Sep 192010

Dear Picasa,

You know I love you, I’ve told thousands of people about you – and they love you too.  But I have a suggestion for improvement.  As you’ve grown, and as my library of pictures has grown, there is one area that I believe needs a redesign – the Collections sidebar.  I’m talking about the left side of the screen when viewing the Library.


The Collections Sidebar needs a Redesign

Many people have mistakenly deleted their precious pictures because they’re confused about the difference between Albums and Folders.  And others have completely lost whole groups of pictures because they were in a collection that had scrolled off the screen at the bottom – so they re-imported the pictures – now they have so many duplicates!  Then there’s the projects, like collages, which seemingly disappear when you choose Tree View

Don’t get me wrong, you have some incredibly powerful and useful organizational tools.  I love albums, people, and the ability to sort folders by date.  But having all of these features lumped into the left sidebar with overlapping visuals is *way* too confusing.  Add to that the fact that all the features of that sidebar change if you click the Tree View button, and we see chaos.  Most people don’t even know what the Tree View button is, let alone what it does and why it makes all the other collections disappear.

Use Tabs

Some people consider me an expert in using Picasa (there are actually many who are much more expert than I, I just teach a lot of people), but even I get lost and confused as I try to navigate my thousands of pictures using your Collections sidebar.  I think it’s time to break it up into tabs – just like the Editing sidebar.  And the default tab should be Folders in Tree View – using the manila folder icon, and sorted alphabetically just like the default view in Windows Explorer.  Then, it might be a lot more clear that Picasa doesn’t change the folder structure that exists on the computer.  It would look something like the following … and notice all the screen space (just above the folder list) for other options and explanations!  That space could be used to explain albums when using the Album tab, and Faces on the People tab.


Tired of Beating my Head Against a Wall

Picasa has become our most popular topic as we teach computer classes to travelers all over the country.  One of the sessions this summer had 740 people in the live audience, plus 420 online!  We Iove the Oooohs and Aaaahs that come from the crowd when I show them how to make a crooked picture straight, a dark picture light, or make a collage of dozens of face-shots of one person with a single click.  But I’m starting to get very irritable when explaining, for the thousandth time, that “Picasa does not store, copy, move, or rearrange your pictures!  It is just your tool for working with the pictures in your My Pictures folder.”  No matter how many ways I’ve come up with to explain it, how many times I demonstrate, or how many different analogies I use, people don’t get it.  They still complain that Picasa ‘puts their pictures all over the place.’

You can’t always believe your eyes

After explaining it for the 1,010th time, and still seeing that glazed over look in my students’ eyes, I realize that it is impossible for them to get it.  Why?  Because they believe what their eyes tell them, not what my words say.  And, their eyes are seeing a jumble of different folders, albums and collections like the screen shot at the top.

What you can do now

My bet is that the next version of Picasa will show a different way to view folders, albums, and collections.  If not exactly like the model I propose, then something even better.  But, till then, what can you do to make the Collections sidebar a little more manageable?  My recommendation is to collapse all but the Folders collection, *and* to display that in Tree View.  This is the closest approximation to seeing your folders as Explorer (or Finder for Mac) shows them.  Then, whenever you want to use Albums – expand that collection, then collapse it when you’re done.  Here’s what it looks like:


Leave a Comment

Please leave a comment whether you agree, or disagree, with this article.  Do you have trouble navigating your pictures using the left sidebar in Picasa?  Or, do you especially like the way it is now?  Do you have any suggestions or requests on how to change it?

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Folders and Folder Collection

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  45 Responses to “Picasa, I Love You … Now Change!”

  1. Hi there,

    I know it’s an old post, but nevertheless I’d like to explain, how I use collections, maybe it helps at least someone since nothing has changed in the handling of collections in Picasa. There’s a lot of confusion out there. I have heaps of pictures, currently 60,233. They need to be organised well to find every picture I want to.

    I store all my pictures in folders and subfolders as follows: year/month/day/folder (example: 2012/01/08/Mike’s Birthday). The name of the folder can be an event, a place, a happening, whatever you like. The breaking of the folders down to a day allows me to create folders with the same name over and over again. Example: sunset. I like to take pictures of sunsets as they appear, so when I have more than one sunset a month, I’d be stuck with the naming. I don’t like naming my folders with a number.

