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Review: Picasa Photo Editor For Mac

Google's photo-management app is a powerful -- and free -- way to edit and manage digital images, but it lacks some features found in the Windows version.
Google's demo video shows a small cut being removed from a portrait subject's nose; the cut is replaced with unflawed skin from elsewhere on the face. I used the tool to erase a yellow sign from a shot of an empty beach in winter; I replaced it with sand and seaweed from the rest of the beach. The result wouldn't fool the techs on CSI, but it was pretty good.




Picasa offers an array of tools for fixing photos.
(click for image gallery)

Picasa also provides tools for sharing photos as slide shows, photo albums, or print. My favorite: A collage -- click on an album, select the collage tool, and Picasa will arrange the pictures at random on a rectangular background, as though you'd dropped them on a tabletop. Click on individual images to move or relocate them, then save the result and share it.

I also had fun making a slideshow movie. I selected an album and some background music from my library, and Picasa quickly created a slideshow with my selected images and background music as a QuickTime file.

Problems

Picasa for the Mac does have some problems, though.

Image- and video-sharing capabilities are extremely limited. The only image exporter built into Picasa is a tool to let you export to Picasa for Web. You can't export images from within Picasa to Flickr, or to your Facebook friends -- two extremely popular options that Picasa needs to support.

Another built-in exporter is supposed to let you export your movie slideshows to YouTube. I was never able to get that to work; it failed with the completely unhelpful message, "There was an error uploading to YouTube." Even when I exported the video to my hard drive and uploaded it to YouTube manually from the Web browser, the video wouldn't play. Since both Picasa and YouTube are owned by Google, this is a particularly frustrating problem.

Picasa lets you export photos to Google's own Blogger service; but there are no built-in tools for exporting to any of the myriad other blogging services out there: Movable Type, TypePad, LiveJournal, Vox, WordPress.org, Wordpress.com, etc. etc. etc.

The lack of export tools isn't fatal -- you can simply export your images or video to your hard drive, and then upload the media from there. And, based on experience with Picasa for Windows, we can expect third-party developers to come up with add-ons for Picasa that support those other services.

The software is also missing some features available in the Windows version, including the ability to order prints online from directly within the program, support for geotagging, export to HTML, the ability to grab still images from a webcam, and the ability to make selected photos into a screensaver slideshow.

Picasa offers a great alternative to iPhoto for managing your photos on the Mac, and you can't beat the price -- free. But don't count iPhoto out yet; Apple just released a new version.