This week, Google unveiled a public beta of its Picasa 3.0 photo-sharing software. Picasa 3.0 offers a huge number of new and improved features that will appeal to both point and shoot and DSLR users. I was particularly impressed by the following:
A new photo viewer that integrates with Windows Explorer and supports PNG, TGA and RAW formats as well as JPEG, TIFF, BMP, and GIF. The preview window displays thumbnails of other photos in the folder for faster navigation and offers one-click editing in Picasa, one-click uploading, or a one-click slideshow. Even on my less than swift single-core laptop, it displays Canon CR2 RAW files much faster than Windows Live Photo Gallery does. Google tested Picasa 3.0 on systems with up to 1 million photos, and it shows.
The ability to display image metadata for RAW files from within Picasa.
The enhanced photo collage creator with six preset designs along with easy drag and drop repositioning and image rotation. It's so good that I wonder if Microsoft Research's new AutoCollage 2008 (which costs $19.95) can compete.
Improved photo editing tools such as the retouching tool (good for removing scratches and dust) and the tuning tool, which features highlight, shadow, fill light, color picker, and color temperature controls. If you don't want to learn (or pay for) Adobe Photoshop Elements, you can do quite well in fixing less-than-perfect photos.
Here's the photo viewer in action:
And here's the same picture after editing in Picasa:
Picasa 3.0 also adds better integration with the improved Picasa Web Albums utility, better text handling, and much more. Learn more about the new features in Picasa 3.0 at the Picasa blog, or download it and give it a try.