The latest version of Google’s free photo library and editing program, complete with online synchronisation
Most things are free for a reason – they're not very good. However, occasionally a freebie does come along that offers a genuine feature-by-feature alternative to paid-for equivalents, and Picasa is one of those programs.
Once downloaded and installed, Picasa catalogues your photos by folder in date order. All the folders are listed in a column on the left, while thumbnails of the pictures are displayed in the main window. From here you can open individual photos, remove red eye, crop and straighten them, add a caption or description, and apply any of 36 different style effects (such as sepia, vignette or Polaroid), which are basic but work well enough. Further editing tools are also available, but only when you're connected to the Internet – photos are edited using Google's online Flash-based editing tools. The tools are easy to use and we particularly like the side-by-side view that's lets you compare the original with the edited version before saving.
Photos can be rated and tagged to make them easier to find. If the original picture contains the relevant GPS information you can use the Place feature to show a map of where the photo was taken. Picasa's face recognition is still pretty laborious, but works well enough and once set up allows you to find and organise photos by who is in them.
You can select a folder of photos (or just a series) and then save them into an album or play them as a full-screen slideshow, a YouTube-friendly video slideshow or as a fully customisable photo collage. Albums can be synchronised with the Picasa Web Albums photo-sharing service, which gives you 1GB of free storage, or uploaded to the Google+ social network with a click.
The only thing that trips some people up is that if you edit a photo and then save it, the original remains intact and unedited. While this is clearly a good safeguard it also means your photo library could end up much larger than before; you can always find and delete the hidden original if necessary. That said, Picasa is powerful, easy to use, free and highly recommended.
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Excellent photo organiser and editor – so good you'll find it hard to believe it's free
Powerful tools for organising and finding photos; support face recognition and geo location; includes 1GB of storage for photo backup/sharing
Editing tools require internet connection; photo effects a little basic
Phone no UK number supplied
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