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Google Releases Picasa 3.5

The latest version of Google's Picasa software features facial recognition technology and several other improvements.

Google on Tuesday plans to release Picasa 3.5, an update of its free photo editing and organization software for Mac and Windows computers.

Picasa 3.5 has inherited the name tags feature found in Google's online version of Picasa, Picasa Web Albums. Using facial recognition technology, the software will try to group similar faces in a set of photos. Though different people may end up in the same group if they resemble one another, name tags nonetheless provide a useful way to label large groups of photos quickly.

"When you first launch Picasa 3.5, it will start scanning the photos in your computer's collection to create groups of similar faces," explains Google engineer Todd Bogdan in a blog post. "It puts all these groups into the 'Unnamed People' album, from where you can easily add a name tag to a set of faces by clicking 'Add a name' and typing the person's name."

And when subsequent photos are added, Picasa will attempt to tag faces that it recognizes.

Picasa users who have signed in to their Google accounts gain the benefit of name tag auto-completion using Google Contacts data.

Picasa 3.5 can share name tag data with Picasa Web Albums, and vice versa. However, such sharing is optional as there may be privacy considerations involved.

The software has been integrated with Google Maps to simplify "geotagging," the addition to a photo of metadata describing the location where the picture was taken. The Places panel in Picasa now allows users to drop a pin on a map to identify a photo's geographic origin.

The new version of Picasa also features an improved upload process that allows for greater control over which photos get uploaded and shared during importation from a camera.

Although Google released Picasa 3.0 for Linux, a company spokesperson said that version 3.5 is only being released for Mac and Windows due to low adoption of Picasa 3.0 among Linux users.

Although Google has been a vigorous advocate of cloud computing, Picasa is one of several software products that the company distributes for installation on a local computer. Other such software includes Google Chrome, Google Desktop, Google Earth, Google SketchUp, Google Talk, and Google Toolbar, not to mention Web applications like Google Docs that have been retrofitted for offline use with the help of Gears local storage.

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