Best Picasa Alternatives in 2022

Best Picasa Alternatives for Photo Management in 2022

Published: September 13, 2022 Author: Andrey Isaev

Every year, we store more and more photos is our archives so we can later return to precious moments in our lives. However, an important photos can get lost if you do not take care of the systematized storage. In the past there was a convenient application to work with a photo archive. It was Picasa. In this article we discuss all types of alternatives available today.

In April 2012 Google decided to close down the Picasa project in favor of the development of Google Photo. Till that time, as a free application, Picasa has been able to win the huge audience of users around the world. Indeed, for its time, Picasa offered innovative approaches to manage photo archive.

Even though Google does not distribute Picasa anymore, users still can download its installation from various unofficial sources. However, what they can get is lack of adaptation to latest operating systems, the inability to support modern formats with high compression quality (webp and heic), non-working geolocation in the photos after disconnecting from the Google ecosystem, and no way to get support.

As time passes, the need for modern and free alternative grows stronger. In preparation for this review we made:

  • an extensive study of various analogues of Picasa;
  • their classification by types;
  • a detailed analysis of the advantages and disadvantages of each type on the example of the brightest representatives.

We hope it will help you find an alternative to the Picasa application that suits your needs best.

Please keep in mind, that in this article we focus specifically on applications for organizing your photo archive. Photo editors is completely different category.

The main screen of the Picasa application - photo feed
The main screen of the Picasa application - photo feed

Picasa key features

First of all, let's look at the distinctive characteristics of Picasa, thanks to which it was able to attract close attention:

  • allowed you to work with photos stored in several places on your computer, and did not require their mandatory placement in the cloud storage;
  • created a complete index of the entire archive, so that the user could freely view them in the form of an endless tape without getting lost in the abundance of folders;
  • simplified the tasks of organizing the archive, including the ability to find and delete duplicate photos; supported the work with geo-tagged photos so that the user could view and mark their travels on the map; created a breathtaking animated slideshow (“pan and zoom”);
  • edited photos taking into account user preferences, this function was very useful, and at the same time easy to learn - only the most necessary and nothing more;
  • recognized faces in photographs, after which the user could group pictures by people;
  • generalized photos into virtual albums for different purposes of the user;
  • included a quick view mode that was much better than other applications (for example, when clicking, the user saw a photo in full screen with a dark background);
  • collected collages, after which the user purchased unusual compositions for publication in social networks;
  • and was also the embodiment of a large number of interesting and useful features.

Having refreshed the memory of the advantages of Picasa, let's move on to the consideration of the first possible alternative.

The interface of the built-in Windows application Photos with a timeline on the right
The interface of the built-in Windows application Photos with a timeline on the right

Photos (Microsoft)

This application is included in the base package of Windows 10 and 11. It opens by default when opening photos from File Explorer. First of all, let's pay attention to how the built-in application can help the user for easy viewing and managing a large family photo archive.

Photos from Microsoft contains a number of useful features:
  • allow you to add arbitrary folders, both internal and network, and index the images stored there;
  • there is a nice looking photo feed, combined with the timeline;
  • there is a basic set of editing tools (cropping and simple color correction);
  • there is the possibility of splitting into albums and a very simple slide show.
Advantages over Picasa:
  • Microsoft Photos has a modern design that is much simpler and more comfortable;
  • Grouping people by faces works much better than in Picasa - it gives fewer false positives and better copes with photos of the same person at different ages;
  • Microsoft Photos has a feature to create movies, which completely compensates for the primitive slideshow. The function works perfectly in automatic mode, and in the case of user participation, it allows you to adjust every little thing in great detail. There is a hypothesis that the idea was most likely borrowed from the "memories" on the iPhone, but the developers of Windows managed to surpass their source of inspiration.
Flaws

Perhaps, only one and the most important drawback can be singled out - some of the functions, for unknown reasons, simply refuse to work normally.

For example, a user can add arbitrary folders to the index, but then for some reason finds in the application only a part of the photos from these folders, and in the worst case, does not find anything at all. If files were scanned and added to the library, but later moved or new files were added, nothing will change in the index, which suggests that there is no function for regular folder scanning in the program.

Surprisingly, the developers seem to be aware of this problem - otherwise how can one explain the presence in the program interface of a special explanation why the user may have something wrong with the contents of the folders:

The Photos app refuses to work properly without being connected to OneDrive
The Photos app refuses to work properly without being connected to OneDrive

Such a wording gives the impression that the program has all the specified functionality from the very beginning, but it will only work normally if the user uploads his entire archive to his personal OneDrive cloud storage (and therefore pays monthly for storage). This factor moves the program into a completely different category of paid applications, which makes it impossible to consider it further as a free counterpart to Picasa.

Conclusion

Microsoft's Photos app could truly be an almost complete alternative to Picasa. However, without the obligatory upload of all its files to OneDrive, it leaves much to be desired - in addition to the critical problem described above, it lacks support for maps and any functions for putting things in order inside the archive, and there are also a number of minor glitches.

