the cut.

Here is the Picasa 2 Readme. (Sorry but the style sheet info and header tags have been lost in this copy)
(Reproduced without permission)
————————————————–

Welcome to Picasa 2

January 17, 2005

It’s been a while since we’ve gotten to tell you about all the new things we’ve been working on. Everything’s been under wraps since we shipped Picasa 1.5 almost two years ago, and we’ve made a lot of progress since then.

The time’s gone by fast. For quite a while we were making Hello (our image sharing program), then making Hello work with Blogger.

But during all of it, we were working on Picasa, making it do new things, do them faster, better, and more flexibly than before. We read a lot of comments from people on our forums, through our email feedback, and occasionally we even read software reviews. It seemed like everyone had a plan for Picasa 2. We didn’t have to ask what to do next-we had to ask what not to do next!

We had a lot of ideas of our own�what if you could simulate a $5000 box of photographic filters, and you could use them with any digital picture? What if you could upload pictures to any photo printing service on the internet, not just to one that we picked for you? What if you could see your pictures in multiple albums, without making actual copies? And of course, what if you wanted to backup all that to a CD or another hard drive without worrying about it?

You know, we even put in raw file support.

We tried to watch real people use our software and see where things were going wrong, where they needed two or three other programs to get things done, and we tried to fix the things that didn’t work well enough already.

There’s a lot that didn’t make it in to Picasa 2. We try a lot of solutions to every problem, and then we throw most of them out the window. We don’t just debate it�we try it: “Do I really want to think about programmable filters every day?” (No.) “Do you need to be able to drag Hello pictures into custom albums?” (Yes.) And we try all these things and try to invent our way out of the difficult problems, so that when you try to do something, you can do it.

However, there’s also a lot that we’re doing that’s not ready to show yet, and I can say Picasa has a very exciting future. In some ways, Picasa 2 is the tip of the iceberg.
Editing Pictures

One of the first things we started working on was better controls for fixing pictures. We found people were using dedicated, huge image editors (the kind that take two minutes just to load) to just fix a color cast (when your camera turns a whole picture orange or blue), or tweak an underexposed picture (like backlit pictures where you can’t quite make out someone’s face). These huge programs give you lots of control, and they’re great if you want to do really complex 29-layer compositing, but that’s not what we do with 99% of our pictures.

And two minutes to get started, we decided, was just too long.

We made sure that there’s some fine-tuning in Picasa 2. But for most of the problems, we found we could fix them in one or two clicks, so we’ve dramatically enhanced what you can do in just a click in Picasa 2.

And everything you do in Picasa is instantaneous�we worked really hard to make sure that every button or slider you touch shows what’s happening instantly.

You can undo and redo your edits forever. Feel free to experiment because there’s an undo button that will always take you right back where you started. That means you can shut Picasa down, come back a week later, and undo a change you didn’t like.

We’re also photography nerds, and we worked hard to bring back some traditional photography tools into Picasa, mostly found in our Effects menu. You can turn your picture to sepia in one click, but in two you can turn it into any color at all or change the color of the lighting using our Tint feature. You can also turn a gray sky to a blue one using a graduated filter, like the ones professional photographers pay $100 apiece for.

We’ve tried to simulate some looks from traditional black-and-white photography, so you can make your pictures look like a famous picture of Yosemite with a strong red or orange filter. And we’ve even taken some cues from film�our saturate filter makes blue skies blue and green grass green, and our “warmify” filter softens skin tones to make people look more natural. We’ve added soft focus and glow effects, which simulate the special lenses and filters that high-end wedding and fashion photographers use to make pictures look romantic.

We tried to make it easy to learn & try out all these things. You don’t have to read through a photography parts catalog, and you can always undo. Always.

People also asked for zoom in Picasa. So now we let you zoom into your pictures to see real-live pixels, or just to see somebody’s face close up. This is another “can’t live without it” feature, so make sure you try it out. It’s very easy and it’s very fast.

We also added little things to Picasa’s edit mode, like a way to flip through your pictures as fast as you want (30 pictures per second), a filmstrip so you can see the picture you’re looking at in context with the other ones you took, and a really dynamic histogram, which also shows all the internal data your camera recorded when it took each picture.
Sorting and Searching, Organizing Everything

Picasa’s always had a strong backbone for searching. But in this version, we brought out search to the top of the screen. You can search for anything: a date, a name, a label, a keyword, the kind of camera you took a picture with, even a color, like “blue”.

We also made it easier to find your best pictures, to find your movies, and to find recent pictures. You can see how cool our search is by opening up search and moving the “Date Range” slider, and watch Picasa filter your pictures as you move it.

