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Google Adds Faces, Places Features to Picasa

Yesterday, Google shipped a new version of Picasa, its photo organizer and editor. Picasa 3.5, a free download for Windows XP or newer and Mac OS X 10.4.9 or newer, adds a name-tagging feature formerly reserved for Google's Picasa Web Albums site and improves the old version's geo-taggging option.


Those two features also catch up with functions Apple added to its iPhoto program -- the application Picasa seems to take after the most -- back in January.

Like iPhoto's Faces capability, Picasa's name-tagging option suffers from the usual limits of computer-driven facial recognition. While it recognized most photos of me taken from reasonably close up, it seemed to get confused by pictures in which I was wearing sunglasses or headgear of any sort. Picasa 3.5 will offer to link these tagged pictures to your Google Contacts, which may be more Google integration than you prefer.

Picasa's geotagging can be a bit more straightforward than iPhoto's: click the "Places" tab at the bottom right corner of Picasa's window, a Google map opens up in one frame of the window, search for a location, and adjust the push-pin icon and click an "OK" button to set the tag.

But if you click the "Geo-Tag" icon in the Windows version of Picasa, you'll instead launch Google Earth and find yourself invited to tag the photo in that separate application. If you don't have Google Earth installed, you'll be prompted to do so -- and the setup file Google's site provides will install Google's Chrome browser alongside it. Very cute, Google. Really.

Other new features aim to ease categorizing and uploading your photos. Have you tried out Picasa 3.5? If so, please share your thoughts about it in the comments.

I may or may not devote a column to this update and other photo-album applications for Windows. First, though, I'd like to get some sense of what photo software you use: Take the poll below, then explain your choice in a comment.

By Rob Pegoraro  |  September 23, 2009; 1:24 PM ET
Categories:  Pictures  
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I use Picasa. Just downloaded 3.5 this morning and I wondered what took Google so long to bring the facial recognition to the windows client.

Posted by: tundey | September 23, 2009 1:44 PM | Report abuse

I have a Mac. Put the photos (several thousand of them) in a directory tree so that they are organized as ~/photos/year/month/day|event

The ones I want to share I upload to Flickr.

Posted by: wiredog | September 23, 2009 2:38 PM | Report abuse

Since I am a happy amateur, I use the "adequate" Paint Shop Pro for individual processing, and so the companion Paint Shop Photo Album works for me.

Posted by: Geezer4 | September 23, 2009 2:40 PM | Report abuse

I use an old (and now unsupported) version of Nikon Picture Project. I only use the basic functions. It's fine for my needs. The deal I made with hubby was: I would buy him a camera as long as I did not need to learn, and would not be expected to know, how to use it. My job is get 'em outta the camera and into the computer.

Posted by: tbva | September 23, 2009 3:30 PM | Report abuse

I like Picasa a lot and recommend it to friends and clients every chance I get, begging them not to install Kodak and/or the crappy software that comes with their cameras.

But the thing that kills me is that I read about the update here, opened Picasa 3.1.0, clicked on check for updates, and was informed that my version is up to date. I just installed it Saturday on my new PC. This happens with Picasa all the time. Stupid.

Posted by: catester | September 23, 2009 4:30 PM | Report abuse

FYI: you can skip using Google Earth with the Windows version of Picasa by clicking on the "Places" button that's on the bottom right-hand corner of the screen.

Posted by: dwj314 | September 23, 2009 8:49 PM | Report abuse

What, you've never heard of Adobe? How about listing Adobe applications such as Photoshop CS or Elements or Lightroom as a choice over the simpler photo editors you do list in your poll. And folks with Macs, like me, can also use Aperture. There also are some really good raw format and image editors, from free or cheap, such as DPP and JetPhoto, to significant ($400+), such as Capture One and DxO. To relegate them all to "other" seems a bit unfair on top of the fact that most photographers have several editors for different uses and purposes.

Posted by: wsrphoto | September 24, 2009 10:03 AM | Report abuse

I had previously downloaded both Adobe Photoshop Starter Edition and Picassa, but just downloaded the Picassa 3.5.

I like the 'instant fix' feature of Adobe, especially for 'low light' fixes, but the rest of Adobe seemed pretty backwards, especially choosing what e-mail program to use with the program. Guess Adobe never heard of G-Mail.

Well if I can find the 'instant fix' feature for those low light photos in Picassa 3.5, that will be the program for me, especially considering that I use G-Mail anyway.

Posted by: | September 25, 2009 3:33 AM | Report abuse

The poll's not scientific, but even so, I didn't think there would be that many votes for Picasa. Interesting...

wsrphoto: Not to be completely snarky, but... what, you've never heard of a consumer technology column? I didn't mention Photoshop or Lightroom or Aperture because those programs cost more than some computers. Remember, I'm not writing for professionals here. For the same reason, I don't review digital SLRs with five-figure price tags either.

catester: Is your copy of Picasa still confused about the arrival of this newer version? Sometimes vendors will space out the distribution of automatic updates to avoid overwhelming their file servers.

- RP

Posted by: Rob Pegoraro | September 25, 2009 12:02 PM | Report abuse

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