Picasa is my favorite photo editor, even though I'm an expert at using Photoshop.
Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously available online since 1983


New photo software for Windows and Macs

July 31, 2011

By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2011, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2011, The Post-Standard

Digital cameras have turned all of us into photo technicians. I'd guess you can think of 300 things you'd rather do with your time.

That's why I'm so excited about new photo-editing software I've been trying out. Three of these programs not only automate many of the tedious functions required in older software, they do a better job of all the tasks of fixing and refining your photos.

I tried the latest versions of some stalwarts -- Photoshop Elements, iPhoto and Picasa -- along with two newcomers, PhotoLine and Lo-Fi. All but iPhoto are available for Windows and Macs. iPhoto is part of the free iLife suite that comes with all Macs. If you're missing it, you can get it from Apple at www.apple.com/ilife/iphoto.

Adobe Photoshop Elements (at www.adobe.com/products/photoshopel) discounts for $80 or less and is now at version 9. It's a sort of junior partner to Photoshop, Adobe's essential (and very expensive) software for professional photographers. Photoshop can do many things that Elements can't do, but most of those functions aren't necessary in consumer photo editing.

What Elements can do, and do very well, is make quick work out of improving photos. Adobe is expert at creating one-button fixes for typical problems with photos. Elements is ideal for a sophisticated amateur who wants good results in a short time.

Elements has another plus: It can run many of the plugins (small programs that offer various functions) designed for Photoshop itself. They can turn Photoshop Elements into a powerhouse.

iPhoto, supplied with all of Apple's Macs, is at version 11. (Oddly, the software version number is 9; the iPhoto version is 11. Hello, Steve Jobs?) It's much improved and is about the easiest photo editor imaginable. Don't let that fool you; iPhoto is versatile and quite advanced. The photo books you can make with iPhoto are delightful, too.

One caution: iPhoto's pictures are stored in what it calls a library. Don't try to access those pictures outside of iPhoto. You'll mess them up if you do.

Picasa, free from Google (at http://picasa.google.com), is my favorite photo editor, even though I'm an expert at using Photoshop. It's at version 3.8. It can fly through thousands of photos in seconds and make similar changes to hundreds of photos at a time. Picasa's one-button fixer ("I'm Feeling Lucky") out-fixes every other one-button fixer around.

PhotoLine (at www.pl32.com) is new to me, and I'm still learning how to use it best. It's not designed, like so many others, as a Photoshop Elements wannabe, and has some interesting touches I haven't seen elsewhere. I suggest downloading PhotoLine for a 30-day tryout.

Lo-Fi ($29 from www.lofiapp.com) is cute. The interface is a Canon- or Nikon-lookalike digital SLR camera (mercifully there is a Maximize button that makes it fill the screen) and all operations are done by clicking buttons and symbols on the camera. You get a zillion special effects. Check this one out.