On Microsoft's English site, this program is called Photo Movie Editor. This explains a lot. If you do not expect functionality from it in managing the archive, then it is simply great. The video production there is really impressive. However, to work with the archive, you will have to choose something else.

"Utilities" group

This is a separate category of programs for working with images, which can only be called Picasa analogues due to a completely different approach to working with archives. Unlike Picasa, they don't create a full catalog of your entire archive. At best, they only collect information about favorite photos, albums and categories (like XnView). The principle of working with them is very similar to working with a regular explorer - the user wanders through the full tree of folders on his computer, and he himself must somehow remember where and what photos are. If the archive is large, then the user will inevitably have to spend his time sorting photos into folders with self-explanatory names. Otherwise, you just won't be able to find anything.

For this very reason, such programs do not and simply cannot have such useful things as a time scale, a map with event locations (and even just the ability to show the place of a specific photo on the map is missing) or grouping by people and so on.

However, the utilities are quite popular and do their job well. A user looking for a replacement for Picasa will not be able to fully satisfy his needs with the help of utilities, and will be forced to continue looking for a replacement among programs from other categories, but having one of them on his computer “just in case” is not such a bad idea, What's more, the most popular ones are completely free. And for certain tasks they can be quite suitable.

In this review, three of the most popular utilities in this category are considered - XnView MP, IrfanView and FastStone Image Viewer. Of course, the selection doesn't end there, but these three have been around for a very long time and are the undisputed leaders in the category. In fact, they are quite similar, both in terms of the principle of operation and functionality, with the exception of small differences.

All of these programs from the late 1990s and early 2000s managed to retain the typical interface of those years with a lot of icons on the toolbar, which now looks outdated. Instead of making the default interface as convenient as possible for most users, the creators chose to follow the path of increasing the number of settings, which, at the same time, are not set to the best values ​​by default. However, the benefits in the settings are very doubtful, because they only overload the interface and complicate the development of the program.

Settings dialog with two tabs before starting a slideshow in XnView MP.
Settings dialog with two tabs before starting a slideshow in XnView MP.

As an example of a not very well-thought-out user interface, I would like to cite the implementation of a slide show in all of the programs listed. In all of them, in order to start displaying images, the user will first be taken to a large dialog with a long list of options. There are so many of them in XnView that you have to make two bookmarks to fit them into the dialog.

rfanView slideshow settings dialog. How long does it take you to find the Start button?
rfanView slideshow settings dialog. How long does it take you to find the Start button?

At the same time, the number of settings is not at all equivalent to the proper quality. The slideshow itself is not animated like in Picasa, the pictures on the screen are static. For two of the three, you can only set up a beautiful transition between pictures, but by default it is turned off. The user is prompted to simply stare at a static photo for a few seconds and wait for the next one.

The saddest thing is that by default, all of them have the full path to the file of the displayed image in the upper left corner, which is very distracting from viewing. Moreover, for IrfanView and FastStone, the color of this inscription is poisonous green, so that it was certainly impossible not to notice. It's hard not to be sarcastic that, of course, that's what users watch slideshows of their photos for.

The main advantage of all three programs is their free use.

XnView MP

The program from the French developer dates back to 1998.

Advantages:

  • there is the largest list of supported files of completely different formats. The site provides a list of 500 formats, most of which the average user will never meet. Among the programs in question, XnView is the only one that was able to open heic shot on the iPhone without problems. The rest need plugins for that;
  • supports the ability to create albums and assign categories to photos.

Flaws:

  • has an outdated interface, like other programs of the same category. Also, the user complicates the life of congestion with an endless number of sections, icons and unnecessary information. It's easy to see that ease of use is not XnView's forte, as it takes some getting used to and humility;

The XnView interface is overloaded with a large number of additional panels
The XnView interface is overloaded with a large number of additional panels

  • the video only displays a standard file icon, unlike photos, which have a thumbnail image during general viewing, which means it will be difficult to navigate in folders with a large number of videos;
  • compared to Picasa, it provides a smaller set of editing options and color correction that is difficult to master.

FastStone Image Viewer

Advantages:

  • has the most understandable interface among the listed utility programs, albeit with an eye to the style of the 1990s;
  • in addition to having the usual editing functions, there are also very useful ones - red-eye removal and retouching.

Flaws:

  • shows only a small set of all available information from EXIF ​​- technical data about a particular file, shooting parameters, does not show the geographical coordinates of the shooting location at all.

IrfanView

The program is fully supported by a single developer named Irfan Skijian, originally from Bosnia and now living in Austria. The program differs in that it does not try to replace the system explorer. It is assumed that the user will view the files in a regular explorer, and clicking on the photo will start viewing. The program also has its own navigator - as a separate subroutine. Perhaps this is just a tribute to fashion and some respect for colleagues, because this navigator can hardly be called convenient for use.

