Picasa and iPhoto are great, but you can spend big bucks for a higher octane program, too.
Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously available online since 1983

T e c h n o f i l e
$300 Microsoft software ideal for managing digital photos, but free programs do well, too

Feb. 10, 2008

By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2008, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2008, The Post-Standard

   Where's that picture?
   It's not in a shoebox any more. Life got a little more complicated when most of us started switching to digital cameras. We're storing our photos on computers, not in desk drawers and cardboard boxes. And finding those pictures can be a pain.
   That's why you need help. The right software can locate your pictures and even put them into categories for you. It can do a lot more, if you'd like. It can help you track down bad pictures -- the ones you took of the ceiling last spring, for example -- and it can find all your duplicates (the shots of the soccer match you took off the camera three times by mistake, maybe).
   This week I'm offering three suggestions for photo-management software. Serious photographers who take a zillion pictures a year will want to consider my third proposal, which costs quite a bit and has many extra features. Everybody else is likely to be happy with the first two programs, one for Windows and one for Macs. They're both free.
   You can't beat the price of these photo-management programs:
      Picasa, for Windows only, from Google. It can be downloaded and installed easily. Get it free from http://picasa.google.com/download.
      iPhoto, for Macs only, from Apple. If you have a Mac made in the last six years, you have it on your Mac. If you don't see it in the Dock, look in the Applications folder.
   Picasa finds all the pictures on your Windows PC as soon as you run it. They're shown as thumbnails -- small versions that you can click on to view. Check the menus (and right click on your pictures, too; you'll get more menus) and you'll see how Picasa lets you improve your pictures in various ways.
   Picasa never moves or copies your pictures to a separate location; what you see are the actual photos right where they are. You won't have to wonder "where Picasa put my pictures," as someone asked me recently, because Picasa doesn't move them anywhere. They're right where Picasa originally found them. You can read more about Picasa on the Technofile Web site, atwww.technofileonline.com/texts/tec010707.html.
   iPhoto is simple and easy to use. It pops open whenever you connect your camera to the computer. It can show all your photos, or just some of them if you create albums for various categories. And you can rate pictures with stars -- 5 stars for the best, down to no stars for those shots of the ceiling. You'll find more on iPhoto here: www.technofileonline.com/texts/tec011506.html.
   Professionals and serious amateurs need something more powerful than Picasa and iPhoto. My choice -- the program I use myself -- is from Microsoft, called Expression Media. It's available for Windows and Macs. (Microsoft bought the software recently. It used to be called iView Media Pro.)
   Expression Media is ideal for cataloging and sorting tens of thousands of photos. It's the fastest image-management program I've ever tried, whether on Windows or Macs. I have more than 100,000 photos, but Expression Media speeds through them like a bullet train.
   Get a free trial version from www.microsoft.com/expression. Buying it will set you back $300, but there's no cheaper way to get what it offers.