Picasa as an example of great design

I’ve been a long-time fan of Picasa, and it ultimately comes down to several reasons:

  1. It’s fast. Very fast.
  2. It has a great UI.
  3. Functionality.
  4. Integration.

Fast

Picasa has been optimized to very quickly load, to handle large libraries of photos, and to allow very quick scanning of said large libraries. I have seen some great research into better ways to quickly display large libraries of photos, but nothing has been released in a usable product yet. Nothing comes close in terms of immediately loading the main app, and then allowing quick manipulation of tens of thousands of photos.

User Interface

I’m not sure how much of this is Google and how much is thanks to the original IdeaLab team, but kudos to Google for not breaking what works. The keyboard shortcuts for advanced users are there, and yet the interface is inviting enough for the novice user to jump right in. All my non-computer-savvy family members now use it and love it. It is not only simple to use, but very pretty with its transitions and OS X-esque touches to its interface.

Function

The functionality of Picasa is excellent. It allows you to share photos, manipulate them, organise them and present them. Importantly, it doesn’t try to do too much. The Picasa team seem to have found just the right balance of features to satisfy easily 95% of the users out there without overloading it to the point of bloatware. Happily, they also included some features which I didn’t consider “must have”, yet make the experience all the sweeter. This includes things like creating a Gift CD, comprehensive backups, picture collages and a screensaver. It makes using your photos very easy.

The best functionality I have found though is the photo tuning. See my other article here to see why that is. Aside from the power of the tuning though, the thing I also love is that it leaves your originals untouched. Even once you commit changes, it backs up the original, which for people like me who can’t stand to lose data of any kind, is a godsend.

Integration

This is what really sold me on Picasa. Doing so much research into ubiquitous computing and the adaption of systems, I’ve come to realise this is what makes and breaks software. Picasa does several things right in this area:

  • Preserving the file system. I want file portability, and this was a dealbreaker for me with many other products.
  • Email. I mainly disseminate my pictures via email, and the integration here is top-notch.
  • Photo printing is integrated in. Not something I use, but a nice to have.
  • Other services. Picasa supports Picasa Web Albums (of course), FTP, Google Video, and Blogger. My main problem is that it doesn’t support Flickr (for obvious reasons, but this is kind of sad given how many Googlers use Flickr!)

The other nice thing is that the Picasa team seem intent on acting on user feedback. However the real killer part of Picasa is the tuning, which is discussed in part 2.

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  1. Pingback: The blog of all and sundry » Blog Archive » Picasa photo tuning

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