Google has just moved to beta it’s photo sharing service, Picasa Web. You can apply for a beta account here. There are really two parts to the service, Picasa – a stand alone photo editor and manager, and Picasa Web – an online photo sharing service.
Picasa Web is okay, but there is no reason to use it over a free flickr account. Google at this time doesn’t offer 1/10th of the features (RSS but no API). I do like the slide show in Google more than flickr’s – google uses the full browser window for the image, where flickr caps out at just under 640×480. Flickr would also do well to take note of the “Share” links to email photos and albums – a feature I’m surprised is still lacking is a site as old as flickr.
While Picasa Web is lacking, Picasa the application is hitting on all cylinders. I was impressed before, and was hoping the new Beta version (available only if you are in the Picasa Web Beta – this is not the version up for download on picasa.google.com) would add support for my camera’s RAW format. I had emailed Picasa Support a few months ago examples of the RAW files my camera produces, and I’m happy to find my camera is now supported. That said, using Picasa to convert RAW to JPG strips off EXIF data (that extra info the camera records, such as date, camera mode, and camera type). I’ve grown to like having EXIF data around, so this is a big deal for me – it might be less for others.
If you have used Picasa before you may be disappointed there are no new photo editing option. In testing this new version, I uploaded a new set to flickr that was 100% edited with picasa. Instead of more filters there are a host of new management changes and additions. Picasa now displays a hierarchical file tree instead of the flat list in previous versions. An “order prints” button has been added, and unlike many services (*cough* flickr *cough*) the choice of where to print is not limited to a select few; you’ll even find WalMart and Walgreens listed. The email button now will work directly with Gmail as well as your default mail client.
The blog button still only works with Google’s Blogger, but there is a new option under Tools : Experimental that may help called “Publish via FTP.” This option will copy the photos, generating html pages and thumbnails along the way, to an FTP site or a folder on your local machine. If XML is your thing, you can choose that option over html. With these options it may be possible to work Picasa into your blog.
In this new menu of toys is the ability to upload video to Google Video, search for images of a certain color, and perhaps the sexiest option; Geo tag your photos and place them on Google Earth. Other features include making a slide show AVI from your photos and a better screen saver maker. The movie maker does a nice job of bouncing the images around, but it lacks the ability to attach an mp3. There is even an export to TiVo option, though I didn’t play with it.
There are a few things I would like to see Picasa add. One is keeping EXIF data. Two, work with ICC profiles (both preview and converting) for ordering prints. Three, directly upload to Flickr.
Google if you’re reading, two out of three are okay.