Windows has its fair share of photo management programs, but we've chosen Picasa as the best for its impressive feature set and relative ease of use.
- Easily import photos from your camera, flash drive, or hard drive
- Scan specific folders on your hard drive and automatically add new photos to your library
- Automatically sort photos by date and event
- Facial recognition that allows sorting by person
- Geotag photos and view albums on a global map
- Fix issues like red eye, colour, and lighting with a simple, easy-to-use photo editor
- Design and create photo collages, video slideshows, screensavers, and more
- Share photos via email or throuth Picasa Web Albums
Picasa's main strengths come in the form of organisational power and simplicity in editing. If you want an advanced photo editor, go somewhere else, but Picasa is perfect for the regular home user that just wants to organise their photos and make them look a little better without doing much work (or knowing a whole lot about photo editing). You can organise photos from all over your hard drive, sync them with Picasa's web albums, sort your photos by the people in them, and make all sorts of fancy slideshows to show your friends. You can also perform a few edits on things like lighting and colour, most of which are automated by Picasa. You can perform a few manual edits, but not a lot—perfect for those that don't want to be overwhelmed.
Unfortunately, Picasa's biggest strengths are also its biggest weaknesses. Its organisational powers are great, but a little confusing at first. When you start up Picasa, it will search your entire hard drive for images and put them into your library. This is great for the disorganised, but will leave you with a huge amount of images (wallpapers, icons, and whatever else) that you certainly don't want in your photo editor. You can edit this from Picasa's Folder Manager, but it isn't obvious or easy to find, which can cause a lot of stress on new users.
Similarly, it gives you barely any control over editing your photos. For the most part, you either get the photo you took, or you get the photo you took that Picasa corrected for you. You have a few manual sliders available like highlights, shadows, and colour temperature, but that's about it. That said, its auto-correct features do a really good job at correcting your photos, so you won't be disappointed unless maybe you're a photography nut.
Most basic photo editors are pretty similar to Picasa. Windows Live Gallery is a popular option that integrates well with Windows, but doesn't really have as many features. The free version of Zoner is a good option if you don't like Picasa for whatever reason, and its $US45 Home version or $US65 Pro version are a nice step up to more intermediate and advanced editing features.
More seasoned photography buffs will want to check out Adobe Lightroom, which gives you many more advanced editing options and RAW processing.
Lastly, as Adam mentioned in his App Directory entry for the Mac, you can always just keep your photos in a series of folders on your hard drive. You don't have to deal with bloated organisation programs with features you don't need; you can organise your photos however you want, and even sync them up to the web with Dropbox. It isn't for everyone, but if photo management apps just tend to get in your way, there's no shame in cultivating a very organised My Pictures folder.
Lifehacker's App Directory is a new and growing directory of recommendations for the best applications and tools in a number of given categories. This week, we're focusing on photo management apps.