The Death of Picasa
Of all the software I’ve used over the years to process photos, Picasa has always been my favourite. It has a reasonable number of tools and it is FAST.
To put that into perspective, for many years I held several roles within the Federation of Small Businesses or FSB in the UK and one of the more delightful roles included responsibility for the organisation’s national conference website. These would be held around the country and for years I took a DIY approach to the conference website photography. Every year, we paid for two photographers to take countless pictures of political and business figures speaking at the Conference and then staff and volunteers would process the photos for the web – people came to expect the web to update shortly after the actual events.
That meant taking in HUNDREDS of photos, selecting the best, processing them and uploading them to web albums as quickly as humanly possible. Picasa has always been our tool of choice since being introduced in 2002. A staff member called Rusty at the FSB introduced me to the package and I’ve never looked back. It is easy to use, can very quickly edit, crop, brighten up, straighten and generally process photos that would take days in the very powerful but very sluggish Photoshop.
I take lots of pictures today and many of these are processed directly on my smartphone – but there are limits to the power of these phones so the resolution tends to be a little limited. Picasa has no such limits.
Which makes it all the more sad to find out that in effect, Google have binned Picasa. I’m guessing that soon, it will no longer be available to download – such a crying shame. From their perspective no doubt they’d rather support an online editor (Google Photos) than a desktop variety – but that also assumes you plan to store your photos on their cloud storage – which I do not, ever since I discovered that Flickr offers CONSIDERABLY more storage for free (I have something like 8,000 photos on Flickr).
So – we can keep on using the fantastic tools that come with Picasa – or move on.
Personally I’ve not seen web tools with the ease of use or power of Picasa until recently. Editing very large local files with a web editor is not a lot of fun unless you have very fast broadband and no fun at all if your Internet connection goes down.
I am WAY beyond being satisfied with simple brightness, contrast and saturation, typical of some web tools. Picasa and other local packages offer so much more. You’ll know that I love Snapseed on the mobile, in part because of its’ fabulous “ambience” control which selectively brings out mid-range detail in otherwise boring photos. I’ve recently blogged about others.
Most of these web packages are missing the more subtle controls – so where to next?
Of course I’ve looked at Photoshop Essentials – but I really do not want to line their pockets – their products, considering their success are just too expensive and often quite sluggish. There are some good, free desktop image editors and viewers – XNVIEW, FastStone Image Viewer and others which have some offline editing capability but none are as good as Picasa IMHO.
Photoscape is one downloadable option but REALLY be careful with the very misleading set of download links!!! The big green buttons are NOT your download. Here (for now) is a good link. It has a “mole removal” tool but that isn’t a patch on Picasa’s cleanup tool – no, actually thinking about it – the eraser is CRAP but the rest of it is ok. I also found the whole interface to be a little last century. Many features are hidden in clickable menus – but definitely something that Windows users may wish to add to their list of photo tools – costs nothing but a little disk space.
Windows Photo Gallery from Microsoft is just awful and assumes you are using the Windows 10 box interface that users overwhelmingly rejected in favour of the desktop view – so I won’t even go into that.
So where can we go from here?
There is one program which while not being free, is inexpensive and combines EXTREME power on the one hand with extreme simplicity and flexibility on the other. This program is MILES ahead of the rest.
Inside, you can choose the easy route and view many hundreds of differently processed versions of your image and simply choose any effect at a click – or you can go into the deep end with unbelievable levels of colour control – not only brightness and contrast etc. and did I mention a proper magical ERASE tool.
The program is called Smart Photo Editor (no I don’t get commission – never even spoken to the people). The opening offer is around $49 but I managed to drop that down with discounts to $26.95 which for a program this powerful really is peanuts. I.E. around 20 quid or so in English money.
There is a free trial – and that looks VERY different to the full version so I’ll show you the latter – or rather, a tiny part of it.
Essentially in the free version they avoid scaring you off by just showing you the simple but massive effects gallery. In the full version, there is a full suite of “normal” controls and some are some pretty powerful tools.. one is innocently called “image treatment”.
Yes that IS only a small part of the number of sliders you can control and even that exceeds most other editors. On top of that you have vibrance, brilliance, contrast and hue control FOR EACH OF EIGHT different colour bands!!! Then there is selective area treatment, the list goes on.
Users contribute their own pre-defined effects using an amazing visual editor – and so the program is constantly growing – they claim to have the world’s largest photo effects library and I believe them. If you have no idea how to use the slider controls above – check this lot out – and notice that this is page one of 607 pages of click-to-go filters !!!!
EVEN THEN they could not leave things along because each of those hundreds of filters has optional tweaking controls!!!
If you are a photographic purist, you’re probably having a heart attack (with 50 years of taking and processing photos, I would disagree but each to their own) – but really – sift through the MANY, MANY simple effects and if that isn’t enough for you, go for the more powerful features and even create your OWN preset filters to optionally share with others – that in itself can be rewarding.
If you’re a casual user who likes to improve pictures by pressing buttons or someone deeply into slider controls – this could be your next purchase.
Best twenty quid I’ve spent in a while and I’ve not even started to show you the art filters or the cleanup controls or… maybe some other time.