Picasa 1.618 - Create your Digital Album and Clean up your PC

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Picasa 1.618 is an automated photo organizer that lets you create, edit and share your digital albums. The original Picasa 1.0 release was very successful and Google quickly acquired the company in July 2004. The free download file bears the name Picasa-Google to reflect the change.

Getting started
Installing Picasa is a snap. The software has low system requirements; a 300MHz processor (min), 50MB hard disk space and 64MB RAM. As the setup completes, you will notice the Picasa media detector icon on the system tray, which launches on every startup. The media detector automatically searches any device you plug in to the system and will automatically extract and import photos to Picasa by default. This option is very handy when you attach a digital camera via a USB port. To disable it, go to Tools --) Options and uncheck the option from the general tab.

Picasa searches and finds most image files with extensions JPEG, BMP, PSD, TIFF, MPG, AVl, WMV, and ASE You can also customize the types of files to be searched. After Picasa completes searching your local hard disks it displays all the images.

The Collection Pane shows 12 albums present under My Albums, which is a collection of images. You can add as many collections as you like. Each collection can have any number of albums but requires one as a minimum. Think of a collection belonging to an individual and albums as events of that individual (my birthday, my college pics, beach party and so on).

The center of the program, where all the image thumbnails are shown ,is the Album Pane, which displays all the images in the highlighted album. One can drag and drop any image in the pane to change its order. You can decide how to mix and match the collections according to your wish.

Below the Album Pane is the Picture Tray, which holds a selected image. The Picture Tray enables the user to print, e-mail, export, order prints or send the selected image to a blog via Hello You can load more images into the tray by holding the current image and selecting others. The Export option lets you save the image to another location on your hard disk and even resize it in order to save hard disk space. The Order Prints option will connect to the Picasa server to purchase digital images from their site, registration is required which is free. Send Hello makes it easier for you to publish pictures on your blog and is again a Google-owned service. The slider in the Picture Tray allows you to increase or decrease the size of images shown in the Album Pane, although the default mid
position of the slider suits the program best.

Picasa's interface focuses on six major operations: Collections, Import, Timeline, Slideshow, Edit Picture and Search. Clicking the Collection button brings a drop down menu with options that you can apply to your collections such as sort albums and create or remove new collections and albums in the Collection Pane. You can also rename any album directly by double clicking on it.

Clicking on Import will enable the program to look for devices attached to your PC and retrieve images from, for instance, a digital camera. As the images are downloaded, the Import Tray fills and you can see the preview of each image on the right-hand side. In case you did disable the Media Detector from startup, then this is how one can import them manually from the programs interface.

Use Timeline and its Flash-like interface to browse through all your albums in a chronological order. The transition effects used here are very cool. Double click on any album to start a slideshow once you locate your desired album.

Clicking on Sideshow lets one see all the pictures in the selected album, auto transiting from one to another. A single click during the slideshow shows a set of options at the bottom where you can set transition lapse between each photo or navigate using the arrow keys.

Search, which is self explanatory, lets you re-search your whole hard drive and add new albums to your collection. One can also change the options to customize the search.

Edit Images
The major operation of editing pictures, which can be a hassle, is one of the simplest features of the program. The result is not as good as one would get in Adobe Photoshop but should suffice for most users. Choose the image you wish to edit and click the Edit Picture button to view the options.

Picasa offers three sets of tools that one can apply to the selected image. The Red Eye option will automatically fix the red coloring of pupils, which is apparent in film-developed photos. Use the mouse to click on each eye and apply the effect. The Crop option is quite effective; highlight any area of the image and the rest will be cropped. You can also use photo size standards such as 4x6, 5x7 or 8x10 inches to auto crop the image.

Lastly, the Enhance option will automatically adjust the color and contrast of the current image. However, I hardly found any difference before and after applying the effect. The Enhance option needs a lot of improvement and is as good as not being there!

To sum it up, Picasa does an excellent job as a freeware and deserves high praise. It is not the best software in the category such as Adobe Photoshop Album 2.0 or similar programs, but if you want a hassle- free, easy-to-use interface, then you can't go wrong with Picasa.


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