Google Inc. is stepping further into the management of digital photos as it launches an update to its Picasa software.
The new version, called Picasa 2 and available on Tuesday, will be the first release of the software since Google acquired Picasa Inc. six months ago. Picasa, of Pasadena, Calif., introduced its namesake application for finding, editing and sharing digital images in 2002.
While Picasa 2 adds a range of features for photo editing and organizing, it also introduces Google-like touches to the application.
These include two organizational features copied from Googles Gmail service. The first is the ability to highlight a “star” icon to organize photos and narrow searches. The other lets users create labels so instances of a photo can exist in multiple places.
The update also replaces a Picasa-branded service for buying digital prints with the Picasa Marketplace that connects to popular photo-sharing sites such as Ofoto Inc., Snapfish, Shutterfly and Walmart.com, said Lars Perkins, the general manager of Picasa.
Directly within Picasa, users can upload photos to the online photo services and then be taken to the services Web sites to order prints. Picasa does not receive any revenue from the services and plans to integrate with other sites, Perkins said.
“Its a marriage of client software with Web services, and its the first part of our strategy to make the marriage work,” Perkins said.
For photo editing, Picasa 2 has added 12 visual effects options, including sharpening and color tinting. It also provides one-click tools for fixing common problems. These include “fill light” for adding light to dark areas and a tool for straightening the horizon in an image.
“What were trying to do is to give users tools to take ordinary pictures with ordinary flaws and to be able to easily fix them,” Perkins said.
Picasa 2 also provides the ability to back up photo albums to either a data CD or DVD and to create a gift CD that creates a slideshow of photos.
The new version adds support for RAW data files, a high-resolution format used by leading digital camera makers.
After buying Picasa, Google made the software available as a free download. Picasa 2 also will be free, and it supports Windows 98 and higher.