Tuesday 9 June 2009

Picasa 3

Picasa 3 is fantastic. It is typically Google; highly functional, easy to use and attractive, all at the same time.

And it makes a great companion to Google Blogger. You know, it is easy to use a product like Picasa and then leave it for a while. Life moves on. But in the case of Picasa I was delighted when I revisited it after being away for about a year. It was good in 2008. It is fabulous now. And it’s all free. If this was 1999 or even 2005 someone would be charging a good price for this software. After purchase, it would have come in a package in the form of a CD, maybe after a week’s wait. Now you can find it, download it, use it all in the space of under ten minutes. Picasa 3 does a fabulous job of sorting and filing your photographs and if you have a lot, this is important.

It does such a good job that if you have a lot of photographs you are almost bound to discover photographs that you forgot you had. That happened to me with some fabulous Norwegian Forest Cat photographs that Helmi Flick kindly sent me some time ago. How did I miss them? No excuses.

Well, what better way to explore Picasa 3 than with these photographs. Two simple to use but powerful features are the collage function and the video maker. A notable feature is the ease of use combined with speed. Both of these factors are very important particularly if you are working alone and trying to compete against websites where they have greater resources. Efficient blogging and speed blogging is important. And it is motivating if things go quickly and in a trouble free manner.

The video below of the Norwegian Forest Cat Family was made using Picasa 3. Please note that there are two aspects to Picasa 3. There are the Picasa Web Albums, which is air computing (everything takes place online using Google servers) and Picasa 3, the software for which resides on your hard drive and which links to the online albums as well as deal with a lot of stuff on your computer.

When you make a video you do it on your computer and then upload it to YouTube, for example.

The above video was made in about one hour from scratch during which:

  1. I found and downloaded the software
  2. I learned how to make a video using Picasa 3
  3. I made the video
  4. I uploaded the video to YouTube

This shows how intuitive, easy and pleasing the whole process is. For example, one of the complications with video is getting the formatting correct. In HD you need to select dimensions of at least 1280 x 720 but this is very easy to do as the controls stare you in the face.

Here are the steps I took from a cold start i.e no application/program on my hard drive to embedding the videos on this page:

  1. Search for Picasa 3 using Google and you get a link to the free Picasa 3 download at the top of page one of search listings.
  2. Download Picasa and simply follow the instructions to install the software. For people new to this process that means either saving the installation file to your computer and then running it or running it immediately. Either way produces the same result but one needs immediate action.
  3. I always request that the installation process install a shortcut icon the desktop. If you miss this you can install a desktop icon by clicking on the start button (bottom left of the screen) and then searching for Picasa 3. Once it comes up as a search result simply drag it onto the desktop.
  4. Click on the shortcut icon on the desktop.
  5. Picasa 3 starts up surprisingly quickly and starts to collate and file all the picture folders on your computer by the date the photo was taken (recorded in camera). You can move photos from one folder to another by clicking and dragging. You can also tag photos by type and favourite, for example. Importing from a camera is intuitive. Plus all the usual editing controls to improve the photos are available. Sharing online is equality intuitive as the program will upload to your Picasa Web Album. The basic features are covered in the the video at the top of this page.
  6. One of the great strengths of this software is the search facility, unsurprising, of course as it is Google doing the searches. When the search result are shown a full list of folders accompanies the folder that ranks as the most likely.
  7. OK back to making a video. Select the photos that will be used to make the video. If they are all in the same place, you can click on the first photo and then click on one that is a long way from the first while holding down the shift key. This will highlight all the photos in-between.
  8. Then click on the video icon on the bottom of the page.
  9. The video is created. From this starting point you can create text pages, create captions, select the transition of choice (dissolve is default – a nice long dissolve), import more images or videos to incorporate in the new video and more including adding music. Music should be licensed for use under a creative commons license or royalty free for which you will need to pay a download fee but thereafter use is unlimited but there can be no resale etc. A Google search for “Royalty Free Music” will produce a list of providers.
  10. When finished preparing the video, click create video and after that upload video.
  11. For HD camcorders the dimension should be 1280 x 720 (720p).

That is it for creating videos. For collages, after you have highlighted the selected images as described above you select (from the menu) Create>collage and follow the simple instructions. You can see a collage I created for the Pictures of Cats org website here: Norwegian Forest Cat Family. The video below is another short video created with this software.

As to Picasa Web Albums that is equally impressive. All posts to a Blogger blog results in images being stored on a Picasa Web Album. It is very easy to create code in relation to these images and show them on your Blogger site. This means you can show bigger images and slide shows (big slide shows – see this page for example). The code can be accessed on the right hand side of the page and then copied and pasted into the Edit Html window of the Blogger input page. This is the screen shot where you can find the code to embed:

This image is linked from a Picasa Web Album.

Picasa 3 is well worth exploring and it is of real value to Bloggers. Here is another video I made in about an hour this morning, in bed! Of course it would be nothing without Helmi Flick photographs.

From Picasa 3 to Home Page

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