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Picasa is a free software application from Google. It is available for Windows and Linux. The program is effectively a album application for sorting photographs and pictures on your computer. It also provides good search functionality, and methods for naming and cataloging photos as well as some basic editing tools.
When you first install the application it searches your disk looking for all the pictures it can find. It then updates its list on a regular basis searching for new and updated images (when it is running). By default it searches your entire disk the first time it is installed, but then only searches your Home Directory or "My Documents" folder for subsequent updates.
The images are shown as thumbnails, grouped into their directories, which are listed in a left hand pane. The directories are split into two categories "Folders on Disk" and "Other Stuff". The aim is that "Folders on Disk", contains your photographs, whereas "Other Stuff" contains other images, such as banners, graphic logos etc. This is not fool proof as it only looks for standard "photograph sizes". So if you may want to check "Other Stuff" for any photographs that you may have re-sized etc.
The directories are sorted by the date the directory was created. Whilst this has some logic, it does mean that if you upload a new file into an existing directory then you have to search through the list to find the directory, it does not appear under the recent date at the top of the list.
You can also group images under labels. This is just a way of grouping together different photos without moving them on the actual disk.
You can import photographs straight from your digital camera, or media cards, or copy them to the computer and let Picasa find them.
There are quick buttons for command such as:
The program also includes basic editing, although this is limited to cropping, adjusting colour and brightness and some special effects. Disappointingly there doesn't appear to be anyway of resizing the images from the edit page.
The program can also show the images as a slide-show or burn them as a Gift CD.
All in all this is a good application, although I would like to see more features and some other ways of ordering the images (e.g. by image date rather than folder date). It is free and is good at finding images on the computer you'd forgotten you had. If you haven't already got a "album" application (and in my experience you either don't get one with your camera or they are very limited), then it's certainly worth having a look at, but don't rely on it as a full photo editor.
For a full photo editor you can use The GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) which is also freely available for Windows and Linux.
The Linux version makes heavy use of WINE, rather than being a complete port. Personally I feel it is more important that the software is available through any means, but some people have objected that this is not a native port.