Picasa is a free photo management program from Google that can be used to organize and manage all of the images you have stored on your hard drive. In addition to allowing you to manage your photos, Picasa allows you to perform basic edits and gives you many options for sharing those pictures with others (such as photo CD’s, or prints ordered from one of the online vendors supported by Picasa).

Picasa’s latest version, Picasa 2, can only be used on Windows 2000 and XP. Its hardware requirements are quite modest. Any computer with a 300 Mhz or higher CPU and 64 MB of RAM or higher will run Picasa with no problems. Any computer purchased within the last couple of years will easily exceed these requirements.

Picasa supports most of the common file formats used to store photos, including GIF, JPEG, TIFF, PNG, BMP, and PSD (GIF and PNG images are not scanned by default, but you can tell Picasa to scan them by selecting the File Types tab in the Options dialog box.) Picasa can also import and let you manage movies. Supported movie file types include MPG, AVI, WMV, and MOV (Quicktime). You can play a movie saved in any of these formats using Picasa itself.

Picasa integrates well with other services and applications available from Google. For example, you can easily post pictures from your Picasa-managed collection on your blog if you have an account with Blogger, a free blogging service owned by Google. You can also easily send pictures from Picasa using GMail, a free web email service also from Google.

To install Picasa, you just need to download the installer from the Picasa website and follow the prompts from the wizard to go through the installation steps. The first time you launch Picasa it will ask you what folders you want to scan for pictures that will be added to your Picasa library. You can change your selected folders at any time by choosing Tools, Folder Manager.

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If you want to tell Picasa not to scan a folder, select “Remove from Picasa”. You can also select a folder and tell Picasa “Watch for Changes.” That means that any time you add pictures to that folder, Picasa will update its library. If you choose “Scan Once”, Picasa will scan the folder and include it in its library, but it will not update it if you add new pictures to it outside of Picasa (such as by using Windows Explorer).

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