Picasa for Mac beta review

iPhoto may be the digital shoebox for your snaps, but it’s not the appropriate solution for everyone with a digital camera. Critics complain about iPhoto’s lack of speed, and its practice of ferreting images away inside folders that lack a clear identity is infuriating when you have an image management disaster. Picasa for Mac appears to be a viable – and free – contender.

When first launched the software quickly and effectively searches your Mac’s drive for images. It then populates its database with links to those images, rather than replicating all those hard-drive-space-invading pictures within its own file structure. As an image database, Picasa is also much faster than Adobe Bridge.

In fact, speed is Picasa’s watchword. Exploring the same sets of images is much faster in Picasa than in iPhoto. Another advantage is that it uses significantly less memory than Apple’s software.

Image management is only part of what’s on offer here. Picasa includes a selection of powerful image editing tools; a photo collage tool that’s a breeze to use; and even a slideshow film maker that can upload photo-based video directly to YouTube. It also offers auto red-eye removal, intelligent auto-cropping and the capacity to upload images or image collections directly to Picasa Web Albums, Google’s free, online, image-sharing service.

If you use iPhoto to ingest images, you’ll also benefit from Picasa’s ability to monitor image folders once it has identified them, replicating these changes in real time.

iPhoto integration also means Picasa will display a single collective folder with the most recent version of each iPhoto image file. Images inside this folder are read-only, but if you want to edit an image Picasa will simply copy the relevant image folder to its own Imported folder, so you can apply those edits.

If you’ve used Picasa on Windows, then you’ll notice there’s some missing features – there’s no geo-tagging, no screensaver mode and you can’t capture into the app using iSight. However, this is beta software and we can’t imagine these features aren’t on the road map.

OUR VERDICT

Picasa makes iPhoto’s shoebox seem battered. The key advantage is speed, even when working with huge collections. The facility with which you can add text to images and the free 1GB of online image storage space make it extremely compelling. For a fast, simple and free imaging solution for Macs, Picasa is the solution.

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