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PicasaLogo If there ever was a photo editor for the rest of us, this is it.

Picasa 3.0 is a free, downloadable easy-to-use photo editor from Google. If you don’t want to learn to use Photoshop (and don’t want to pay for it), but you’d like your images to look great, you could certainly make worse choices. It also has some surprisingly sophisticated options up its sleeves. More about those later.

This is the first in a short series of articles about getting the most out of Picasa. And I’m going to start right here. At the beginning.

Just to clarify something, we’re not talking about web-based editing here. There are some great options out there for that, but a local application lets you do things that are difficult, or cumbersome online. of course that does mean you need to download and install it. Panic not though, I’ll help you through that.

It also means that you need to watch that you have the right gear to run it on. Picasa is officially supported on Windows XP and Vista. Just recently they also released a beta version for Linux and the Mac. I’m sticking with Vista for this, and I’ve asked my good friend Kate to help with the Apple options. She’ll interrupt as soon as she finds issue with something I’ve said. It seldom takes long”¦ Kate’s comments are in blue. You Linux geeks are on your own this time.

By the way, Picasa also has a product called Picasa Web Albums. I’ll get to that later, but that’s one of the ways to get the resulting images back to the web.


Download and install

So, first grab the application from here. Click the download button, and save it wherever you normally do. Then run it. Confirm that you really do want to run it.


Agree to the license, after reading it of course, and then decide where you’d like to install Picasa.


Click the Install button.

Picasa tends to be just a little intrusive, and thinks it should be able to take over a few things, so step through this next part with a little care”¦


The third option annoys me for two reasons. Firstly, I’m assuming you’re doing this on your home computer, in which case why on earth would you be using Internet Explorer? Need a clue? Firefox. I’m just saying. Secondly, this is a nasty thing for them to turn on by default. Choose carefully. Leave the last option ticked, and click the finish button.

None of that funny stuff on a Mac! Of course, it assumes that you’re using Safari no matter what. Everyone knows that unless you’re just messing with the Safari 4 beta for it’s Cover Flow eye candy, chances are you’re using Firefox, and that is as it should be!

Welcome to Picasa!

You have some more choices to make”¦


Picasa needs to know about your images to work effectively. In order to do that, it needs to scan your hard drive to find all your pictures.

The choices aren’t what I’d have wished for. As you can see, you can only choose between the two options shown. It might have been better if you could choose particular folders, in hopes of missing the ones of Aunt Bertha and her holiday in Paris. But anyway, choose. Then click Continue.

I hear ya!  :)


Note that later on we can control which folders to include and exclude more specifically using something called the Folder Manager, so it’s not all bad.

On the Mac it will actually integrate with your iPhoto library and display those photos as you already have them grouped, in their proper iPhoto folders.


Picasa includes a photo viewer. You can always say no, and stick with Irfanview.


Picasa is going to take a while now, and scan all the images in the selected folders. It’s best to allow it to finish, so how about a coffee?

While the scanning is happening, you have more choices to make. Firstly, despite you having just downloaded the application, Picasa wants to update itself.


Click the Yes, update now button. Picasa will close, update itself, restart, and then continue with the scanning.

Remember I said that Picasa was a little intrusive? While you were minding your own business, it installed itself as the default screensaver in Windows. If you don’t like that, change it back.

Of course, if you were hoping that you’d end up with a handy-dandy desktop or screensaver powerhouse on the Mac then you’ll be disappointed to know that you’re stuck with one little “Set as desktop” selection in the CREATE menu and that’s it.  *sigh*

Anyway, the scanning is probably still not finished, so a few more things to set up.

By default, Picasa doesn’t want to display .png files. You can fix that by going to Tools – Options, and clicking on the File Types tab. Tick the appropriate lines to turn particular file types on and off.


I particularly like that it’s happy to display RAW images, but I’m guessing most of you are unlikely to need that option.

That’s it. Once the scanning is completed you’ll be presented with what is called the Library view, and I’ll tell you all about that in the next post.

Continue Reading Google Picasa 101 series:

If you’re following along, let me know how you got on, and what might be different. Anything confusing I should follow up? Do you use RAW, by the way? Let me know in the comments.

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  1. Bob
    August 20, 2009 at 10:10 pm

    I don't like everything to go thru Picasa. How can I make pictures that are emailed to me stay in jpg format?
    Thank you.

  2. jollyrogue
    April 5, 2009 at 6:58 am

    Great article.. i use picasa as my default picture viewer :D.

    To get only picasa sent to email you could do the following:

    - Use to filter out only picasa in the makeuseof RSS feeds

    - use an RSS to email service such as to get the feeds you want sent to your email.

    • Jim
      April 7, 2009 at 12:54 am

      Thanks for that!

  3. Jim Henderson
    April 5, 2009 at 4:31 am

    I tend to class XNView with IrfanView. I wonder if a comparison is warranted...

    Mid-2008, MakeUseOf did a surveyon which image editors folk use. Only 2% had a use for XNView back then... but then Picasa wasn't on the board at all!
    BTW I love your blog!

  4. bwanajoni
    April 4, 2009 at 7:02 pm

    XNView is another great option above Picasa. It has some really great tricks too.

    • Jim Henderson
      April 4, 2009 at 8:05 pm

      I tend to class XNView with IrfanView. I wonder if a comparison is warranted...

      Mid-2008, MakeUseOf did a surveyon which image editors folk use. Only 2% had a use for XNView back then... but then Picasa wasn't on the board at all!

  5. Jersey Bob
    April 4, 2009 at 6:33 pm

    Picasa is good imaging freeware. And so are Gimp and GetPaint. I often recommend all three to people who are looking for free image editing. But for myself, I'm sticking with Photoshop.

    • Jim Henderson
      April 4, 2009 at 7:57 pm

      Good tools. I'd shudder at the thought of showing a new user at Gimp though, without some lead up. Photoshop just might always be at the top of this pyramid, but it's overkill for an awful lot of people.

  6. Kelly
    April 4, 2009 at 6:03 pm

    thanks for that - i only use the basics as i never have time to figure out anything else. is it not possible to have subfolders in picasa? that is my one complaint. i hate having to scroll though 100 folders to find the one i'm looking for!

    • Jim Henderson
      April 4, 2009 at 6:09 pm

      I'm not sure I understand the problem, Kelly, but I'm pretty sure I've got it covered in the next few articles...

  7. Tushar
    April 4, 2009 at 3:04 pm

    Great article. Although this only covered the basics. Do you know when the rest are going to follow. Also, is there any way to subscribe specifically to the follow up articles by email?



    • Jim Henderson
      April 4, 2009 at 6:08 pm

      Thanks. In the next few days. Keep a look out for them. Not so far as I know, sorry. :-)