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.
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.
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.
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.