Sunday, July 16, 2006

Review: Picasa Web Album

Have you made the switch to the following?

Gmail (e-mail by Google)
Picasa (picture browser by Google)
Firefox (web browser by Mozilla)

They’re all free and they’re so fantastic it would take pages and pages to explain why. Just try them, NOW.

I’m mentioning these for two reasons. One is that I use an eMac at my new job. The only program that crashed (without compromising overall system stability though, you have to hand it to Apple), was Safari. It just shut down at one point. It’s funny that Macs come bundled with two web browsers, Microsoft’s internet explorer and Apple’s Safari, and that both suck. I immediately installed Firefox which has been running fine since then (and runs Gmail with all its cool functions enabled, and displays my website correctly).

The bad news for Mac users is that there’s no Picasa in sight for Mac. I love this program so much I’d think twice about getting a Mac just because Macs don’t have it. Then again I’d think two-zillions times about getting a PC for a whole bunch of other reasons. Picasa’s website says they’re too busy making Picasa better to transport it to Mac. Apple does have Aperture, its own photography browser and organizer. It’s outrageously expensive and from what I read online, doesn’t do the job very well. Maybe it’s because it was designed for pros.

The other reason I mention Picasa is that Google is finally, and through Picasa, coming up with some kind of competition for Flickr. Flickr is the best thing around. It has a huge community, which means random people will find your pics, comment on them, and you can find other people’s pics (mostly using tags). Still, I tried Flickr twice and the system for uploading pictures was such a drag, I gave up.

I didn't expect much from Picasa Web Album (let’s call it PWA from here on) but once I had a full album of pics (that I'd already selected through Picasa's starring system) online within seconds and a single-click, I decided I liked it.

CNET has the downsides:

“…But there are small snags. While albums on Picasa Web Albums can be made either public or unlisted, there's no way that I saw to password-protect them. And although Web Albums will display slide shows, captions that you attach to photos don't show up in them.

But I have a bigger issue with this service: it's one way. Once you upload photos from Picasa to Picasa Web Albums, there's no link between them. If you write a caption or delete a photo on your PC, nothing changes on your online album (or vice versa). I'm spoiled by the technology of Sharpcast and Phanfare, both of which feature live synchronization between media files on your PCs and your online albums. I think synchronization is the only way to go if you're going to have the same images online and on your PC. I'm disappointed that Google did not more tightly integrate its Picasa software and Web service.

I'm also surprised that Google is being so stingy with online storage space for photos: Free accounts are limited to 250MB. That's adequate for a bunch of slide shows but it's not enough to be a serious online photo storage solution. Oddly, Gmail, which is also free, gives you 2.7GB to play around in. If you want more photo storage, you can get 6GB online for $25 a year. I don't think that's a very good value, and it's still not enough space to store a typical family's picture archive (Phanfare, one of the few photo sites that charges for storage, costs $55 a year but provides unlimited space).

I was hoping for more innovation and a richer feature set for Picasa's online product. On the other hand, for current Picasa users, I don't know of a simpler or faster way to share photos.”

I can tell you why they’re only giving out 250MB. The 2.7GB limit in Gmail is marketing. I’m only using 7% of that (even though I’ve been sending out pictures which take up space). That means they advertise 2.7GB but they only have to hand out 250MB or less in most cases. With pictures, advertise 2.7GB and people will be using 2.7GB! Which is too bad really. I don't want to see 2.7GB of anybody's pics except maybe some guys who are now dead and displayed in museums. I'm only taking up 10% of my 250MB so far and I'd already be pretty flattered if you went through all of that.

Actually, I don’t need an online album service at all (I already have a website AND a blog) but PWA made it so easy, I just went ahead and did it. Posting pics in my blog is a drag compared to this because if you try to post more than 4 pics in a single post, it just doesn’t work and you have to resort to all kind of tricks like posting on a second blog and retrieving code with the view source function of your browser. From now on, I may well not post pics here in my blog anymore, and just link to PWA.

Let’s hope the next version resolves the snags brought up in the CNET review. Synchronization would be particularly cool. I’m always changing my mind about my pictures. Which ones to include, the crop, saturation, levels… sometimes I even retouch something I missed. It would be nice if these showed up in the online albums automatically.

Go see the results for yourself: http://picasaweb.google.com/greg.gla
PWA is so easy to use, I even threw in some old digital shots of China. The cool thing with digital (for photography buffs) is that each pic comes with camera brand and model, aperture, shutter speed, and focal length information!

9 Comments:

Anonymous Mathieu said...

Neat!

Thanks for pointing me at Picasa, btw.

3:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How do you comment on the PWA?

3:45 AM  
Blogger gregoire said...

seems as if you can't... which is fine by me.

I'd be surprised if they didn't patch that in the final release though.

8:14 AM  
Blogger schuey said...

*****geek*****

2:49 PM  
Blogger Marley said...

i don't like Apple and Mac at all. call meold-fashioned, but I just don't!!
everyone around me uses Macs.. i just cannot..

9:55 PM  
Blogger Gibu Thomas said...

Gregoire,

I would encourage you to also check our Sharpcast Photos, which the CNET review alludes to. A sync-based solution has many advantages over an upload based solution, most of which are very experiential.

Fundamentally, what people seem to like about Sharpcast most is that it is an all-in-one solution that gives you a simple drag-and-drop buddy-list sharing, syncing across multiple PCs and the web, automatic anywhere access and fully transparent backup.

Sharpcast provides you the following things PWA doesn't:

- If you make a change on your web album, it is automatically synced to all your PCs (with an upload-based solution like PWA, you have to make the change manually at each place)
- If you run Sharpcast on multiple PCs, all the changes are kept in sync
- You can work fully in offline mode (including create albums and share) and all the actions will be fulfilled automatically the next time you are online
- Your entire workspace is continuously backed up transparently. To migrate to a new PC, all you have to do is to install the Sharpcast client on a brand new PC and log in.

We are still missing some key things like editing and printing, we will fill those gaps in the next couple of months. We are still in beta and you get a free 2GB account. Please send us any and all feedback.

Thanks!

Gibu Thomas,
CEO, Sharpcast

1:47 AM  
Blogger morofilm said...

This is probably one of my top 10 blog finds of the year.

great work, gregoire!

12:33 PM  
Anonymous Mathieu said...

Wow, CEO comments, no less!

:-)

6:17 PM  
Blogger gregoire said...

When a CEO comments on my blog, I make an effort and download his software.

Turns out Sharpcast doesn't see TIFF files.

Bye bye Sharpcast.

11:42 AM  

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