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Organizing your digital photos with Picasa

Technophilia: Organize your digital photos with Picasa – Lifehacker

Organize your digital photos with Picasa


picasa_big.png

Anyone
with a digital camera knows it doesn’t take much to wind up with a hard
drive littered with thousands of files named things like IMG_1892.jpg.
In my quest to organize all the stuff that’s accumulated on my hard
drive, I knew that sooner or later, my little digital photo problem
would rear its ugly head. By “little”, I mean out of control, and by
“problem”, I mean looming catastrophe. What’s a girl with literally
thousands of pics to organize on her ‘puter to do? Enter Google’s free
desktop software, Picasa, which is basically the Walker Texas Ranger of photo organization packages.

Intro to Picasa

pics.png

Because
I have three kids who are photographed pretty much every day, I have a
lot of pics. Add that to the various web sites that I blog for and you
have a ton of images. I’ve attempted to keep them in some kind of
meaningful order over the years, and it’s not TOO horribly bad, but I
knew it could be better. That’s where Picasa came in and saved my bacon.

PIcasa is a free download for Windows and a Linux version is available over at Google Labs. (Sorry, Mac users – there’s a Picasa Web Albums uploader available
for you, but not a full-blown version of the software.) Once you
download Picasa (free!) and install it, Picasa will set to work finding
and organizing all the pics and videos on your machine by date added.
Depending on how many pictures you have, this process can take a while
to complete. In fact, if you do have a ton of pictures, you can pick
and choose which folders you’d like Picasa to scan to save time.

Here’s what Picasa’s interface looked like once it got done indexing all my pics.

library.png

On
the left are all the folders that contain photos that Picasa found on
my machine; this list is sorted by creation date by default, but you
can change it by selecting “View”, then “Folder View”. I prefer “Sort
By Name”.

On the bottom, you’ll see what Picasa calls the Photo
Tray; basically, this is the workstation section of Picasa, where
photos can be edited, blogged, printed, ordered, etc.

Lastly, the
middle section where you can actually *see* the photos is called the
Lightbox; this just displays the images inside the folder list on the
left-hand side.

Organization

Before you get going too far
in Picasa, it’s worth noting that any changes you make to folders
within Picasa will affect your machine’s filesystem.

Once
Picasa finished scanning my computer for images, I had all my thousands
of photos in one convenient place. There were three main organizational
hurdles that I needed to tackle:

Renaming

rename.png

I
found approximately 4 jillion pictures that were not intuitively
labeled using Picasa, and the thought of having to go through and
rename those individually kind of made me queasy. However, you can use
Picasa to rename an entire group of photos at once:

Now,
instead of five photos labeled ever so helpfully “0784586.jpg” (and so
on), I’ve got five photos labeled “Valentines Day 2003”.

Organization of images within folders

There’s
not one way to organize images within folders that’s going to work for
everyone; I know that what works for me might not necessarily work for
you, and that’s okay. The method that works best for me seems to be a
combination of dates and events, so that’s how I set out to organize my
folders in Picasa. A couple of things that I found most helpful to keep
in mind when I organized my folders:

tree_view.png

Organizing
my folders is an ongoing project – I’ve got thousands of pics to get
sorted, but Picasa makes it simple to drag and drag and drop an image
from one folder to another, rename on the fly, even apply captions if I
want to.

A more meaningful sorting system

Once I started
making sense of my misnamed images and half-sorted folders, PIcasa gave
me even more micro-organizational options: albums and gold stars.

First,
gold stars. While you’re organizing your photos, you’re sure to come
across an image you want to make sure you can find easily later. Just
click on the star button in the Photo Tray and that photo will be
starred; you can later select all the starred photos in one folder to
add to another folder or an album (what’s an album? Keep reading.). Oh,
and if you’d like to apply stars to more than one photo at once, just
click on the Shift key and go to town.

stars.png

Think
of Picasa albums like this: you’ve got 234 snaps from your Oregon coast
vacation. You can instantly access your favorite images by selecting
them from their appropriately named folder (or clicking on the “Select
Starred” option) and dropping them into an album – you could call it
“Oregon Coast Highlights”. It’s an easy way to instantly pull up the
images you want to share with Grandma.

I could keep going, but
I’m out of space. Believe me, there’s a lot more I could’ve written
here on the ninja-like way Picasa helped me organize my photo
collection; it’s just that awesome. Tune in next week, when I’ll show
you how I use Picasa to edit and adjust photos.

Wendy Boswell
is Lifehacker’s Weekend Editor and has organized 13 out of
approximately 300 photo folders with Picasa so far. Subscribe to her
feature series Technophilia using the Technophilia feed.

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