Wednesday, September 3, 2008 6:00 AM
We’ve been working on a new version of Picasa for a couple of years, and we think you're going to like the changes and improvements. Mike's post yesterday gave some background on Picasa 3's general focus on easier sharing and smarter integration with Picasa Web Albums. Today, I'll focus the spotlight on our powerful new creative tools, as well as some of the other refinements to be found in Picasa 3. (Note that this beta is currently US-English only.)
First, a quick aside on performance: Compared to earlier versions of Picasa, Picasa 3 gets some enormous speed and scalability improvements, even in beta form. We’ve done internal testing up to one million photos (this seemed like plenty), and for most photo collections out there, things should just be quite a bit faster.
In a similar vein, we’ve also added a small Photo Viewer that can view files anywhere on your computer. More than anything, it's designed to launch quickly, so you can examine any photo file immediately -- and check out what happens when you use the scroll wheel on your mouse. We’d like you to try it out (and make it your default viewer for JPG, etc.), but if you prefer to use Windows Preview or another program, we remember the last application you were using, so it’s one click to go back.
Okay -- on to photo editing. A new text tool lets you add text to your pictures, and lay it out exactly as you wish, at any transparency level. We have also created a new retouching brush to take care of unsightly blemishes, camera dust, damaged photos, and the like. The red-eye removal tool does a lot of its work automatically now -- there's no need to draw boxes around people's eyes. Our crop tool will also recommend interesting starting points to crop, based on faces and objects in your photos. (As you might've guessed, we're using some of the technology from our name tags feature in Picasa Web Albums to make Picasa 3 smarter, which means less work for you.)
Movies have gotten a big revamp in Picasa 3. You can now “trim” any movie as you’re watching it, or rotate it just like a photo. As we do for photos, you can always undo the trimming or rotations later. You can also capture stills, scrub through time, and play movies fullscreen or as part of a slideshow -- movies are even zoomable, now. Also, when you upload a movie to Youtube or to Picasa Web Albums, Picasa 3 better compresses the movie to make it transfer faster.
The biggest change for movies is that you can now take your favorite collection of photos and videos and stitch them together into a custom movie, complete with soundtrack. Picasa 3 will let you add your own title slides and post to the web in one click. Your custom movies can run the gamut of full HD resolution to tiny mobile phone or photo-frame-ready files.
A lot of our changes are driven by customer feedback. We’ve heard many of you say, “Picasa’s collage looks cool, but why can’t I move the photos?” Well, now you can... and then some. We've gone ahead and added a half-dozen different layouts, each of them customizable, and the output images are gorgeous, because they’re produced at print resolution. (Posters, anyone?) Even after rendering, you can go back and edit all your collages forever. It still takes just one click to turn a photo collage into your Windows desktop wallpaper, but you can also email or upload these for anyone to see, too. Check out the sample below to see how you can also combine collages and text:
We’ve made a lot of improvements to the screensaver as well. You can add your favorite friends (and feeds), and there are some new visual effects too. The screensaver is sharing some DNA with Picasa's slideshow, so both of them can now show the same transition effects.
Feedback from folks who use Picasa the most has helped drive a number of other small refinements: Tags can have multiple words in them, and tagging is much faster. You can migrate whole folders to another drive without losing your album data (try out Folder->Move). This is convenient if you’re running out of space on one disk. Network drives are a lot faster, too.
The list goes on: Raw files now show camera information like JPEGs do, and our RAW support has been extended to more cameras, including the 39 megapixel Hasselblad, for the lucky few. Importing now separates shoots into event groups, so you can import just one day’s photos and leave the rest on your card. Geotagging with Google Earth is available in the main button bar, and there’s a loupe placed close by to zoom on your thumbnails. We've been working on everything from crop (with sizes now covering HDTVs to passport pics), to new watermarking protections on export/upload, and the ability to catpture video or stills direct from your attached webcam. (Hello, YouTube!)
I don't want to run too long in one post, but over the next couple weeks, we’ll be doing in-depth tours of individual features, so watch this space. Have fun with the beta, and let us know what you think!