    Now, I have also sunrises. And rain. And rainbows. Those are all related topics. So they all go into my collection “Weather, Sky”. Since I’m living on the road, I have a collection called “Campgrounds, Rest Areas, Overnight” where I store folders with pictures of places where I’m living.

    If you gather lots of folders over the years in the same collection, they get divided by the year like the blue albums, too. There’s the nice thing: In the collection view (flat tree view) you can sort also by folder name. For example I can use that if I want to compare how a place I’ve lived has changed over the time (presuming I called the folder the same name, so they’re next to each other).

    Very handy comes a collection called “Birthdays”. I’m having birthday parties all together, divided by the year.

    I uploaded 4 screenshots, please have a look here: The 4th screenshot shows all the folders in 2012. It seems like a lot of folders (and that’s just one year, I have now over 10 years) but Picasa handels it quite well, no big issues so far.

    I hope, I could give some people an idea about using collections. Of course I work with tags, faces and places, too. It’s a super organised database 🙂

    And – very important – I backup often onto an external harddrive.

    And yes, I love organising my photos 😉 Maybe you now too?

    Have fun,

  2. Bonjour,
    Mon probleme avec PICASA 3.9 : Comment télécharger un album de plusieurs photos que je viens de recevoir par invitation.,??

    Avec l’ancienne version 3.8, il me sufisait de faire ” action”,puis télécharger vers PICASA pour ensuite exporter vers un dossier de mon disque dur.

    Merci par avance de m’informer.

  3. I happen to LOVE the collections bar!! I am presently over 3/4 through ‘fixing’ 1000 old slides and without the collections and albums it would be a total nightmare. I use Photoshop CS5 for editing but I find the ability to use the collections and albums wonderful. I’m sorry that some find Picasa hard to use–I think it is the easiest, most straightforward little program I have ever used! With computers there are some things you just must apply yourself and you will understand it. Great job, Picasa! Thank you!

  4. I used to be very happy with Picasa but now am mostly aggravated with it (duplicates, inability to name new imports, etc.). Does any one know of better photo management software even if it is not free?

    • My second choice is another free program. It’s from Microsoft … Windows Live Photo Gallery. I’m afraid I could never switch completely though because I’d miss Text on pictures, collages, and screen captures – just to name a few of the very special features on Picasa. There’s nothing to stop you from using it in addition to Picasa however. Even Windows Libraries offer organizing features that you can use in addition to Picasa. Many professionals I know use Adobe Lightroom for organizing. But then you need to use something else for editing. Picasa is still the best for doing *everything* – even if it is getting a bit bloated and difficult to understand.

  5. The export in order problem has been fixed in ver 3.9 (if not earlier??) – in the export dialogue box just tick the box that says add numbers to preserve order.

    My biggest gripe with picasa is that when you rename folders or move the photos picasa loses everything – they should have a feature which allows you to point the programme in the direction of the new location for the photos and then automatically rebuild the albums from there — much the same way as Adobe Premiere does for video projects when you move the source files. I think it’s a huge problem with a simple solution.

    I don’t find the collections pane a problem though I can see tabs would probably be an improvement


  6. I 100% agree with the article – it’s great but this part is NOT. Fix it please Google.

  7. […] will concede that Picasa is not blameless in these car wrecks – see my past article “Picasa, I Love You … Now Change! – but these are your precious pictures.  It behooves you to understand exactly how they are […]

  8. I have given up on Picasa too. Most of the time I can’t even find the program on my computer. When I download pictures to Picasa they are not in my Picture file at all. I use to like making an Album to email pictures but now I seem to end up with only one picture in the file.

  9. Hi… Yeah… I like the “tabs” presentation idea… Very nice idea. I’m really used to the current interface, and it doesn’t really bother me. I understand what’s going on. But so many people don’t “get it” and the resulting confusion leads to lots of problems.

    As an aside, I see people “whining” about the “keep my photos in order” on a CD issue… Yes… I’ve been suggesting that improvement for several years now… so far the Picasa guys haven’t addressed that at all and it’d be pretty easy to do. They’d have to optionally add a numeric prefix to the photo names as they burn them to the CD (or write them to an export folder). BUT… I kind of think CDs are going the way of the floppy drive. But the feature needs to be there in the Export stuff at least.

    • I see that Picasa will now keep a Picasa Web Album in the same order as you manually rearranged in Picasa. Whatever technique they use for that could maybe be translated to Gift CD?

