Apr 212010

Albums and Tags are both methods of identifying and grouping your photos.  Any given picture can be marked to appear in many Albums.  And, any given picture can have many tags (aka keywords.)  See last week’s article on Tags. The main difference is that Tags are bits of data that are stored with the picture itself and Albums are a creation of Picasa.  You can even see Tags while browsing your pictures in Windows My Pictures.  It works the other way too.  Tags entered using Windows will be useable in Picasa.  Tags are stored with the picture just like the date taken is stored with the picture.

Here’s how tags show up in Windows Explorer:

I love Picasa’s Album feature, but it makes me nervous.  You see, albums are a creation of Picasa alone.  They are easy to lose because the information about a picture belonging to an album is not stored with the picture.  It’s stored in a separate database file, buried in the user Profile, called a .pal file.  If something gets messed up with your Albums, you can use a backup of the .pal file to get them back.  There are lots of messages in the user forum like this message which discusses how to get albums restored.  It is not a simple matter.

Use Albums *and* Tags

Here’s how I do it.  Once I’ve created an album, I’ll select all the pictures in that album and assign a tag.  Now I have the best of both worlds, I have the album in Picasa which can be used just like a folder, but if I should delete that album, I can still find and group all the pictures by searching for the tag.

For example, let’s say I have an album for all the photos I’ve ever taken in Utah.  I use that album to play slideshows.  I will also select all the pictures in the album and apply a tag ‘Utah.’  You do that by clicking on ‘Tags’ in the lower right corner (or shortcut Ctrl-T) typing Utah, and press Enter.

When I tire of playing the Utah slideshow I might delete the Album ‘Utah’, secure in the knowledge that I could re-create it at any time just by searching for ‘Utah.’  My search results will find all the pictures tagged with Utah.  ‘Search results’ is actually a temporary album – that temporary album can now be used just like any other album.  You can play a slideshow from the temporary album.  Or, you can select all pictures in the temporary album and add them to a new, permanent album.

Unique Tags

Be aware that your search might find the word ‘Utah’ in other places besides the tags.  Search uses filenames, captions, and folder names and descriptions as well.  If you really want the tag to be used just to re-create this exact album, you’ll need a unique tag like, “utah-album.”  Also make sure there are no spaces or commas.  Although you can have multi-word tags, if there is a space – search will treat each word separately and you’ll still end up with more than you wanted.

Show Tag as Album

There is also an experimental tool that, with one click, will display a tag as an album.  It’s Tools / Experimental / Show Tag as Album.  When you use this, the album will show up on the very top of the Album list (left side of library) as a green – Picasa generated – album.

If any of you have used this ‘Show Tag as Album’ feature, please leave a comment to tell us if it worked well for you.

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  6 Responses to “Albums vs. Tags”

  1. Hi,
    Albums (custom display lists of photos) in Picasa are now stored inside each photo folder in a hidden file called picasa.ini. You can open this file in notepad to read album information.

    If you copy your folders to another computer, install Picasa and rescan you will have all your albums back.

    The article doesn’t mention that XP doesn’t support tags. You can’t see them. You need windows 7.

  2. This really worked well for me because I use the “Export to HTML” feature, which applies to folders and albums, but not mere search results. So I tagged the photos I wanted in my webpage, then searched for my tag name, then applied Tools, Experimental, Show Tag As Album. Finally, I right clicked on this and Export to HTML.

    This solutions also works for “Export to Picasa Web Albums” and many folder operations, even Select All Pictures, Picture (pull-down), Batch Edit.

  3. Hi, yes, I’ve been using tags for long time and it is awesome. It has one little bug that after the album is created from the tag, it does not show immediately on the list. You have to collapse and then expand the albums list and just then it appears. Also, if there are no pictures matching that tag the album will just vanish. It’s kind of not what I would expect it to work, but after you get used to it it works great.

    One feature that I consider is missing is the possibility to start combining tags, like for instance a “Create album from tag combination” (and, or, and parenthesis, maybe through a simple popup text box).


  4. The “show tag as an album” is the best feature of Picasa. But PLEASE, PLEASE turn it into a feature were there is an option to automatically turn ALL tags into albums. And please add a feature were a list of all the tags from all the albums in any given account can be displayed. Also it would be great to have a feature in Picasa web folders to display all tags as albums (instead of the regular albums)automatically too. Thank you.

  5. I am so sorry- I had just tried it again before I left that last message and nothing had happened but when I went back to PICASA after sending that message there was the tag-generated album right where it should be…apparently it does not generate albums as quickly….nevertheless- it DID work!

  6. Funny but I’ve actually tried the ‘SHOW TAG AS ALBUM’ feature and there was no album generated- nothing showed up in green at the top of album list. Anybody ever have it work??

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