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 compliment 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 clear today that modern users want an app that connects 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 some minor photo tweaking. Essentially, Google Photos focuses on how we use photos and will work to makes it easier for users to quickly edit and share them.

Google Assistant

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

  • Panoramas that can be stitched together from a series of photos.
  • Animations that can be created from a series of photos taken at about the same time.
  • Multiple portraits that can be arranged in a "photo-booth" style photo arrangement.
  • Photo arrangements that can be created to mark memories, such as "one year ago" or "two years ago." 
  • Holiday-themed special effects, like Valentine's Day hearts or 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. Just go to the Google Photo Assistant section of the app, and you'll see all of its suggestions.


Picasa's biggest weakness (other than depending on a combination desktop and online app) is that it never really allowed for proper, modern sharing. This is not a problem 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 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.

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 Android phone, no problem. Google Photos has been duplicating them in both spots. Your transition will be smooth. 

Photo Editing

With Google Photos, you can crop, make minor adjustments, and add filters. To add contrast, put on a strange color filter. But, 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, 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 your photos to another service.