But that’s all gravy�what people asked for were better ways to organize. Picasa 1 had “Albums” that were a combination of what was actually in Windows and what was in Picasa. As you worked with things in Picasa 1, you’d gradually make the two things pretty different. People were asking, “Why don’t things move on disk when I move them in Picasa?” and “Can’t I have multiple copies of my pictures for free?”

So we fixed it�we did all those things.

We split Albums down the middle, and we made “Folders on Disk” and “Labels”. Folders are real things: you can delete them, rename them, move things inside them, and they’ll change your disk like you’d expect.

But when you make a Label, the fun begins. Because you can put a picture in one, ten, or a hundred labels, and it’s free. No extra space gets used on disk. This means you can label all of your cat pictures twice and have one version sorted by color, and the other sorted by first name. This means you can make a slideshow with pictures from ten folders, and keep it ready to play at a moment’s notice, or burn it to a CD. It’s making organization pretty obvious, and we hope you’ll find labels as useful as we have.

You can also rename files on disk, a whole bunch at once really, and you can put the date you took the picture in the filename. And you can see the filename under each picture if you want to, too.

On a little note, we also had people ask for password-protected collections, so we made those. We can’t figure out why they want them, though.
Stars

We realized too late with Picasa 1 that we had a way to say which pictures were your worst (“hide”), but no way to say which ones you like. This was a problem, because most people don’t want to spend time talking about all the pictures they dislike. We needed something�more positive.

So we made stars. Yes, we had 5 stars, 3 stars, 2 stars. And we ended up with just one star. But it’s a really nice star.

We found that one star is the fastest way to pick the best pictures, your “keepers”. 5 stars is too much to think about, too many choices. 3 stars is wimpy. One star is really good.
Captions (and Keeping Track of Details)

Good pictures tell stories. Sometimes you want to tell your own, though, and so we made it really easy to add a caption to an image in Picasa. Our captions show up in Picasa’s slideshow, and when you burn to a CD, and when you make a webpage.

But we learned that when the AP newswire sends around pictures (as JPEGs actually), they put each caption directly inside its image, so it’s ready to go to print without figuring out which caption goes with which picture.

The format they use is called IPTC, and so we support that format for all your captions and keywords in Picasa 2. You’ll never lose a caption, even when you export a picture to a small size or send it over email.

On a related note, all the camera information (called EXIF) stays with your pictures as you export them from Picasa, so if you apply edits to a picture, you will still see the original exposure settings and the time you took the picture.
Burning CDs and Backing Things Up

Picasa 2 takes a couple approaches to burning CDs. First, we realized that there are still a lot of people who share pictures by burning a CD (some of them have dialup at one end or the other, and some of them just have lots of pictures). So we made it so easy and fun to do. For these people, we made the Gift CD�it’s a way to burn a whole folder of pictures in one click. So all you have to do is pick the folder you want to burn, click “Gift CD” and go.

But this CD we make, it’s special. When you put it in another PC, it comes up automatically and plays a slideshow, and it helps you copy the files to the other side. It will even copy an installer for Picasa, so you don’t have to download it again on the other side (remember the dialup thing?)

The other thing people want to do is make a backup�too many cherished memories are on your PC to trust to one hard drive. So we’ve made a more serious mode that lets you burn to a CD, DVD, or even an external hard drive. It remembers everything you’ve backed up before, and it can help you save newer files automatically. It comes with a nice restore program that you can use on any computer, so this feature is great for upgrading to a new machine as well.
Email (did you say Gmail?)

We added support for sending email in lots of new ways. Actually, we’ve got two new ways to email. The first is great Gmail support, if you have an account already. We’ve got autocomplete from your Gmail address book, and everything shows up in your Sent Mail online. It works really well.

If you don’t have Gmail, we’ve made a new service called Picasa Mail, and it works really the same way, but uses your own email address instead.

These services work really well if you take a computer with you on vacation, and you’re always struggling with SMTP settings and configuring Outlook from a hotel.

You don’t want to do any of that while you’re on vacation. So we send secure email (over SSL) that doesn’t need SMTP settings or anything like that, and just works great. We think you’ll at least be able to send your vacation photos out before you get home.

And if you use webmail all the time, it makes things a lot easier than attaching files by hand.
Printing on your own printer

People asked us for wallets, 5x7s, 8x10s, and so we added those. The print preview is now bigger, too.

We also made this magic button that does a Froogle search for your printer name, and discovered that it’s a great way to find replacement supplies. It never messes up. So that’s there if you want to use it. Froogle finds pretty good prices, too.
Printing online

We actually put a huge amount of work into our “Order” button. It’s based on some secret technology that we can’t tell you about.

