May 262011

Words do matter.  If you ask a question and you use the term ‘Upload’ when the correct term is ‘Import’ you might not get the answer you were looking for!  I see this all the time.

In the Clouds

Let me give you an image that helps me remember the meaning of Upload and Download.  It is very useful to think of the Internet as existing in the clouds above the earth.  In reality, of course, the Internet is made up of lots of computers and cables here on the ground, but since they are accessible without regard to space or time, it’s as if the Internet is a parallel universe above the earth.  Thus the popular current terminology of ‘cloud computing’ simply means all the data your computer is accessing exists on the Internet instead of on your computer.  ‘On the Internet’ and ‘In the Clouds’ have become synonymous.  We also refer to this as Web-based.


Picasa Web Albums vs. Picasa

Picasa is software that exists on your computer and manages photo files on your computer.  Picasa Web Albums (PWA) is a photo-sharing website.  It exists on the Internet, the Web,  … in the clouds.  To ‘Upload’ means to copy from Picasa to Picasa Web Albums; to ‘Download’ means to copy from Picasa Web Albums to your computer.


The terms are not used just by Picasa.  In general computer terminology ‘Upload’ simply refers to a direction … from your computer to the Internet.  ‘Download’ refers to the other direction … from the Internet to your computer.  Even if all you’re doing is browsing the web, upload and download activity is taking place.  When you click a link, you are uploading a request to see something.  Images you view on your browser are downloading to your browser.


Picasa’s Import command is what you use to copy pictures onto your computer from some external device.  That device is usually your camera, but it can also be a scanner, a USB drive, or even a folder on a CD or DVD.  When you insert a camera card into your computer’s card reader (or attach the camera with a cable to your computer) you probably see a popup dialog box asking if you want to ‘Copy pictures to your computer using Picasa.’  When you click on that you are using Picasa’s Import feature.


Import has nothing to do with the Internet.  Import is Picasa’s tool for copying pictures onto your computer from whatever device has the pictures.  You don’t even have to use Picasa’s Import tool if you don’t want to. For a long time, I preferred the import procedures on Canon’s ZoomBrowser.  I would use that software to get the pictures from my camera to my computer.  Once that was done, I would use Picasa to manage them.  As long as they were somewhere within the My Pictures, Picasa would see them as soon as I opened Picasa.

Import also has nothing to do with the relationship between Picasa and pictures that are already on your computer.  If you have pictures on your computer already and you’re not seeing them using Picasa, then you need to use the Folder Manager to make them show up.  If you use the Import command to find pictures already on your computer and then import them to another folder – you will now have duplicates!  Import = Copy.

Remember, Picasa does not store your pictures.  Your pictures are located on your computer, usually within the My Pictures folder, and Picasa sees them there.  The Folder Manager (Tools, Folder Manager) is where Picasa is told which folders to watch – aka ‘scan.’

This tip brought to you by Geeks on Tour

Geeks on Tour is a membership website with hundreds of Tutorial Videos on topics of interest to travelers, such as managing digital photos with Picasa, Route-Planning with Streets and Trips, and sharing your travels with a website using Blogger or with friends on Facebook. You can subscribe to our free e-newsletters, orbecome a paid member and be able to view all of the videos in the Learning Library.


  10 Responses to “Picasa Definitions: Upload, Download, Import”

  1. I still don’t fully understand the difference. Export, same as upload? Import. Same as download? If the use of the above synonyms is correct, then I am O.K. THANKS! GK

  2. I`m fairly new on the computer and I`m having problems putting them from my emails to Picasa. I`ve tried everything, but nothing seems to work. Can you please help me.

  3. When I copy pictures from my camera card, they appear in Picasa, but I can’t find them in My Pictures. What am I doing wrong?

    Thanks for all your helpful tips.

  4. I love your tips. I wonder if you could add a “printer friendly” option for those we might like to print? Thank you.

  5. You forgot “export.” If I manipulate photos in Picasa and then export them to a folder, do I have a second set of images with all the changes saved? If I copy that folder onto a DVD, the corrected photos will be there. How does this differ from the “save as” command?

    • I considered including ‘Export’ in this article but decided that made it too complex. A past article explains export pretty well:
      You are correct – Export does create a separate set of images with all the changes saved. The difference from Save As is that Export allows you to change the size as well. If you’re a Geeks on Tour Member (, you can watch a video that goes thru all the different ways to save and give samples of each. It’s in the Picasa Series, #32 ‘Ways to Save’.

      • As always, excellent piece. This is so confusing for some folks and this is so clearly written. When teaching can we share this?


    • In Picasa , after modifying my photo’s , what steps need to be taken to download onto a
      USB so I can get hard copies . Greatly appreciate easy steps


  6. Chris, I think my brain is in the clouds now. Can I download some common sense? Your tips are always great, sometimes new to me, sometimes not, but they are always clear and helpful! Thanks.

  7. Good explanations, Chris! Thanks for another good piece of work.

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