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Picasa 2.7 a slick upgrade on Linux

By Nathan Willis on January 08, 2008 (9:00:00 PM)

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Google has released a public beta of its Picasa photo organizer for Linux. The new release adds some important features for image browsing, image searching, and creative image export. If you haven't tried it before, now is the time.

This beta release is a preview of Picasa 2.7, which will bring the Linux version of the application up to speed with the Windows edition. Picasa remains the only Google app which is unavailable for Mac OS X, a fact you can brag about to your Apple-loving friends.

As with previous versions of Picasa on Linux, this release bundles a customized version of the Wine Windows compatibility layer automatically installed inside the app, freeing you from the burden of maintaining a working Wine installation and from worrying about Picasa's compatibility whenever upstream Wine is installed.

You can download prepackaged binaries in RPM or Debian format. The RPMs are touted as working on 32-bit Intel and AMD64 versions of Red Hat, Fedora, SUSE, and Mandriva. The Debian packages are available in two versions, one for 32-bit Intel and one for AMD64; both should work on Debian itself and Ubuntu.

A new installation option is Google's Testing Repository, a public package repository that can deliver updates automatically via APT or yum. Instructions are available for adding the repository to both package managers. Currently Picasa 2.7 is the only package offered through the repo, but adding it to your machine's package manager is a surefire way to make sure you don't miss out when Google unveils something new for Linux users.

Whether you use the repo or download and install the application standalone, the installer will try to detect any previous version of Picasa on your system and replace it, preserving your settings and images.

What's new

The marquee addition in this release is support for Picasa Web Albums, Google's online photo sharing service. The Web Albums button lets you export photos to your online account within the app itself, including adding to and creating new albums, resizing images, editing descriptions, and marking public or private visibility. If you do not already have a Picasa Web Albums account, the app will take you to the signup page -- a process you must go through even if you already have a Google Account for use with the company's other services.

You can also create a CD of your photos with the Gift CD button, a feature that was visible in the last Picasa release for Linux, but grayed out. Another flashy option is the ability to create a collage of photos -- you can combine a selection of images to make a contact sheet, pseudo-random "pile" of overlapping images, a tightly-spaced grid, or a mash-up of all the selected photos rendered on top of each other.

Several changes add flexibility to browsing and searching through your library. You can create hierarchical folders and browse through them in a tree view, similar to the approach of two-paned file managers. You can also import photos from your camera directly into an existing folder, rather than being forced to create a new folder for each batch.

The built-in search tool now allows you to search on several useful metadata properties. You can search for photos by film speed by using the iso: operator; typing iso:400 returns pictures shot at ISO 400, and so on. The focal: operator searches based on focal length; focal:105mm for example. Both operators require the relevant EXIF data to be present in the photo.

Google also lists support for newer camera models and Adobe DNG files among this version's new features.

What's not that hot

Despite the improvements, a few features stick out as in need of improvement. First, although Google has done an amazing job building this app on top of Wine without making it look like it is a Wine app, the Wine occasionally seeps through. Most of the interface is slick and modern, but the odd dialog box comes up in Wine's old-fashioned Windows 95-like widget set. It's not a good look.

Second, the interface picks up some but not all of your system's window manager characteristics -- in my case, it used the text-highlight color from my theme (white), but its own highlight color for the background behind selected text (also white). A minor annoyance, yes, but a minor fix, too.

On the not-Linux-specific front, some of the new features are quirky. The iso: and focal: search operators are nice, for instance, but they are less useful than aperture: and shutter: would have been. Picasa could use more metadata integration in general; it does not support XMP, and the only way to view an image's EXIF data is via right-click context menu, making it impossible to compare two images' info.

You still have to turn off Picasa's automatic searching feature, which is annoying. I'm sure the developers have mentally pictured a Picasa user who wants or needs this feature -- someone with nothing but personal photos on their computer, only one copy of each, and who will use only Picasa to manage them. But that is unrealistic, and Picasa's desire to index every *.jpg it can find uses up unnecessary time and drags in unwanted images, both of which make managing your real photos just a little bit harder.

Finally, navigation in picture editing mode needs work. You cannot zoom from within the image -- the keyboard +/- keys are bound to the caption entry widget, the scroll wheel to the picture selector at the top of the screen, and the mouse can only be used to drag. I also wish there were a way to move the picture Histogram display. It floats semi-transparent over the bottom right corner of the image, but you cannot move it when the bottom right corner is where you need to look.

What's not new, but is still good

If you have never tried Picasa, this is as good a time as any. The built-in image correction and special effects filters are as good as any you will find on Linux, in terms of quality and ease of use. Previews are fast, the options are easy to understand, and undo, redo, and reverting to the original are straightforward.

The convenience features -- file export, CD burning, Blogger integration, and slideshow and movie creation -- are fast and simple to use. Web Album support is nice, although it (like Blogger integration) is limited to just Google's service.

The ability to order prints over the Internet from a dozen different providers is far nicer. Don't expect that kind of integration with many photo printing services from the free software alternatives any time soon.

