Google Picasa Goes Professional While Web Albums Gets Smarter

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2008-09-04 Print this article Print

Lost in all the glitter dusting Google's new Chrome Web browser this week was the launch of new versions of Google's popular photo-editing and photo-sharing applications.

Google's Windows-based Picasa 3.0 still syncs with Picasa Web Albums, so that any edits made in photos in Picasa 3.0 will render online through the new version of Picasa Web Albums.

However, new editing tools in Picasa 3.0 provide more professional glitz to the photos you upload.

The tools include a drag-and-drop photo-collage utility; a retouching brush to remove scratches and blemishes; a slideshow movie maker that uploads photos to YouTube with one click; auto red-eye removal; smart auto-cropping that lets users zoom in on subjects; and a Photo Viewer to let you manipulate images from the Windows file system.

These are snazzy new festures for photo buffs, but the media and blogosphere barely touched this news Tuesday.

When you stop and think about it, the lack of attention for Picasa 3.0 in the wake of Chrome is par for the course considering what Google holds dear.

Picasa is an old-school, on-premise app. You download it and it lives on your PC. Chrome is a lightweight Web browser; many of us view it as Google's first operating system for the Web.

Indeed, Google co-founder Sergey Brin made a point to note that he does most of his computing via Web-based apps, such as Google Search and Apps.

The notable exception is photo editing, which Brin does through Picasa. Brin didn't so much as mention the new Picasa 3.0 and Picasa Web Albums upgrades during all of the Chrome talk.

Not that he should because the two aren't related. Still, the lack of interest Tuesday in Picasa from the media points to the fact that Picasa isn't anywhere near as important as an on-premise tool. Also, it doesn't help that Picasa isn't viewed as a potential Microsoft Windows killer. :)

Anyway, like previous versions, Picasa still automatically finds and sorts the photos on your hard drive, letting you drag and drop photos into folders and add custom tags. Most importantly, you can still grab your photos out of Picasa Web Albums, which also got a significant new upgrade this week.

The Picasa Web Albums upgrades are more interesting in my opinion. Web Albums has gotten smarter, letting users sort and share their online photos based on who's in each picture.

You used to have to label your photos one by one, but a new 'name tags' feature uses "advanced clustering technology" to quickly group together pictures of the same person. 

So, when you assign name tags to a few faces in your collection, Picasa Web Albums will help you automatically find other photos with the same people so you can tag your whole collection without the hunt and peck. 

There is also a one-click "Web sync" button that uploads an album and keeps it updated on the Web when you make changes on your PC from Picasa.

Check out the screenshots and video tutorial in Google's Photo blog for more info, as well as this  tip by Google Operating System on how to upload photos to Picasa Web Albums without installing Picasa.

Compared to Google Chrome, App Engine or even Google Docs, Picasa may be a soft Google App, but it's clear Google has still got plenty of gas left in the tank with regard to competing with Yahoo's Flickr without being so geeky as Microsoft's 3-D photo mashup PhotoSynth. |

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