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

Tree Folder Structure

Library View

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