There is no date fixed for the final, non-beta release of Picasa 2.7 for Linux, but if you subscribe to the Google Testing Repository, you can be the first to know when it's out.

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on Picasa 2.7 a slick upgrade on Linux

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Picasa 2.7 a slick upgrade on Linux

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 10.3.16.49] on January 08, 2008 09:26 PM
I tried it, but will stick with DigiKam, it does all this and more, plus it is native linux.

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Re: Picasa 2.7 a slick upgrade on Linux

Posted by: Nathan Willis on January 08, 2008 10:09 PM
You can order prints through Digikam?

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Picasa 2.7 a slick upgrade on Linux

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 170.215.110.118] on January 08, 2008 09:43 PM
I have no need for Picassa. We (at my house) are very, very, very happy with Digikam. Simple yet powerful for all of our needs. I just can't see moving away from Digikam anytime soon. We store about 30,000 pictures with it today. Family pictures, reference pictures for our vintage car hobby, landscapes, desktop pictures, etc.

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Picasa 2.7 a slick upgrade on Linux

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 161.33.3.54] on January 08, 2008 11:29 PM
"Picasa remains the only Google app which is unavailable for Mac OS X, a fact you can brag about to your Apple-loving friends."

There's nothing to brag about. The reason Google doesn't port Picasa to OS X is because Mac users have iPhoto, which is superior to Picasa by far. Google does offer a utility for OS X for uploading pictures from iPhoto to your Google accounts, though.

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Re: Picasa 2.7 a slick upgrade on Linux

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 207.28.98.157] on January 09, 2008 04:07 PM
Agreed!

I love iPhoto on my Mac and would not change it for Picasa. I use Picasa on my XP box at work and it is the best photo manager I have seen for Windows, but its no iPhoto and the Picasa web Albums plugin for iPhoto works just fine.

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Picasa 2.7 a slick upgrade on Linux

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 12.192.132.130] on January 09, 2008 12:13 AM
I would prefer DigiKam too, but the built in support for online print ordering keeps me in bed with Picasa -- that and the fact that it is an easier interface that my wife is comfortable with). For me, all DigiKam needs to take over our home photo collection is an "upload to online print service" plugin that will work for Walgreens and SnapFish, then I'd take the time to train my wife.

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Picasa 2.7 a slick upgrade on Linux

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 125.236.167.4] on January 09, 2008 09:42 AM
Picasa is not the only one Google app unavailable for Mac OS. Google Talk also is.

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Re: Picasa 2.7 a slick upgrade on Linux

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 207.28.98.157] on January 09, 2008 04:14 PM
"Picasa is not the only one Google app unavailable for Mac OS. Google Talk also is."

Thats because iChat and Adium (which I believe is made by the same folks who make Pidgin) can handle Google Talk.

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Picasa 2.7 a slick upgrade on Linux

Posted by: on January 09, 2008 10:18 AM
Digikam & Picasa not the important thing the good thing here that is " the bigest company in the world looking for help linux user

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Picasa 2.7 a slick upgrade on Linux

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 200.38.123.252] on January 09, 2008 02:56 PM
BTW, Google is not the biggest company in the world.

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Picasa 2.7 still highly flawed

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 69.111.17.51] on January 09, 2008 04:19 PM
Picasa is kind of like an Apple PC. It's very nice as long as you use it exactly as Google intends, and don't want to use any other photo apps or need any other functionality. If so, there are major frustrations.

Most of my issue is with the whole 'import to database' model. You can't just add a photo to a directory and then browse to that directory. You have to either manually add that directory to Picasa's scan list or just allow it to scan your entire hard drive. If you change a photo in Gimp, for instance, and save it to the same name, you will not see those changes in the copy of the photo that Picasa makes. (You have to save it as a new file name and make sure Picasa is always scanning that directory.) It's just as bad in the opposite direction. If you 'edit' a file using Picasa's very nice image adjustments and then open that file in another browser or in Gimp, none of the changes will be present. You have to manually save a copy of that file with the Picasa changes, and then pick the original file and strip out all the edits to see the actual original file as it exists on disc. This is what Picasa calls 'non' destructive editing, which has it's advantages, but the way they implement it very much less than transparent.

Any 'albums' you make or 'captions' or other comments, similarly, are not saved with the actual file in your directory. They are only present in the Picasa database and not available to other file browsers or external image editors.

Another problem with this is that Picasa maintains a parallel database of all the photos you have in it's collection. This can take up an enormous amount of disk space and it's just not necessary.

DigiKam is much the same in this regard, using a similar 'import to database' model. Yet there are other very good photo browsers that don't find it necessary to use this database rigamarole. ACDSee is probably the most capable photo browser there is and it's never used such a model. You can simply browse your existing directory structure and see whatever images exist, as they exist, anywhere on your disk or external drives or photo cards or network etc.

There are other frustrations with Picasa Linux. I really like a Slideshow function with a nice crossfade effect. There is basically no Linux photo app that can do this correctly! Either the fade is jerky or the slideshow image is grainy. Picasa has a beautiful slideshow on windows, but in Linux it won't show the photo in full screen. And the new Beta hasn't cured this problem. They just keep adding new features without fixing the glaring bug. Don't get it.

