Jan 042012

To upgrade, or not to upgrade, is that your question?  There are definitely some features worth upgrading for!  And that is what I’ll talk about in this article.  However, your pictures are precious, and any upgrade can have it’s problems on some people’s computers so what do you do first? 

You better know the answer to this question! 


Already have a good backup of all your pictures?  Ok, let’s go.  You might be able to upgrade by clicking on Help and Check for Updates but more often than not, this won’t inform you about new versions.  If it reports that ‘This application is up to date’ you can still update to version 3.9 by going to the website at www.picasa.google.com and click the big “Download Picasa” button.  Follow the instructions to download, then install or Run.  Be prepared to wait a bit, this is a bigger file than past versions.  I found that the Run process took an abnormally long time and it had no progress bar showing – so, just be patient, it will finally pop up with the license agreement and, after you click ‘I agree’ and Ok the folder location, you’re almost done.

Cool New Effects

In my last article about Picasa 3.9 I mentioned the differences in your opening screen, this time I want you to take a look at the effects.  There are two more tabs-worth of effects.  As usual with Picasa, they are simple click and maybe drag a slider bar or two to try them out.  If you don’t like the effect, you can always Undo.


The Lomo-ish effect looks more rich, vibrant and focused on the center while the edges are dark.  If you read about Lomography you’ll find that it’s film photography with an old toy camera! 


The HDR-ish (High Dynamic Range) effect is kind of like Sharpen on steroids. In fact, I find that I need to move the sliders all toward the middle to lessen the effect a bit. But, I really do like the sharpness and contrast that HDR-ish can give. The picture on the left is my original, the right has added HDR-ish effect.


This look comes from a slide-sandwich technique devised by Michael Orton.  In addition to adding depth and richness to the photo, there’s some dreamy, blurring going on.

Framing effects

I think these are my favorite new effects.  The picture above demonstrates both ‘Vignette’ – the dark shadow around the edges, and ‘Museum Matte’ where you can define an inner and outer frame at specified width and color.  There is also ‘Polaroid’ which adds a thick white border, and a simple border or drop shadow.

There’s even more – too many to show you here.  Some of the effects are fun, but I doubt I’ll use them often, like Neon:


And, here’s one that I doubt I’ll ever use, but it might be a lifesaver for some folks – Invert colors can be used to make a negative be positive.

Invert Colors: Positive/Negative

Side by Side Editing

All the above images come from using the new feature of side-by-side editing.  You can put one picture up on the screen twice and apply editing features to just one of them to see the difference.  You can also put two different pictures on the screen side by side.  Very easy, and very useful!

New Album Definitions

If you use Albums a lot, this might just be the one feature to make it worth upgrading!  In the past, I’ve had to caution users, and explain in depth how Albums are a Picasa-only feature.  If you copied your pictures to another computer without using PIcasa’s backup and restore, for example, you would lose your album definitions (not the pictures themselves – just the album groupings).  Now, in 3.9, album definitions are stored in the same picasa.ini file as all edits – right in the same folder with the pictures.  So, if you move a folder of pictures to another computer, then install Picasa, it will be able to read the album designations from the Picasa.ini file in the folder, and recreate your albums for you.  Woo Hoo!  One less thing to worry about.

What about Google Plus?

Some folks are distressed that, in version 3.9, Picasa Web Albums seems to be going away and in it’s place is Google Plus.  I have three things to say about that:

  1. Realize that Picasa Web Albums is on the web.  It is a companion to Picasa on your computer that you can choose to use or not. If all you do is use the Picasa software for managing the pictures on your computer, then the change from Picasa Web Albums to Google Plus Photos doesn’t affect you at all.
  2. If you do use Picasa Web Albums – which requires a Google account – and you’ve never linked your Google account to Google Plus, then nothing has changed for you.  When you click the ‘Share’ button you will be sharing on Picasa Web Albums.  Google will continue to encourage you to join Google Plus, but so far as I can tell, you can just say no.  I’m not sure how long this will be true, but if Picasa Web Albums does morph completely into Google Plus Photos, I doubt that sticking with an old version of the Picasa computer program will make a difference.
  3. Google is on the move and we can’t stop them – I can’t anyway.  It makes a lot of sense for Google to be rounding up their successful products like Picasa and Blogger and bringing them in under one company umbrella like Google Plus.  Google is giving us these amazing products for free, they deserve to have their brand on them. 

Go Ahead … Upgrade

So, my recommendation is to go ahead and upgrade to 3.9.  It has some cool new effects, and one really important change under the hood with Albums.  Things are changing with Picasa Web Albums, but you don’t have to participate if you don’t want.  Hey, you can even use Picasa and just share photos online with Facebook, or Flickr, or PhotoBucket.  But, if you go along with Google, you might even find you like Google Plus!

I’m still just hoping they improve the Folder/Collections sidebar!

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, or become a paid member and be able to view all of the videos in the Learning Library.