Saturday, May 09, 2009

Windows Live Photo Gallery vs Picasa 3

Please forgive me as I take this one post to go off on a techie tangent: which photo organizing / editing program I like best at the moment!

Like I once heard a rabbi say about the differences between movements in Judaism: all the boats leak. In this case, both programs are kind of good, kind of lousy. Both have their strengths, and even though I'd like to streamline my life by choosing one or the other, I think for the moment, I will have to keep both.

picasa logoPicasa 3 by Google

Picasa's strengths

  • Searching based on keywords in filename or captions is pretty good - some limitations if keyword is "hidden" ie in the middle of a filename
  • Tray allows you to easily hold and process (email, print, blog-post) multiple images
  • Photo editing basics, including auto red-eye fix and a few colour-tweak tools
  • Ability to create albums and move photos into multiple albums if desired
  • Easy posting to Picasaweb, still my photo-hosting provider of choice
  • Easy posting to YouTube (because it’s Google too)

Picasa's weaknesses

  • Awkward blog-posting interface (even to Picasa's own Blogger!) that frequently loses data or erases pictures
  • This is part of the blog-posting interface, but I have to add because it’s SO terrible: there is no UNDO feature in Picasa’s blog-posting, and if you accidentally erase a photo, there is NO WAY to put it back. >:-((( That has happened to me more times than I can count: you basically have to either exit and start over or post as-is and try to add the picture later.
  • Cannot copy / cut / paste photos in blog-posting interface
  • Cannot paste text into blog-posting interface; text pastes, but it loses all formatting and carriage returns and is often inexplicably hyperlinked.
  • Multiple error messages that popped up when using blog-posting interface in Vista (haven't seen them in XP, however)
  • Can only post 4 photos per blog-post: how arbitrary!
  • Stupid Picasa logo at the end of every single blog post. Aargh.
  • (I could go on and on about the awful blog interface, but will spare you except to say… I hate it!)
  • Photo import doesn't allow the date-foldername option I prefer
  • Cannot import Windows captions
  • Does not automatically save photo changes; you have to remember to click the Save Changes button even after “accepting” any edits you’ve made! (I suppose that’s for your own good, but it’s irritating if you forget)
  • A minor annoyance that’s growing each time it happens: When uploading photos to PicasaWeb, Picasa offers a list of all your existing online folders (or you can make a new one). To find an online folder, it’s easiest to type the first letter of the foldername, ie typing F to get to my Freecycle folder. However, even after typing the letter, you still have to CLICK on the folder name to make that the folder. Otherwise, it goes back to the default, which is creating a new folder. It is Microsoft-standard to select the item by typing the first letter. And Google-slash-Picasa is breaching this longtime standard for no good reason except making me waste keystrokes and mouse-clicks. Bah.

windows live logo

Windows Live Photo Gallery by Microsoft

Windows Live's strengths

  • Photo import from camera – nice interface! - allows you to automatically insert the date in the foldername for easy photo sorting / finding (I missed this feature terribly when we lost Vista – along with the Snipping Tool, but I downloaded snippy, a third-party one that works great)
  • Email integrated with Outlook Express
  • Email allows choice of multiple image sizes
  • Simplified, streamlined blog-posting interface that is remarkably WYSIWYG and error-free (I love it so far)
  • More sophisticated layout edit in blog-post interface (move photos around, change photo alignment/size)

Windows Live's weaknesses

  • Search interface seems more limited than Picasa (* updated Jun 30, see below; I have finally figured out why!)
  • Slideshow doesn't include videos contained in folder selected for slideshow
  • Complete lack of integrated photo-fixing tools [okay, apparently there is a FIX button that I missed completely!!!]
  • Cannot import captions from Picasa, meaning that a year's worth of Picasa captions are lost if I switch permanently (or maybe not; now they're showing up...?)
  • No visible tray makes it impossible to see which photos are selected
  • Seems impossible to select photos from multiple folders (I often include several days' pictures in a blog post)
  • Inability to post to non-Microsoft photo or video hosting (I love the flexibility to post to non-Microsoft blogging, however!) - UPDATE: Picasa add-in is slow, but seems to work. Haven't checked if it uploads captions like Picasa does. I'm uneasy about add-ins, however, because these are unknown untrusted 3rd parties asking for my Google password - which can access a lot more than just Picasa. Ditto for the YouTube add-in, but it seems to work well and fast enough. Add-ins not quite as streamlined as Picasa but more extensible in theory.
  • UPDATED as of Jun 30: The keyword search feature seems limited because it will only search the currently-selected folder. If you want to search all your photos as you type characters in the keyword box, you must first select the "root" of the hierarchy/tree. I don't like this feature, even though I'm aware of why my searches weren't working before, and still find myself forgetting to select the root and not getting search results.
  • UPDATED as of Jun 30: Keyword search also doesn't do "partial" and "in-word" matches. A photo called "temp_ducklings" will not be found if you type "duck" in the search box. BAD! :-(
  • UPDATE as of October 14: I have been familiarizing myself with Windows Live's editing tools, and in general, few are as easy or intuitive as Picasa's. Additionally, in Windows Live, the UNDO button - a crucial tool for us beginners - is inconveniently located near the bottom of the right-hand pane. It took me a few accidental saves before I found it, and I still think it's in a lousy spot. Why not near the top, like in every other MS app?

So far, I’m keeping Picasa for its photo editing tools (especially the quick, effective red-eye reduction), but using Windows Live exclusively for blog-posting. No icky logo at the end of my posts, the ability to add photos on the fly, change photo alignment, etc… well, if you blog, you’ll love this program, and be grateful to boot that you’ve escaped Picasa’s lousy interface!