  10. Chris,
    Your suggestions are right on! Tabs at the top would be great with Folders in Tree structure as the default view. I prefer that view too as I like to see things the way they are in Windows Explorer. I do recommend Picasa to friends, but I always caution them to understand how it works, especially the Saves.

    I love your videos, email tips, and website. You are very good with explanations.

  11. Chris, I love Picasa and use it a lot, however the most frustrating part is when I “lose” my albums or faces and have to search for them. I also don’t understand why the albums do not automatically become listed in the order that I enter them (from two camera sources). Keep up the great work!
    Rod Keech

  12. I have stopped using Picasa because it mixes up my picture folders so much it is impossible to do anything with them. I loved the straightening, and lightening up the pictures… but could not stand the frustration.

  13. Your suggestions are great. I leave my sort in tree view all the time and keep the others collapsed. In addition, by clicking the little down arrow just to the right, I have chosen “sort by name”, “sort people by name” AND “simplified tree view” at the bottom. My folders are then sorted just like in the My Pictures folder. My folders are sorted by 01 & 02. 01 is for personal etc photos. Then by year, month & within months maybe an event. If it is a BIG trip, then a folder for just that trip with many subfolders by place. It is pretty easy to find the photo I want.
    I have flowers, birds, etc in 02 & sorted by subject then color folders. Windows Photo Gallery (Vista & 7) also sorts by date in case a photo is misfiled. Photos deleted by accident are still in the recycle bin until deleted. I don’t have CCleaner clean the recycle bin automatically.

  14. Love your suggestions. i love Picasa but get frustrated time wise when it needs better organization of my pictures

  15. Hi Chris, I’m Brian from the Picasa team. These are great suggestions, thanks for your feedback and your mock ups. I love getting feedback from our users, and I’ll share this with the rest of our team. Thank you.

  16. One simple change that would help organization when you DO get those duplicates – allow overwriting! When I tried to move duplicates to a location where the originals are located, my options were to rename and skip! I couldn’t overwrite or delete!

  17. I also teach both Beginners and Moving-on Groups and use Picasa for the basics in photo editing. However, like you, I have tried so many ways to get thro the Folder and View system PLUS the important bit about Picasa does NOT duplicate photos but only indexes. Even then there has been major disasters where precious photos have been lost forever. ´I have them in Picasa so I do not need them in Windows Explorer as well´. Plus the Duplicate issue is a nightmare. Hve you tried the Tools – Experimental-Show Duplicate Files option? This helps a little BUT is also very confusing.
    Some software writers just go blindly on adding new gimmicks rather than making their basic product better, few will listen to their users or even respond to comment. I usually create a ´Wish List´of features I would like to see changed or added to a piece of software. When I post to a Forum or EMail directly it is all too often ignored. There was one exception and that was Hofmann Photo Albums. and they responded, put the ideas to their software developers and in the next and subsequent versions took on board many of the features and changes. So PICASA.. listen to your users! Good luck with putting pressure on them.

  18. I agree, Picasa is very difficult to navigate. Thanks for the tips.

  19. Chris,

    You are sooooo right. I thought it was me — and I understand computers pretty well. I de-installed and then re-installed Picasa expecting a different outcome. Sill me. Your suggestions make perfect sense. Thank you.

  20. Hi Chris

    I am in total agreement with you so hope they change soon. It is very confusiing to me so hoping to get a new update soon. As many people that use Picasa I would think they will put this on thier plate for review and change. A little more picture editiing features would be nice also. Thanks

  21. Hi Cris.

    By the way, I just love following you & Jim. And all of the worndeful topics that you suply to us. I have been with you for a very long time. And joined when you wentt to a Membership. For myself, I think I am more confused now, then the day I first downloaded Picasa. I for one, would love to see some major changes to Picasa. I agraa, that it is way to easy to delete some of your pictures. I think that there shoould be a way to un-do double and triple sets of repeated pictures. I have watched every thing you have put out to view, and I also have read every singal word that you & Jim have ever said. I think the more I learn, the less that I really understand what I am doing. If you could seee my Side-Bar, I think you would for sure Faint. I do believe that there is a lot of room for improvement from Picasa. I understand it is a Free Program. But i find it very hard to use. I think they need to make it a lot more user friendly. I would like to see some improvements in being able to easily remove un-wanted pictues from certian files or folders, with out deleteing it completely from Picasa. I know that I am mentally challenged, ( Do to Medicial Problems)as we have written to each other before, when I had problems and requested your help. I think that Picasa could use a very large Help Program also. A Help Program, that is really geared to really helping a user to really understand how to fix things. Confused More Than Ever. Thanks to both of you for all of your help and support

  22. I agree completely! I am so confused by the list of folders. Why can’t it be like the list in “my pictures” where the originals are stored???? why can’t we name out own…the dates are more not less confusing…..

