Google Picasa 3 vs. Windows Live Photo Gallery

Page content

Google Picasa 3 and Windows Live Photo Gallery are software programs that you can use to view and edit your personal photographs. These photo editors are not full-featured, professional image editing software programs. If you want a free, professional-grade image editor, you’re better off with the open-source image editor, GIMP. Picasa and Windows Live Photo Gallery provide simple and automatic tools that ordinary people can use to quickly and easily edit their photos without a lot of technical expertise. These programs are very similar on the surface, but when you explore the features in greater depth, you can see they are not created equal.

Google Picasa 3 Pros and Cons

Google Picasa 3 will run on Windows XP, Vista or Mac OS X version 10.4.9 or greater. There are special versions of Picasa 3 for Linux and for Windows 98, ME and 2000. You can upload your photos directly to your Picasa Web Albums by using the “Upload” button at the bottom of the screen. There are also plugins that will allow you to upload your photos to Facebook or Flickr using Picasa.

Picasa’s interface allows you to browse images in your picture library and select them for editing. The image editor opens automatically when you double-click on a picture. Picasa has tools such as crop, straighten, redeye, auto contrast, auto color, retouch and text. There is also an “I’m Feeling Lucky” tool which will correct your pictures automatically. In the main interface, you can access the “Fill Light” tool. There are two additional tabs in the image editor, labeled “Tuning” and “Effects.” “Tuning” provides access to the “Fill Light,” “Highlights,” “Shadows” and “Color Temperature” adjustment tools. There is also a “Natural Color Picker” in this tab. The “Effects” include basic effects such as “Sharpen,” “Sepia,” “Black and White,” “Warmify,” “Film Grain” and “Saturation.” “Undo” buttons appear on the left as you make changes to your image.

You can easily save your edits by clicking “File” and “Save.” For best results, you should select “Save As…” and give your image a new file name. This preserves your original image for future editing.

Picasa has no built-in help files. Clicking “Help” and “Help Contents and Index” at the top of the screen will open a browser window with online help pages on the Google website. However, the online help is quite comprehensive and well organized.

Windows Live Photo Gallery requires Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7 or Windows Server 2008. Windows Live Photo Gallery also supports a wide range of plugins, such as plugins that allow you to publish your photos directly to Facebook, YouTube, Picasa Web, Pixelpipe and other websites. Since the Windows Scanner and Camera Wizard have been eliminated in Windows Vista, using Windows Live Photo Gallery is one of the best ways to download pictures from your digital camera in Windows Vista. Simply click “File,” then “Import from a camera or scanner.” Name each folder with a name that describes the pictures it contains.

You can double-click a picture or select the picture and click “Fix” to open the Windows Live Photo Gallery image editor. Editing tools include “Auto Adjust,” “Adjust Exposure,” “Adjust Color,” Straighten Photo," “Crop Photo,” “Adjust Detail,” “Fix Red Eye” and “Black and White Effects.” When you go to save your picture in the “File” menu, no “Save” or “Save As” options are provided. Instead, the picture is saved automatically when you click “Back to Gallery.”

The problem is that Windows Live Photo Gallery saves your changes using the original file name, destroying the original image. This happens even if you select “Make a Copy” from the “File” menu. The changes you make are applied both to the original and the copy, negating the value of making a copy in the first place. There is an “Undo” tool that appears at the bottom of the page once you make a change. If you go back to the gallery, you can return to the edit screen and click “Revert” to restore the original image.

Like Picasa, Windows Live Photo Gallery help directs you to an online help database. You can access this feature by clicking the question mark at the upper right of the screen. The help files are extremely simplistic and don’t provide even basic information on important functions such as saving your file.

In a contest between Picasa and Windows Live Photo Gallery, Picasa wins hands down. It runs on a wider range of operating systems, has more versatile editing tools and allows the user more control over editing and file management. It has more effects to choose from. It’s also more intuitive and easier to use.

Picasa’s help files are superior to those of Windows Live Photo Gallery. Both programs have the ability to play a slideshow of your images and import images from your scanner or camera. Picasa’s interface has a “Timeline” feature which allows you to browse your images by date taken in an interactive interface. Picasa even has “Batch edit” and “Undo all edits” commands in its “Picture” menu. Windows Live Photo Gallery, by comparison, is awkward and confusing. It’s fine for downloading your photographs and watching slide shows, but the image editor is more trouble than it’s worth.