Mac Windows

Introduction To Google Picasa: View, Folders and Toolbars

Jim Henderson 05-04-2009

PicasaLogo If you’ve been following along with the Installation post, you’ll have Picasa up and running. I’d like to show you around the interface, which I admit I found a little confusing for a start.


Kate tells me that aside from two things I’ll point out below, this is all on the up-and-up for the Mac interface as well, so you can all join in. Mac notes in blue.

Library View


This is the default view when Picasa starts. Any time you’re dealing with more than one image, or browsing to find one to work with, you’re spending your time here. Let’s break this down.

Menus and toolbars

picasa-library-menuAt the top of the screen is the normal collection of menus and toolbars, and most of these do just the things you might expect them to. We’ll deal with these as they come up. Note where the help menu is though. It’s very useful, but has an annoying peculiarity that’s becoming rather common. None of the help info is stored locally, so it will only work while you are online.

Folder list

picasa-library-folder-flat On the left of the Library View is the Folder List. There are two ways to view this. The default, shown here, is called Flat, because it just lists all the folders without any indenting.


There are, when you start, two Collections in the list. Albums and Folders.

Folders are grouped by year.

It’s only by chance that my folder names are also dates, and confuse the issue. Sorry about that.

The Folders listed directly relate to the folders/directories you see in Windows Explorer.


Albums are virtual collections of files, and don’t relate to anything real on your hard drive. You can create an album and add images, and all Picasa does is keep track of them together, without actually moving any of the real files. Albums are wonderful, but more on that later.

This is where you find the first difference that Kate told me about. On a Mac, there is another collection below the Folders that shows iPhoto Library Items. Whatever they are. Moving along”¦

You switch between the Flat and Tree view using the view tool in the toolbar picasa-library-folder-toolbar or the Folder View option in the View menu.



The Tree view shows the folders nested, the way Windows normally does.

Folk often find the Flat View thoroughly annoying until they get used to it, and then switch camps, so give the Flat View a try first.

Whichever view you use, they operate much the same way. Enjoy yourself.

Light box



The major portion of the screen, and the one you’re likely to spend most of your time, is called the Light Box, after the boxes traditionally used by photographers to view and compare slides.

The light box is similar to the thumbnail view in Windows Explorer, and mostly behaves the same way, except for one very strange but handy feature. If you scroll out the top or bottom of the view of the older you are in, it just happily continues to the next or previous folder (or album). This is great, but weird, so beware.

Once you actually click on an image, the Folder List highlights the current folder again.

Just a few to go. Hang in there.

Status Bar

picasa-library-status Directly underneath the Light Box is the status bar. This shows you a whole lot of information about whatever is currently selected. Keep an eye on it. It’s very handy.

Underneath the Status Bar are two more important features, collectively known as the Photo Tray.

Photo Tray

picasa-library-phototrayOn the right are all the tools you need to deal with moving your images onto the web, printing them, blogging etc. More on that in another chapter. Kate did tell me that on the Mac the very right hand button says Movies instead of More”¦ I’m sure you can cope.

Top right of this tool is a slider to let you change the thumbnail size in the Light Box. To the left are some buttons for dealing with individual images, including rotating and favouriting (alright, favoriting) them.


Over in the left corner is the Photo Tray itself. This tool lets you deal with multiple files at once. We won’t be doing that here, but those three buttons are (from top to bottom) Hold, Clear and Add to Album.

Okay, now you know your way around, you can take a look at an individual file. Just double-click on one in the Light Tray. Go on. This is called the Edit View.

Edit View

Picasa-editview550That’s it. Click the Back to Library button, top left, or hit the Escape key to return to the Library view.

I’ll be back soon to show you how to improve, adjust, and just plain mess with your images in Picasa. in the meantime, how does your experience match mine? Anything else I should have noted? let me know in the comments.

Related topics: Google Picasa, Image Editor, Photo Album.

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  1. Anonymous
    August 23, 2015 at 8:08 am

    In tree view tiny thumbnails of a photo inside the folder is shown as cover photo.
    Is there any way it can be disabled?

  2. John
    July 28, 2009 at 12:19 pm

    I use a Canon Rebel which takes a 10.2 MP photo that makes a 3 to 5 MB file according to content. The question I have is, will Picasa III allow me to open these pictures without giving me the "Not Enough Resources" or "Out Of Memory" I get with MS PictureIt? My system is an IBM Centrino Duo with 2 GB of RAM.

  3. Edmond
    June 18, 2009 at 4:17 am

    Hahaha! Dammit! It IS a comma. I wasn't at my Picasa machine when I wrote that comment, so I was just trying to come up with an illustrative example, from what I remembered.

    I guess I underestimated how much junk was in all my sub-folders; I figured the 8,317 under one of my folders (or the 4,245, or the 2,527) couldn't POSSIBLY have meant I had 8000+ pictures, but the 547 sounded right. :P

    Occam's Razor.

    Thanks for your time, Jim. :)

    • Jim Henderson
      June 18, 2009 at 4:40 am

      Pleased to help, and I have over 52,000. :-)


  4. Edmond
    June 18, 2009 at 3:51 am

    Thanks for looking into it!

    Actually, you have one like that in your screenshots too -- check out where you talk about Tree vs. Flat; folder name is 80301, and it looks like: 80301(1,622)

    • Jim Henderson
      June 18, 2009 at 4:01 am

      Ah, but that's just a comma. There are 1622 files in there, displayed as 1,622. Your example can't be like that, because you only have two digits after the comma.

  5. Edmond
    June 17, 2009 at 11:24 pm

    I can't seem to figure out what it means when there are two numbers next to a folder name in the Tree view. The second number is the number of images, but what's the first?


    • Jim Henderson
      June 18, 2009 at 2:28 am

      Hi Edmond.

      I'm not sure I'm understanding what you are saying correctly, but in the default view in the examples above the folder names ARE numbers. Is that what you're asking about?



      • Edmond
        June 18, 2009 at 3:21 am

        Hi, Jim.

        I've got folders with the following display, for example:


        My "downloads" folder has four sub-folders, all with pictures, and across them, there are 41 pictures (none in the downloads folder itself, in fact, no files in the downloads folder itself).

        I can't figure out what the 2 is -- my first guess was number of sub-folders, but it doesn't seem to be that. Doesn't seem to be number of nested levels beneath, or number of files/pictures in the root folder either. Any idea?

        • Jim Henderson
          June 18, 2009 at 3:49 am


          I have NO idea. I've never seen them looking like that. I'll take a bit more of a look and let you know if I figure it out.



  6. Paul Trinque
    April 6, 2009 at 11:48 am

    Thanks for taking the time to explain Picasa III. My only problem is I sometimes have problems locating the folder that I just uploaded. I do locate it after 20-15 minutes of searching. Thanks again Paul

    • Jim
      April 7, 2009 at 12:52 am

      There's usually some logic to the uploading process. Perhaps it might be worth spending some time on the help for whatever process you use for that?

      I hope you catch up with the other Picasa posts over the next few days.

  7. wintkat
    April 6, 2009 at 5:46 am

    Hi, I got hooked on Picasa when I learned about the collage function and now I can't stop

    thanks for your posts on Picasa
    I've got much more to learn

    • Jim
      April 7, 2009 at 12:50 am

      You're most welcome. Thanks for the kind comments.