Photo Display Software
I have been a longtime shutterbug, and I have a closet filled with 35mm equipment to prove it. Lately, I've been relying primarily on my digital camera (a Nikon Coolpix 5000) to take pictures. The only thing that kept me from becoming a complete digital junkie was that it was too hard to organize the digital photos that I took. I wish I could use Apple's iPhoto software, but alas I'm trapped in a Windows-centric world. Recently, I discovered two programs that have completely solved my organizational issues: Picasa and Photomeister. Using these two programs, along with Photoshop Elements and Ofoto I have pretty much caused me to commit completely to digital as a way of easily organizing, editing and distributing my photographs.
Picasa - is a very cool piece of software that you learn to love the more that you use it. It's only about $30 to buy and you can download it and try it free for 15 days. Picasa is the closest thing in the Windows world to iPhoto. It makes it very easy to pull photos off of your digital camera, or memory card, and sift through the photos. You can group photos into albums and reorder them quickly to create slideshows. The first thing I do these days after taking pictures is use Picasa to organize them. And I use Picasa to keep track of all of my photos because it has a great chronological timeline to sift through the many albums that you have taken over the years.
Picasa lets you do simple editing of photographs. It has a nice cropping tool (which doesn't affect the original photo, just the one displayed version that you see in Picasa). It also has a red-eye tool that is quick and easy to use, and an "optimizing" function. Photomeister does a much better job of letting you edit photos and to share them. Photomeister is about $35 for the basic edition, and $55 for the version that lets you create the executable slideshows that I will describe below.
What I usually do, after getting Picasa to load in and organize my photos, and quickly crop, brighten and fix red-eye problems. I optimize if the picture is really dark, but otherwise I rarely get a significant improvement. The "optimize" function in Photomeister is quick, easy and usually produces the desirable result. If it doesn't you can chose not to "accept" the changes. You can manually fix problems to your liking easily too. And the red-eye function is very easy to use and produces very acceptable results without much additional manipulation. But, frankly, I don't use Photomeister that much anymore, now that Picasa's version 1.5 came out (with its improved editing functions).
One thing I like about Photomeister (which Picasa doesn't have) is that lets you create a slideshow that is exportable as an executable file. You can set the type of fade between photos and the amount of time between photo transitions. Then you just E-mail or burn a CD and send the file to your family or friends. The file sizes can be controlled by lowering the resolution, but they tend to be large. I sent around a 29 photo file with pretty good JPEG resolution and wound up with a file that was about 4 MGs.
Picasa and Photomeister both have the ability to create a slideshow in HTML format, but neither of the programs's HTML slideshow is really more than a grouping of images that are viewable in a browser. Definitely not the optimal viewing experience, but it gets the job done and the file sizes in this method are pretty small (my aforementioned 29 photo file was only a 1 MG file in HTML format).
A few other things that are worth noting. Picasa handles JPEGs, TIFFs, BMPs, PSDs, MPEGs, and AVIs. Both programs let you easily E-mail selected photos or print them. Picasa is much better as a way of organizing your photos because the display is nicer and you can move photos around easily in the album to suit your mood. Photomeister doesn't allow you to reorder the photos at all (or at least I haven't been able to figure out how to do it yet, and I've spent a lot of time trying). Photomeister also allows you to create PDF albums, but the one I tried to make wasn't very good quality. It also lets you create an album that you can export to your Palm (sorry, but no Windows CE PDA analogue).
I would definitely spring for Picasa. The company is working hard to improve it, and it is already slick and easy to use. At $30 Picasa is dirt cheap for what it does. Basically, it makes it ridiculously easy to organize and view your photos. The time and aggravation that you will save by using this product make it a "must have" for anyone who is taking digital photographs and doesn't have an Apple computer.
Here are my more recent reviews of Picasa: January 05, 2003
© Copyright 2003 Ernest Svenson.
Last update: 6/5/2003; 10:08:27 PM.