When iPhoto 5 and Picasa 2 were released, like everybody else, I was faced with a dilemma : which photo manager software should I use ? Not easy to choose, both programs follow the same two-modes (library and editing) interface and offer light picture adjustment. I decided to use both side-by-side on my iBook (12″ 1.3 GHz) and my PC (AMD 1.2 GHz) for a while and see which one was better. Now that the initial excitement has calmed down, I think I can answer the question safely : Picasa is better. For me, anyway.
- Picasa is very, very fast. My PC has a slow clock speed by today’s standards, but I can still scroll blazingly fast through my entire photo collection (more than 9000 pictures). Don’t try the same thing with iPhoto on an iBook – even with loads of memory, the thing crawls as soon as you scroll through more than one page. This is a huge point for Picasa.
- Picasa automatically indexes your picture collection by months in a nice sidebar, in a “last-updated” fashion. You can name albums if you want, but you don’t have to. If you make modifications to an album, it is automatically moved to the top of the list. This is much easier to navigate than the iPhoto “rolls” that you have to fill yourself. iPhoto has a calendar interface, but it’s unintuitive and hard to use.
- iPhoto’s interface is, well, weird at best. In photo-editing mode, the bottom toolbar is filled with huge icons, complete with text captions, for functions I rarely use. As I have a small screen (so sue me), they hide the icon I’d like to click – the one to adjust picture brightness and other things. So to access it, I need to first click on the double-arrow toolbar extension thingy, then move the cursor and finally click on the icon I want. After 99 pictures this is quickly tiresome, and if you’re using a touchpad (like me), you’re in Hell. Menu options exist to disable toolbar items, but only for the Library toolbar ! Why stop half-way ? And why not including a toolbar edition mode like in the finder or Mail ? By comparison, Picasa just feels right.
- The iTunes-like iPhoto notation system is a failed good idea. The only way to give a picture a note is through the menu or keyboard shortcuts (well, you can do it also in slideshow mode, but it just feels wrong) so I end up never using it. Would it be so hard to note a picture by clicking in the notation area below its thumbnail, a la iTunes ? In Picasa the only option is to star pictures, but the button to do it is always available on screen, in library and editing mode.
Smaller little things :
- Picasa gives you separate automatic contrast and automatic colors commands. More control to you. The manual commands for modifying the picture’s color histogram are also much faster in Picasa.
- Picasa gives you two rotate buttons, one to the left and one to the right. In iPhoto, you have to choose which one you want. This is a really weird decision on Apple’s part.
- Import in iPhoto is very slow. Try importing a whole CD full of pictures. Picasa is not extremely fast in that domain either, but faster.
Things iPhoto does better :
- Lots of option to export your pictures. I especially love the Flickr export plug-in, even if truly speaking it’s not really Apple’s work. I have not found the Picasa equivalent yet (and I’ve looked for it). You can also make little movies out of your slideshows.
- You can create truly unique slideshows. This is fun but it’s kinda overcomplicated for me, I just want to show pictures one after the over 😉
So you have it. Picasa feels definitely better to me. That’s unfortunate, as I really really wanted to like iPhoto… In the end, these are amost all personal preferences (except for the speed thing) and I believe this all comes down to your own workflow. For instance, if you are a big shortcut keys fan, or if you have a 23inch monitor hooked to a G5, things might feel different to you…