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What’s really cool in Picasa 3.5

Categories: Software Review    Tags: , ,   3 Comments

Picasa has recently released version 3.5 according to the Picasa blog. They have not updated everyone yet, meaning that when you open up Picasa, it would not prompt you to update. However, you can download the new version if you want. I did that yesterday and played with some of the new features. I believe the new version has some cool new things and some that…well, I’m not sure.

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Picasa 3.5 adds face recognition and the People tab

Google assumes (their blog says so at least) that people like to organize their pictures around those most important in their lives. So they’ve added a new section on the left navigation menu called People. So now there are three sections: Albums, People, Folders. When you install the new version, Picasa will start scanning your pictures and identify faces and then it gives you the opportunity to put names to the faces. The technology behind face recognition in pictures is certainly very impressive. The coolest thing about it is that once you name a face, it will try to find similar faces and group them with the same person. And, yes it does make mistake but the interface is really easy to use and move that face under the right person. It is also integrated with Google’s e-mail program GMail and your GMail contacts automatically come up as you type names under faces. I say this is very cool and techy!

Picasa 3.5 has made adding geographic location to your pictures much easier.
Screenshot describing adding geotags to pictures in Picasa

The only problem that I see with it is that I don’t think people will really use it! I think most people organize their pictures around events and not people. I can’t imagine many people going to their computer and thinking: let me see my pictures of “so and so”. Rather, most people would want to see their pictures from some particular event. I think people will keep using folders and tags to organize their pictures.

Picasa 3.5 has Google Maps embedded inside for easy geotagging.
Screen shot of Google Maps appearing in Picasa 3.5

Google Maps are now embedded in Picasa 3.5

Now, this is really cool and useful at the same time. Before Picasa 3.5 I was using Google Earth to geotag my pictures. Now it’s very easy to select some pictures, or an entire folder and then type a location like Los Angeles, CA and then you can simply assign all the selected pictures to this location. And yes, Picasa does save this geographical information to the EXIF portion of your pictures. So, this is a great improvement over the previous version.

Picasa 3.5 has improved the tagging experience

Prior to version 3.5, I would hit CTRL + T and get the small tagging window where I would be able to add tags to my images. Now you get it a new panel on the right hand side of the page where you have some previously used tags. I’m not sure why they have to take this much space, but it’s pretty useful. Since tags was really missing from Picasa for a long time, any improvement in this area is much welcomed. And yes, Picasa does save image tags to the IPTC portion of your image metadata. So, your tags are indeed portable.

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Updated: December 13, 2009  Categories: Software Review
Tags: , ,    Comments: 3 Comments
Read related articles:
How to use face detection efficiently in Picasa
Everything you need to know about Picasa metadata
How to use your image geotags in Flickr

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Geoff Coupe November 25, 2009 at 8:00 am

I’m afraid I can’t really share your enthusiasm for Picasa 3.5 for the following reasons:
1) Yes, it supports IPTC, but only the old IPTC-IIM standard, it doesn’t have a clue about IPTC Core and the other newer IPTC standards based around XMP. If you use other tools in your digital workflow, this failing of Picasa is likely to bite you down the road.
2) The Face Recognition metadata is only stored in Picasa’s own internal database sitting on your PC, not in XMP in the images themselves. This is a) a single point of failure, and b) difficult to share across PCs. Windows Live Photo Gallery writes its Face Recognition metadata into the images themselves using XMP. A much more scalable approach.

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vlad December 3, 2009 at 5:08 pm

Thank you for your comment Geoff. Well, as far as keywords are concerned, Picasa is sufficient. Yes, if you want to add captions and title and copyright metadata, I agree you can’t use Picasa. However, you must admit that Picasa has indeed come a long way from where it used to be when Google bought the product. I definitely like it more now even though I still don’t use it very much. I love the geotagging facility though…it’s great in 3.5.

In addition, you’re right, Picasa doesn’t support XMP even though I conducted a simple experiement. I have added keywords in Adobe Lightroom version 3 beta and I was able to read them in Picasa without any problem. Also, the keywords I have added in Picasa I was able to read in Lightroom. Maybe Lightroom populates both XMP and IPTC metadata headers. Do you know?

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Geoff Coupe December 3, 2009 at 6:03 pm

Yes, Lightroom populates both XMP and IPTC-IIM. It has backwards compatibility. Picasa doesn’t even realise that it’s backwards… Perhaps Picasa 4.0 will address this.

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