  23. I really thought I was doing it all wrong. I had such a hard time with P and Chris and Jim did it so easily. I will look forward to the changes.

  24. I am a fairly new user. I endorse what you are saying to Picasa. I am sure it will make it easier. Thanks.

  25. I echo these same feelings. The collections sidebar has been in need of a revamping for quite sometime. I hope the folks at Google are hard at work on this feature for the next update to Picasa. I know we are complaining about free software, but it will never get better if we the everyday users don’t make our desires for improvements known. I am very confident that someone from Google is following the Geeks on Tour sites and our comments are being read.

    • I’d love a revamp also. I have multiple sets of files since I have a back-up drive also. Those files show and it is very easy to lose track of where things are. I love Picasa, and the only other feature I would love to have is a “darken” slide to darken those photos taken in direct sun. The contrast, etc. isn’t enough sometimes.
      Thanks, Google!

  26. Great article and great ideas. I always view my photos in the folder view never in the Collections view – it’s just too confusing.

    A thing I would love to see in a future version of Picasa is to be able to group albums. For example if I have 5 albums with photos from Australia and 10 albums from my Europe trip I would like to create main albums and add all the Australian photos under one main album and all the Europe trip under another main album.
    Something like this:


    Europe trip

    This would make my organisation so much easier especially when I have around 100 albums.

  27. I agree, although I personally do not have any difficulty understanding the concepts. Others I talk with just don’t get it.

  28. I agree. You did a great job of explaining the need. Your suggested fix is very nice–and it aligns with what already exists in the Editing portion of Picasa.

  29. Chris, when I saw your tabs, I actually breathed a sigh of relaxation. That is an awesome idea! Did you post your idea in the forum? It certainly makes the collections sidebar look more simple and less cluttered. I use Tree View all the time. Finding some of the other collections isn’t easy.

  30. Yes – please do this. I have been so very confused and could not find what I was looking for, The editing tools on Picasa are so good – how could the organization bar be so chaotic?!?!
    Thank you.

  31. See…..Keep it simple. I can’t even send my message correctly. Still I love Picasa. In a few weeks I’m getting a new computer. I’ll try hard to get it together properly.

  32. Yes, please make it simple. Some of us aren’t very good on the computer.

  33. I have fought with this issue since the very first time I used Picasa years ago. I have given up. I love and still use Picasa but I no longer suggest it to my friends…they just can’t grasp it and they get all confused!

  34. I totally agree but would add one more important feature. When burning a CD I would have a box to select, “burn in the order that I have chosen” in Picasa and not the numbers in Windows. Creating a CD in order is a nightmare.

    • I found that I had to rename all my photos in my Windows Pictures file since Picasa uses that numbering sequence. I renumbered them and they changed in Picasa. I spent untold hours moving them, burning CDs, and they reverted to the old order every time. I also found this very frustrating. Today I had photos from several club members and I had to renumber them before burning a CD. You’re right. There should be a better way!

  35. Sounds like a GOOD improvement to Me

    Thanks Chris hope they hear us all


  36. Great idea. The current setup is confusing even if you know what you are doing most of the time. Thanks for the suggestion to simplify ‘until’ it gets changed to Tabs, even better.




  38. I absolutely agree! I was faced with the situation last year where my old laptop “died” and had to be replaced. Fortunately, I was able to save the old hard drive in a case to use as a backup hard drive and to transfer my old files. But what really complicated things was that I started using Picasa at about the same time. I haven’t “wiped” the old drive yet, because I’m still not sure I’ve transfered all the pictures! Very frustrating, and I’m an ex-IBM Systems Engineer!!

  39. Wonderful idea, is there a place to echo the suggestion.

    • Further, why can’t we export Picasa photos in the same order as they are in our folders? I am going to have to spend hours rearranging a 297-picture album! I do not recommend Picasa to friends. Most of us have editing programs on our computer. But I have been using Picasa and am not sure how to change.

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