First of all, what is the same about Picasa and Google Photos? Why are we talking about them both in the same article? And, why are both Picasa and Google Photos the subject of this website? It’s because they are both photo management tools by Google. But that’s where the similarity ends. Saying that Picasa and Google Photos are both photo management tools, is like saying that a car and a jet are both transportation tools. Although it’s true, the two serve very different functions.
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Mature vs. New:
Picasa has been around since 2003. Actually it started well before that, but it was purchased by Google in 2003 and became extremely popular in the following years.
Google Photos is a brand new product by Google, built from the ground up to be a tool for photos and videos in today’s mobile and cloud world. It’s official announcement was in May of 2015. Watch the Google Photos launch video for a great overview.
- Computer vs. Cloud:
PIcasa is software for your PC or Mac computer to manage photos on your computer. Picasa is for people who want to organize and work with photos on their computer.
Google Photos is web-based storage (in your Google Account) of all your photos and mobile Apps and Web interface to work with them. There is no computer software for Google Photos, you use a web-browser interface and Photos.Google.com, photos must be uploaded to your Google account online to work with them in Google Photos. Google Photos is for people who, potentially, don’t even have a computer. They use smartphones, tablets, and cloud (Internet) based resources.
- Software vs. Service:
You get Picasa by downloading the free software to your computer from www.picasa.google.com. After downloading it, you no longer need the Internet. It is old-fashioned computer software, like what we used to buy in boxes and install from disks. It does have a feature to upload photos to the Internet, but that is secondary to its main function. In its early years, when you uploaded pictures to your Google Account, that was called Picasa Web Albums. Now it’s called Google Photos. It is this history, from PIcasa Web Albums (2006-2012) to Google+ Photos (2012-2015) to Google Photos (2015…) which causes much of the confusion.
You have the Google Photos service simply by having a Google Account. Get Google Photos for your Android devices by installing the free App from the Play Store. You get Google Photos for your iPhone or iPad by installing the free App from the App store. You use Google Photos on your computer thru a web interface at www.photos.google.com – you must be logged in to your Google Account. If you want Google Photos to upload all the photos currently on your computer, you also need to download the Desktop Uploader from www.photos.google.com/apps.
- Folders or One big Shoebox:
Picasa works with photos, on your computer, in folders. The folders are those folders that you create on your computer’s hard drive, usually within the My Pictures folder. Every photo must be in a folder. I keep 50 – 500 photos in each folder. If you delete a folder of pictures from your hard drive they are gone from Picasa’s view.
Google Photos works with pictures on the web, in your Google Account. There are no ‘folders.’ Your Google Photos library is like one giant shoebox of all your photos. I have roughly 50,000 pictures in my account. All 50,000 are in one big dump simply called “Photos.” Google Photos then gives you tools to view those photos in different groupings: by day/month/year, by person, by place, by thing. It’s magic. You do not do anything except click on the view you want. If you want custom groupings, you can also make Albums in Google Photos, but it is not required. If you make Albums, they are simply pointers to the pictures in the main library – like a playlist. If you delete photos from an Album – or even the entire album, the photos are still there in your Google Photos library. If you delete pictures from your Library, they are gone, they will also be gone from the Albums.
If you are accustomed to dividing your pictures into folders, this is something you need to UNlearn in order to understand Google Photos.
- Different Features
Picasa has some features that Google Photos does not. Picasa can add captions to your photos that are stored with the picture file itself and can be viewed by other software. I love captions. I cannot live without captions! Picasa can add a watermark to your photos. So, I will continue to use Picasa – then upload my pictures to Google Photos after adding a caption and a watermark. Picasa can add text directly to the picture. Picasa can create custom collages.
Google Photos has many features that Picasa does not. Google Photos can share photos directly to Facebook, Twitter, Google+, or with a link it creates. Google Photos can combine photos and video clips into movies with automatic transitions and music. I LOVE the movies! The movies that Google Photos can make have revitalized my enjoyment of my pictures. Google Photos can make “stories” of a series of photos, video clips, and maps.
There’s LOTS more to understand, but I hope this gives you a foundation to understand the difference between Picasa and Google Photos. If you’re just starting to take photos, Google Photos is probably all you need. If you’ve been using Picasa for a while, keep using Picasa, but ALSO start using Google Photos – it is the way of the future.
Here’s a 7 minute video on what I think is so special about Google Photos: