Google Picasa Is Dead. Long Live Google Photo

Google Picasa
Screen Capture

Picasa was Google's primary photo app for many years. Picasa was both a desktop app for Mac and Windows and an online photo gallery. Picasa was originally acquired by Google in 2004 as a compliment to Blogger. It's been clear for a while that Picasa has not seen significant new features and would eventually be replaced by Google Photos. That day is officially here, and Google is killing off both Picasa and Picasa Web albums.


Picasa comes from the age of Flickr, and it's clear today that modern users want an app that connects to their social networks, is easy to use on mobile, allows you to edit your photos online. Hello, Google Photos. 

What Is Google Photos?

Google Photos branched off of Google+ as a photo sharing service. Google Photos allows quick photo searching, classifying, and grouping. Google Photos also allows limited photo editing to apply filters and frames, crop images and add some minor photo tweaking.

Google Assistant

Google Photos also has a powerful photo assistant that suggests fun features and special effects. Among the special effects, Google Photos Assistant can create: 

  • Panoramas can be stitched together from a series of photos
  • Animations can be created from a series of photos taken at about the same time
  • Multiple portraits can be arranged in a "photo-booth" style photo arrangement 
  • Photo arrangements can be created to mark memories, such as "one year ago" or "two years ago." 
  • Holiday themed special effects, such as adding hearts for Valentine's day or adding skeletons or other spooky features for Halloween.
  • Photos around an event or location can be stitched together into an interactive story collection. 

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. Just go to the Google Photo Assistant section of the app, and you'll see all the photos the Assistant is suggesting (if any) 


The big weakness of Picasa (other than depending on a combination desktop and online app) is that it never really allowed for proper, modern sharing. Not a problem with Google Photos. You can share with Twitter, Google+ and Facebook. You can also create albums with links that you can use to share, just like you could with Picasa Web Albums. As other social networks gain popularity, Google Photos will likely keep up and add sharing functions. 

What about Automatic Backups?

One of the most useful features of the Picasa desktop app is that it allowed you to automatically backup 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. Fear not, you still get the basic functionality using the Google Photos uploader. If you're soured to Google at this point, you can do the same thing with Flickr, but I don't give Flickr long survival odds at this point.

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

If you've been relying on backups from your phone, no problem. Google Photos has been duplicating them in both spots. Your transition will be smooth. 

What about Photo Editing?

Google Photos has you covered. Well, mostly. You can crop, make minor adjustments, and add filters. So add contrast, put on a strange color filter, no problem. You can't do advanced effects like editing out blemishes. It may not stay this way forever, Google purchased and killed Picnik, a powerful, online photo editing app that allowed for a lot more functions than Google Photos. Google also owns Snapseed, a powerful 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 can change on a site-wide or per photo basis.   

Flickr is an established player. It's been around for longer, and it's still used by a lot of serious photographers. 

However, Flickr has suffered from years of Yahoo! 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 your photos to another service. The safer bet is to keep your photos with Google Photos. 

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