Better Photo Sharing

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Picture Pizzazz With Picasa

Don't want to spend a dime? Then Google's newly updated Picasa 2 will have you at Hello.

Hello (a peer-to-peer photo-sharing and chat application) and Picasa 2 (a PC-based photo organizer) work as a unified team. The two are so nicely designed and integrated that I never had to search for a feature or struggle to learn how to use any tool.

I downloaded Picasa 2 and was amazed at how quickly it rifled through my hard drive, tracked down every picture, and stored them all in neat albums organized by date. I imagined myself as Samantha from Bewitched organizing my sloppy hard drive with a twitch of my nose and watching the files fly magically into place.

The latest version provides lots of new features such as the ability to drag and drop images within and between albums--making it the easiest to use of the programs I tested for this story. The new editing tools are, surprisingly, quite useful: In addition to functions for removing red-eye and adjusting lighting and color, you get 12 extra effects, including sharpening. I batch-sharpened my entire album, and all the photos looked better instantly. (For more about Picasa 2, read the in-depth review.)

Say Hello

After tweaking my pictures, I clicked the Hello button at the bottom of the Picasa screen and tried to instant-message my dad some pictures. Unfortunately, he's a Mac user and Hello is for PC users only, so I clicked the Blogger button (another new feature) at the bottom of the screen and posted a picture to my blog instead (Hello supports only Blogger and not other blogging tools).

The only things missing are the abilities to send shots from your camera phone directly to Picasa and to transfer photos from Picasa to your phone. All the other photo-sharing sites allow it. But if you don't use a camera phone regularly, you'll find Picasa and Hello to be an easy and enjoyable way to quickly share your photos.

Picasa 2 and Hello,

Picasa 2 is easy to use and includes extensive photo editing tools.
Picasa 2 is easy to use and includes extensive photo editing tools.
Cool: The Picasa 2 photo organizer has a well-designed interface, and is friendly and easy to use. It offers extensive new editing tools (left) and works seamlessly with Hello and Blogger to let you share photos via e-mail, through instant messaging, or on your blog.

Hello lets you share photos via instant messaging.
Hello lets you share photos via instant messaging.
The Hello chat program (right) allows you to instant-message multiple photos simultaneously with a click of a button. Plus, you can't complain about the price: This combo doesn't cost a thing.

Not cool: The service supports only blogs hosted on Blogger. Also, Picasa 2 is unable to receive pictures sent from a camera phone.

Pricing: Free

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