Windows/Linux: Picasa, Google's photo management tool, has quietly announced a new beta that adds basic movie editing, fuller syncing to Web Albums, and many other features and changes. Actually, the biggest change in the new Picasa isn't in the software itself—it's a new "quick view" utility, which replaces the basic double-click viewing tool in Windows with a Picasa-friendly, drop-cloth-style window. Five new collage styles have also been added to the offerings, and Picasa's new "Movie Maker" tool lets you create slideshow-style clips out of stills or trim and paste video clips together. Check out Picasa's help section for more details on what's new and what's changed, or read on for a peek at some screenshots from the new release.
Note: These screenshots come from Picasa 3's Windows release. The Linux version—which, like previous editions, is basically an enhanced port run through WINE—lacks the movie editing function and has a few other differences (which you can read about at the Linux edition's what's new and what's changed pages).
During the installation process, Picasa 3 will ask whether you want to enable the "Picasa Photo Viewer," the aforementioned quick-view tool that opens when you double-click an image file. I like the way it puts a dimming "drop cloth" on the screen, as well as the scroll-button scaling and Picasa tools—including Gmail-friendly "Email"—available under the "More" button.
The "movie editor" is a bit under-powered, in my opinion. I like how, with still pictures, Picasa gives you an uncluttered selection of basic editing and viewing tools, but makes the geeky stuff available in the corner menus. With the movie editor, there's just basic trimming and ordering of clips. More annoyingly, there's no editing functionality with QuickTime/.MOV files—the kind that many consumer-grade digicams shoot. Still, if you're just putting together shots from a family gathering and you're already a Picasa fan, it's not a bad place to get it done. There's also easy YouTube integration and screencap tools.
Picasa added a whole bunch of collage types to its offerings, as well as jumped the level of control you have over spacing, file selection, and other options.
The text feature is slyly genius. For whatever reason, many photo editors make you outline a "box" to put your text in, and going back to make edits is often a real pain. With Picasa, you can just click anywhere, start typing, then grab and manipulate the box to edit it later.
Importing photos directly from a memory card seems to move a bit quicker, and, in a welcome move, the photos you're importing are now grouped together by the blocks of time they were taken together. In other words, you won't have to click and check through tiny thumbnails to figure out exactly where Aunt Lily's birthday ends and your ragin' BBQ party began.
The Picasa team pulled a major re-design on the bottom toolbar, hiding away some of the more simplistic tools and going big on the social ones. Depending on how and why you used Picasa in the past, this might be a welcome time saver. If not, you can always edit which options get the big-button treatment.
One thing you'll definitely notice is the continuing emphasis on uploading to, and using, Picasa Web Albums to share and back up your photos. There's a new button in the upper-right of every album folder that allows you to "sync" your photos to a web album, which would push your local changes to the web and pull down data to your desktop. If you're more of a Flickr user, the Picasa2Flickr button plug-in has been updated for this beta.
You can grab a copy of the free Picasa 3 beta for Windows and Linux at the link below. Already on-board the beta and got some grievances or glad-hands? Tell us about them in the comments.