I was playing around very quickly yesterday with my Picasa Web albums and noticed a new feature. But wait, let's back up. Picasa is Google's photo editing software. In the grand Google tradition, it was the product of a company that Google bought out a few years ago. I've been using Picasa for over two years and I've found it's a very nice tool for keeping all of my photos and movies organized on the computer. When you have children, you quickly realize that you need a tool for organizing almost as much as you need one for editing.
The editing tools in Picasa are nothing special. Basic color fixing, basic cropping, some special effects. Red eye removal. I've found, however, that they are more often than not all that I need for touching things up. The biggest bonus, in my opinion, is that Picasa saves a copy of all the changes I make to a photo and makes it possible for me to always return to the original image if I want to. That way my experimenting with the image doesn't ruin it permanently. Of course, there are other tools out there that do this: Microsoft has Office Picture Manager, Adobe has Photoshop Elements, and I could go on. But an advantage of Picasa is that it is free. And that's something we like in both the Croxall household and in ECIT. (It is also a very good tool for doing progressive backups of your photos, which helps you keep second copies off your hard drive and get secondary backups off site to your parents in Utah.)
Another thing that I really love about Picasa is how it integrates with Gmail. You can bundle photos to send out to people straight from the photo software. Again, you can do that with many other programs, but what was essential for me was that Picasa automatically resized the photos for me when I mailed them out. Since we have an 8 MP Canon camera and we didn't have broadband at home until about six months ago, this meant that sending photos could be a real pain. Picasa took care of all that for us. This isn't so much of a problem on our end anymore, but it is still nice to use the software to prevent our sending out those massive, 8x bigger than your screen photos.
Okay, so we've covered Picasa as it functions on your computer. About two years ago, Google also created a web presence for Picasa that allows you to host photos online and share them with others. Of course, there are a lot of other services that allow you to do this as well: Kodak Gallery, Photobucket, and, of course, Flickr. These tools are great for sharing photos with others (because--at least with Flickr and Picasa--you get an RSS feed of people's photos and can then read them in your feed reader of choice [see previous blog post]). And of course, they allow you to tag your photos, use each photo's individual URL for hosting it in a blog or some such thing, and more.
So this brings us to last point (which is really where I started). If you are looking at a Picasa web album that has been geotagged (like this one of photos I took during the Dragon Con parade), then you also get the option (in the right hand corner) to view the photos within Google Earth. When you click on this, you can either run it immediately in Google Earth or download the kml file. And suddenly you have your photos plugged into Google Earth for you. Magic!
Now of course, you can insert photos directly into Google Earth without too much trouble. But if you are already using Picasa Web, this will save you some time. Even if you aren't using it, however, this might be an easier way for people to get photos into Google Earth than having to deal with the coding that is otherwise required.