But what we can say is that we’re able to upload to a very large number of print providers, and we’re adding more all the time. This means that if you use Picasa, you’re going to have choices, and if you want the best price, the fastest shipping, or the best quality, you’re going to be able to shop around, talk to other people about it, and pick whatever’s best for your needs. Picasa makes it so easy to use these services that you should at least try one.
Publishing your Pictures

We’ve integrated more closely with the Blogger service in Picasa 2. You’ll be able to send pictures to Bloggerbot (our online robot that helps resize pictures and convert your thoughts to a website) in one click, and see your pictures online in seconds (with free hosting on blogspot.com). Bloggerbot has been around for a few months already, but we’ve made it even easier to get pictures to your blog.
Creations, Diversions, and Toys

We wanted to add some more fun options for Picasa 2, so you could combine multiple pictures together into a collage, or simulate a “multiple exposure” with your camera, or make any of these things into your desktop background. Our collage feature is turning into a really powerful space to mix and match pictures, and we think you’ll have fun with it.

Our generic exporter now has JPEG quality options, so if you want really great exports or really small ones, you can get that now.

Picasa 2 has its own screensaver, and you can add pictures to it in one click. We also made a movie exporter, which turns a sequence of pictures into a movie. And we’ll even slice up a picture for printing on multiple pages as a poster.

You really should go try out Picasa 2 for yourself already.

Thanks for downloading,
Michael Herf and the Picasa team

Installation

You can install the Picasa 2 application by downloading the setup.exe file from the Picasa Website (www.picasa.com), or by running the setup.exe file from a CD. You can uninstall Picasa by selecting Uninstall from the Start Menu in Windows.

Windows XP Notes: You must be an Administrator to install Picasa.

Automatic Updates

When you launch Picasa with an active Internet connection, Picasa checks to see if new software versions are available. Picasa does not ever send personally-identifying information about you during this process. Picasa downloads a small file from Picasa servers that contains the newest version number available. If this file says there is a new version available online, Picasa prompts you to download an update. All you have to do is wait for the download and restart Picasa.

Privacy and Automatic Update

Picasa sends two pieces of information to its servers each time it checks for an update:

* Version number (“build 2.83”)
* Your install ID (a random number), used for figuring out how many copies of Picasa are installed in the world

That’s it. We don’t use cookies during the autoupdate process, so none of the information transferred can be used to identify you. We do use the autoupdate checks to find out how many copies of Picasa are installed, and which versions are being used. This helps us develop new features and keep our support information current.

If you do not want Picasa to automatically check for updates, you can disable the update checks by choosing Options on the Tools menu in the Picasa application. You can then check for updates manually using “Check for Updates Online” in Picasa’s Help menu.

If you register for our email Newsletter we will send you email from time to time, but you can opt-out from each email or from our website. We don’t ever share our email lists.

Online Services

If you want to print pictures online or order products, you should have an active Internet connection. To use these vendor services, Picasa will open a connection with the third-party vendor of your choice. You must log in with credentials (such as username and password) specific to the vendor.

Printing Modes

Picasa supports two printing modes, called Compatible and High Quality Mode. Compatible Mode works with most printers, while High Quality Mode maximizes the quality of your prints. To determine if your printer supports High Quality mode, please do a test print.

For best results, we recommend using the most current drivers available from your printer manufacturer’s website. To find updated drivers for your printer, you may be able to start with one of the following Web pages:

* For hp printers: http://welcome.hp.com/country/us/eng/software_drivers.htm
* For Epson printers: http://support.epson.com/
* For Canon printers: http://consumer.usa.canon.com/techsupport/downloads/
* For Lexmark printers: http://www.lexmark.com/US/support/drivers/

Movie Support

Picasa can read MPG, AVI, WMV, ASF and MOV movies. We use the Windows Media components to play video. As a result, you may encounter some movies that play with only sound but no video, which don’t import at all, or which cause errors when they are thumbnailed. For example, MPEG files do not work properly on older versions of Windows 98, unless you upgrade the Media Player. Picasa works best if you upgrade to the latest Windows Media Player, since it supports the latest movie formats.

You can obtain a Windows Media Player update from Microsoft: http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windowsmedia/download/default.asp.

Printing Compatibility

Canon Printers: Several printing problems with Canon printers in Optimized Mode are fixed by newer driver releases.

Adobe Acrobat: Acrobat users may have to use Standard Mode to generate PDF files.

Cameras & Cards: The Picasa Media Detector

With Picasa, we install a Picasa Media Detector, which works well with most USB cameras and card readers.

