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Picasa for managing digital photos

Dear FMCA Computer Geeks:

I take tons of digital photos. What’s the best and easiest way to organize them on my computer?  

RVers take a lot of digital photos, and it can be very confusing to decide what software to use to manage them. There’s the program that came with the camera to transfer photos to the computer; Windows for organizing, printing, and e-mailing them; Photoshop Elements or IrfanView for editing them; and dozens of Web sites for publishing them. Then, you also need CD-burning software to make backups or copies to give friends.

The first thing that’s so great about Picasa, available free from Google (www.picasa.google.com), is that it does all of the above. You only need to learn the one program. The second thing is that it’s quick and easy. One click and you can e-mail one or more photos — and it takes care of resizing them on the fly.

One click also prints your photos. And it lets you preview exactly how the pictures are going to fit on the paper before you waste all that ink. One click and you can burn a CD with a slideshow to give to your friends. One more click and you have a Web site for your photos; it’s called a Web Album.

Probably the feature that we love most about Picasa is that it makes it so fast and simple to improve the quality of images. I receive a lot of compliments about the photos on our blog. I know it’s because Picasa helps me improve every picture. And it does it without changing my original image. I don’t have to make a copy before I start editing, as with other programs.

I’ve been teaching computer software classes and seminars since 1983, during which time I’ve covered probably a hundred different programs, and I can confidently say that Picasa is the most useful software I’ve ever known.

I love the things Picasa does, but I think it’s even better for what it doesn’t do. Because it doesn’t do serious editing (such as erasing a power line from the sky), Google has kept it lean and mean. It does 90 percent of what we need on a day-to-day basis and it does it quickly, easily and for free. For the other 10 percent, you still need Photoshop Elements, Fireworks (the software I use) or some other photo editor.

In January 2009 Picasa became available to Macintosh users. Macintosh users also can use iPhoto, which is similar to Picasa.

— Jim and Chris

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