Finally - WINE? There are thousands of Open Source projects large and small that are able to write a program and do native builds for Linux, Windows, and Mac. But Google with all of their vast resources and huge use of Linux within their own business, can't seem to figure that out and repackages Windows apps in Wine? (Earth, Sketchup, and Picasa.) Now Wine is extremely cool, but that's still kind of pathetic.

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Re: Picasa 2.7 still highly flawed

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 24.248.89.66] on January 09, 2008 07:00 PM
Apple PC's were very flexible offering a lot of expansion possibility. It was designed by Woz for hacking.

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Re(1): Picasa 2.7 still highly flawed

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 86.139.28.130] on January 09, 2008 09:37 PM
"Apple PC's were very flexible offering a lot of expansion possibility. It was designed by Woz for hacking."

That was about 20 years ago. Or did they get Woz back in to design the DRM?

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Re: Picasa 2.7 still highly flawed

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 202.127.9.200] on January 13, 2008 12:44 AM
Ok i am gonna come out and say it, i love Picasa. Its by far the most appropriate tool for managing my photo/image collection.

Good things:

It uses flat text .ini files to save db data and metadata such as favourites, hidden photos and the like. This is particularly good if you dual boot like i do as both my instance of Picasa in Windows and in Ubuntu are in sync with each other.

Its interface is so great, very usable.

It provides a sane degree of photo editing tools. If i need to do more complicated things i can just open files in the GIMP or PS.

It can render PSD files. I havent come across many Linux apps that will accurately do this. Even the GIMP fails in this regard with many more complex PSD files. Picasa excels, and moreover can render PSD files very quickly.

It has a smooth interface, even on linux everything glides beautifully. This is just the way images should be viewed. Moreover, Picasa's slideshow is by far one of the nicest around, having such a lovely fade into the next image that does not suffer from the vertical sync jitter issues i have seen in many native linux apps.

It catalogues images in a way that makes sense to me. By folder and by date. No wierd paradigms ala F-Spot.

Picasa, its fast! Faster than F-Spot on my system, it can import my entire collection in no time.

Anyway i am happy Google is extending a degree of support for Picasa on Linux. Sure things can be better (native), but Picasa via wine is still an incredible application to use and is a tribute to all the hardwork put in by the WINE folks.

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Picasa 2.7 a slick upgrade on Linux

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 71.61.88.3] on January 09, 2008 08:50 PM
I hope google keeps up the good work.

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Picasa 2.7 a slick upgrade on Linux

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 128.32.198.160] on January 10, 2008 01:55 AM
I can't test it right now, but I believe you could zoom either with the arrow up/down or with page up/down keys. Could someone confirm this?

Also, the last time I used Picasa on windows it had some serious issues when using mirrored images. For example, take an image, mirror it (Ctrl+H, i think), and then try to crop it. It would always crop the non-mirrored image instead. Is this still the case?

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Picasa 2.7 a slick upgrade on Linux

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 64.86.141.133] on January 10, 2008 06:42 PM
You'd think that Google would just have all their apps done in QT, that way they could compile and run natively on windows, mac, linux and others.

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Picasa 2.7 a slick upgrade on Linux

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 69.224.113.14] on January 10, 2008 07:10 PM
The problem is that Google just buys these apps after someone else has started developing them, otherwise they probably would just use QT or something. I guess the nice thing is that Google then ends up contributing a heck of a lot to the Wine project which has helped push it along. Wine is getting pretty impressive. And hey, at least their not written in Java. Java apps seem even slower and clunkier than running Wine apps these days.

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Picasa 2.7 a slick upgrade on Linux

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 149.168.204.10] on January 10, 2008 08:12 PM
google should fire the windows lackeys and hire REAL developers. Then maybe they can use a toolkit like QT or WX to write real x-platform apps. Wine, huh ?!

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Google yum repos - why isn't Google Earth in them?

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 87.194.100.144] on January 12, 2008 12:09 PM
The most interesting aspect of this article isn't some beta release of Picasa, but the fact that Google has yum repositories (I never knew that!). Sadly, though, not only isn't there a 64-bit Picasa (being WINE-based being the primary reason to blame for that), but Google Earth for Linux isn't in either the stable or testing repos - why?!

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Picasa 2.7 a slick upgrade on Linux

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 189.25.16.122] on January 13, 2008 03:58 PM
We still can´t see slideshows in full resolution. This is a main and long time bug in Picasa for Linux. This makes this app near useless in Linux.

And I can´t configure Picasa to import the movies made by my Panasonic Lumix. There are generated with the usual Apple´s Quicktime container (.mov extension) which is disabled and unselectable in Picasa for Linux... :-(

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Picasa 2.7 a slick upgrade on Linux

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 198.151.13.8] on February 15, 2008 02:35 PM
The first time picasa adjusts, rotates, etc, an image all of the EXIF data is lost. You can't even tell when the picture was taken any more. (A few years ago Canon's Zoombrowser application did this and they fixed it pretty fast. ) This flaw makes picasa, in my view, useless and I will be finding another alternative.

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