Picasa defers to the Operating System on Windows Me and Windows XP, installing itself as part of the “AutoPlay” feature in these OSes. You can use Picasa’s Import room to import on these OSes.

Some camera manufacturers install software that also helps you acquire pictures. For example, Windows XP detects new pictures in a manner similar to Picasa. If you find that Picasa conflicts with one of these applications, and you prefer the other application, you can disable Picasa Media Detector using the Options command in the Tools menu. The Media Detector will immediately close and will not re-launch on startup.

You can also use the Picasa Status icon in the Windows Status bar to launch the Picasa application at any time, just by double-clicking it.

Manually Importing Pictures

From the Picasa application, the Import button can be used to acquire pictures from CDs, floppy disks, folders on network drives, Zip disks, and scanners and cameras. Use the Import feature to load pictures that Picasa does not automatically detect. The Import feature makes a copy of all pictures, leaving the original pictures in place.

Importing Compatibility Issues

Some users have reported problems importing from Kodak DX cameras. If you have difficulty importing directly into Picasa from your Kodak DX, please use the Kodak Software bundled with your camera to import the pictures to your computer. After you have imported the pictures to a folder, Picasa will automatically locate those pictures and display them in an Album.

Picasa does not currently support importing from scanners or webcams. If you have difficulty importing directly from your scanner or webcam, we recommend that you use the import feature from the scanner or webcam software. After you have imported the pictures to a folder on your computer, Picasa will automatically locate those pictures and display them in an Album.

Video Card Compatibility

Most video cards perform well with Picasa, and we fully support 16-bit, 24-bit, and 32-bit displays. However, for the Timeline and Slideshow features, we use Microsoft’s DirectX to draw quickly to the screen. Several cards cannot display full-screen “stretched” images, and on these cards we draw in the middle of the screen instead. (Technical note: Picasa supports only YUY2 overlays on cards that are capable of smooth stretching.)

On some Intel chipsets, the timeline fails to display correctly. Update your DirectX to fix this.

If the Timeline does not fill the screen, upgrading to the latest drivers and DirectX runtime may enable your existing card to do so. Contact your video card manufacturer or Microsoft for details.

Video cards at non-4:3 resolutions may have some visual errors in the Timeline and Slideshow modes. If you are running at a 1280×1024 resolution, or on a wide-screen display, the Timeline may have some visual bugs.

System Requirements

The system requirements for Picasa version 2.0 are as follows:

* A 300MHz Intel Pentium� or Compatible Processor with MMX� Technology.
* Microsoft� Windows� 98, Windows� Me, Windows� 2000, Windows� XP, or later.
* At least 64 MB of RAM (128 MB recommended).
* A hard disk with at least 50 MB of free space (100 recommended).
* A video card that supports 16-bit color at 800×600 monitor resolution.
* An Internet Connection, at least 56Kb speed (for access to any online services and picture sharing via Hello).

User Documentation and Support

Picasa installs with Help that describes each part of the application in more detail. You can access the Help from the Picasa Program menu, by pressing F1 from anywhere in the Picasa application, or by pressing the Help button in a dialog.

For additional information, you can visit our support website at www.picasa.com/support.

To get help from our support team, drop us a line at http://www.picasa.com/support/contact.php.

Welcome to 2.0. Thanks for downloading!

Copyright � 2004 Google, Inc. Picasa is a trademark of Google, Inc. This software is based in part on the work of the Independent JPEG Group. All other product, service names, brands, or trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

23 Comments

  1. Sylvia says:

    Info here is great but how do you include MP3 music on the Gift CD. I have read somewhere that you can but have not been able to. I have set the music options under my Picasa.. but this is not transferred when I create a gift CD.
    Thanks

  2. Lee says:

    Dunno. You might try the Picasa Knowledge base http://www.picasa.com/support/index.php or ask the User Group (found at the same address)

  3. Marco says:

    Picasa 2.1 is a great application but when exporting the image not all of the edit effects are saved such as sharpening. To bad really as everything else seems to be ok. Hopefully google will address this issue so that I don’t have to work with larger image editing applications when all I need is the basic functions that Picasa provides…

  4. Lee says:

    I just tried sharpening and then exporting in Picasa 2.1.0 (Build 27.60,0) and it worked fine. Do you have the latest version?

  5. Marco says:

    yes, I do have the latest version (I downloaded it again just the other day)_… after saving (“exporting”) the edited version it’s not as sharp as the pre-saved image when viewed in Picasa.

    I’m hearing some people (like yourself) are not having this problem. Could it be system related or that I have to set some parameters up in Picasa?

    thanks!

