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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.

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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.

PicasaLicense

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

PicasaLocation

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”¦

Picasa_setup_defaults

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_scan_options

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!  :)

PicasaMac

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_photo_viewer_options

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

Picasa_scan

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.

Picasa_update

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.

Picasa_options_file_types

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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