Picasa Is Dead: Long Live Google Photos

Learn about Google's new photo app

Google Picasa

Picasa was Google's primary photo app for many years. The company originally acquired it in 2004 as a complement to Blogger. It was both a desktop app for Mac and Windows and an online photo gallery. It comes from the age of Flickr, and it's an app that connects users to their social networks, is easy to use on a mobile device, and allows for editing photos online. That's why it was later replaced by Google Photos in 2016.

Differences Between Picasa and Google Photos

Google Photos branched off of Google+ as a photo-sharing service. It allows quick photo searching, classifying, and grouping. It also allows limited photo editing to apply filters and frames, crop images, and add minor photo enhancements. Google Photos focuses on how users use photos and makes it easier for users to quickly edit and share them.

Google Assistant

Google Photos has a powerful photo assistant that suggests fun features and special effects. Those special effects include: 

  • Panoramas stitched together from a series of photos.
  • Animations created from a series of photos taken at about the same time.
  • Multiple portraits arranged in a photo-booth style photo arrangement.
  • Photo arrangements that mark memories, such as one year ago or two years ago.
  • Holiday-themed special effects such as Valentine's Day hearts and Halloween skeletons.
  • Interactive story collections created with photos around an event or location. 

Google Assistant is available for both the mobile and web-only versions of Google Photos. You don't have to do anything special to make it happen. It just shows up on its own when you have photos matching the profile. Go to the Google Photo Assistant section of the app to see its suggestions.

Sharing

Picasa's biggest weakness (other than depending on a combination desktop and online app) is that it never allowed for proper, modern sharing. With Google Photos, you can share with Twitter, Google+, and Facebook. You can also create albums with shareable links, just like you could with Picasa Web Albums. As other social networks gain popularity, Google Photos will likely keep adding sharing functions. 

Automatic Backups

One of the most useful features of the Picasa desktop app was that it automatically backed up photos from your desktop. If you have a digital camera, and you like to preview your vacation photos on your laptop, this is extremely handy. You still get this basic functionality using the Google Photos uploader.

Google Photos backs up a high quality photo but not a full resolution photo unless you specify it. Full resolution photos cost extra storage money, but you can keep the originals on your hard drive or back them up another way. 

If you rely on backups from your Android phone, Google Photos duplicates your files in both spots. 

Photo Editing

With Google Photos, you can crop, make minor adjustments, and add filters. To add contrast, put on a color filter. But, you can't do advanced effects like editing out blemishes. It may not stay this way forever, Google purchased and retired Picnik, a powerful, online photo editing app that allowed for more functions than Google Photos. Google also owns Snapseed, a mobile photo editing app.

What about Flickr?

Flickr provides a reasonably parallel experience if you're used to features of Picasa. Both allow (or allowed) labels, albums, printing, and geotagging (associating a geographic location with a photo, which is often done automatically by phone cameras and other devices). 

You can print photos or order online prints from either app, and you can bulk upload your photos, embed them, create communities, and add comments. You can specify Creative Commons licenses or retain all copyright protections for your works with easy settings that you change on a site-wide or per photo basis.  

Flickr is an established player. It's been around longer, and it's still used by serious photographers. However, it was recently acquired by SmugMug from Yahoo, which has been suffering from years of decline. There's no certainty that Flickr will live much longer than Picasa, and once it goes, there may not be a clear migration path to move photos to another service.