  6. Ram Ravindran says:

    Hi
    I would like to ask th esame question Sylvia asked sometime
    ago. That is the slideshow plays the music but not the
    gift CD. Also the gift CD doesn’t display video eventhough it
    is copied to it (WMV) file.

    Ram

  7. Lee says:

    Dunno. You might try the Picasa Knowledge base or ask the User Group.

  8. Richard Wenzel says:

    Just picked up the thread for music with CD slide shows while looking for an answer myself. Struggled with it and found a solution today. Probably too late for you, but here it is for future reference.

    You first of all need to make a cd of the photos. Best to burn it to a read/write because you are going to have change the autorun.inf file and add a batch file and a song file.

    1. Open the autorun.inf file with Notepad.

    Change the file to read like the following. Songname will be your song, whatever it is.

    START/MIN “C:\Program Files\Windows Media Player\wmplayer.exe” “SongName.mp3″
    START/MAX PicasaCD.exe
    icon=PicasaCD.exe,0
    SHELL=OPEN

    Save it as music.bat in a temporary location, such as your desktop.

    2. Open autorun.inf again

    Change it to read only

    [autorun]
    open=music.bat

    Save it in the temporary location as “autorun.inf” .

    3. Now reburn your disk, substituting the new autorun.inf file and adding the music.bat and SongName.mp3 files to the root directory in the CD.

    That should do it.

    As I said, I’m sure there is an easier way, but this works. By the way, this is for XP. Don’t knwo how it works with anything else.

    Richard

  9. fred says:

    picasa crashes computer when trying to print to hp printer in win 98 se

  10. Lee says:

    sorry hear from. have no idea. try picasa knowledge base, proper capitalization and pronouns.

  11. Bea Kaplan says:

    How do you make a gift CD with the least amount of compression. The distinctions between original size and maximum are not clear.

  12. Cathy says:

    I’m delighted with Picasa 2, but puzzled by the great reduction in file size after I edit. Is there a way to maintain the original size of the file? Under “Options” I have it set for “Extra Sharp” under “Print Resampler Quality” – ran a test making an edit using the “General” button and then “Extra Shart” – both 5 X 7s had the same identical size of file. I do have it set up to get automatic downloads, and manual asked for any current downloads – was told I already have them. Any suggestions would be appreciated!

  13. Lee says:

    Cathy, Picasa keeps your original file on disk and only modifies copies of the file. Other than that, I dunno.

  14. Brett says:

    When I start Picasa2, from time to time it looses track of all my folders. I have 1,101 folders on the Drive, it takes 7 hours to reload them. I love the program but these 7 hour reloads are a pain.
    Is there a way to stop this????

  15. Lee says:

    I haven’t had that problem. I dunno, sorry.

  16. dennis novak says:

    Please answer Cathy’s question: Can we maintain full file size and quality after editing in Picasa???? My files seem to be reduced at least from 3 MB to less than 1. I enjoy the program, but cannot abide the loss in quality. Is there a setting or a fix? Thank yoe

  17. Lee says:

    Dennis, I answered the question in #13, above.

  18. Faye Bulow says:

    Hey Lee, In my search to re-download Picasa2 I have been on a merry go round I can’t get off!!! I found your site today but when I try the download it directs me to a link that has ONLY Picasa3 which as far as I know will not work on Win98se. This has happened with over 20 sites offering Picasa2. I know Goggle bought Picasa but gee the program has to be out there someplace.. Mine crashed which it has done before,no big deal, but I sent the only CD copy I had to a friend in Oregon…DUMB thing to do. Can you help? Happy Holidays and Thanks for your site. OH, by the way if you get anymore letters about Picasa and HP Photo products. Best you advise the folks to contact HP Customer service, in INDIA by the way, as literally millions of their photo Digital cam and printer packages and photo printers were sold with the WRONG installation CD in the past 4 to 5 years. It took over 3 hours on the phone as they downloaded the correct software and stepped me through in proper installation. Hope you can help with Picasa2. Thanks Faye

  19. lee says:

    Faye, there is a link on picasa.google.com just under the “Download Picasa 3” that says “Picasa 2.7 is still available for download.” Try it.

  20. M. Wood says:

    Where is TIMELINE??? Bring us back to PICASSA #2 will you ?

  21. lee says:

    Find Timeline under “View | Timeline”. Why are you using bold to ask?

  22. Olive Johns says:

    why do I keep getting a notice “PICASA IS UPDATING”

    This happens everytime I go to my files.

    Can you please stop this.

  23. lee says:

    I promise not to do it again.

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