Although this can be seen as a reasonable approach. There is no need to produce conductors in the program when the operating system already has one and quite convenient.

Advantages:

weak functionality is compensated by a system of third-party plugins that add support for formats and other useful features.

Flaws:

primitive slideshow with difficult to read settings dialog.

Сloud services

Humanity can be angry at Google all they want for depriving everyone of such a great program as Picasa, but Google's strategy is very logical and completely justified - they want to make more money. Google management is doing everything possible to ensure that users store their photos on their servers and, in addition, pay them for it. Every month, and then all my life. According to this logic, one can speculate that later, as they grow older, children and grandchildren will also want a copy of the family archive for themselves. They will also start paying by regularly adding their new photos and videos there. The volume will only grow every year, as will the income of Google companies. Perhaps now this is not much, but given that we all have smartphones, the number of megapixels in them is growing with each new model, the volume of archives will expand significantly in a short time.

Of course, you can’t talk about storing photos in the cloud as soon as something bad. There are a lot of advantages in this method, and regardless of whose service it is:

  • the initial volume is always free. Each service has its own, but in any case, it is given a long time to work for free before the user reaches the limit, after which he will have to pay. Based on psychology, it will then be easier for any user to start paying than to try to move to a new service. Habit will take over.
  • the convenience of uploading new photos from your phone. Here, really, no one and nothing can compare in comfort with cloud services.
  • very easy to share photos with friends and family. However, there is one big nuance that they must also be users of the same service. If they are adherents of Yandex.Disk, and you are iCloud, then this will only breed difficulties.
  • there is no need to spend money on buying external media or increasing the computer's memory. Although, of course, if you calculate the cost of monthly payments for a cloud service over several years, it turns out that your own hardware is still noticeably cheaper.
  • feeling of safety and security of data. Although this is just a myth. No one can ever promise 100% security. Even the developers themselves mention this in the terms of use of the service, which usually no one gets acquainted with and passes by. As a result, there are sad stories about the loss of data from the cloud. Therefore, backups are still necessary, regardless of whether you store your files at home or in the cloud.
  • To be fair, cloud companies are really investing in improving applications to make their services extremely convenient. Many of the features that were previously characteristic of Picasa have taken root perfectly in these services.

There are many cloud services for photography, and they are all quite different. Let's take a closer look at the three most famous and polar ones in order to provide the most complete picture.

Photos app interface on macOS
Photos app interface on macOS

iCloud/iPhoto

The most advanced photo cloud service because it is so much more than just a service. This is a whole ecosystem that consists of the iPhone, the Photos application on Mac OS, and, in fact, iCloud itself. And it's all seamlessly integrated. Working with photos is simplified as much as possible, uploading to the cloud takes place automatically, synchronization is performed between devices of one user, and there is also a very convenient way to share with family and relatives.

If we return to Picasa, then they took a lot from its functionality and did it at a very decent level:

  • Objectively beautiful implementation of the photo feed;
  • The presence of several types of animated slide shows, including the Ken Burns Effect (Picasa's “pan and zoom” analogue);
  • Map display with event location;
  • Sorting by albums with the possibility of nested albums;
  • Face recognition and grouping by people;
  • Minimalistic and very functional interface for photo editing - only the main functions are in the foreground, but if you wish, you can find more advanced ones inside the program.

In some things they went even further:

  • The user interface from Apple is simple and clear, not overloaded and beautiful. The Picasa interface from the 2000s undeniably loses to them.
  • A complete rejection of folders in the archive, where the main way to navigate is the calendar. This completely removes the user's concern about the organization of the archive, while making the search easier.
  • There was recognition of objects in a photograph and a search in the archive for the keywords “tree”, “car”, and so on;
  • The absence of collages, but with a replacement for a more innovative feature - “memories”. This is a kind of video that artificial intelligence creates on its own and then offers to the user.

But there are also disadvantages, which, as often happens, are a continuation of the advantages:

  • In order to take advantage of all this list of features, you must have at least one gadget from the Apple product line. Without an iPhone, a MacBook, and an iCloud subscription, it all falls apart dramatically;
  • You need to pay regularly for storing the archive in the cloud;
  • Formally, it is believed that desktop Photos can work without iCloud, but this is just an illusion. To work with photos, they must be imported into his library. It cannot scan arbitrary folders and work with photos where they are. This means that the entire archive must be permanently stored on the SSD of the MacBook. Lay out part of it on an external drive or network storage - this option is not provided. It is not even worth mentioning that it is impossible to increase the size of the built-in SSD on new models on your own, and the price of a computer when buying with a larger SSD is growing at an exponential rate.

Google Photos

Speaking of cloud services, one cannot fail to mention Google due to its huge popularity. Its main difference from iCloud is that it provides only a part of the ecosystem - there are mobile applications for iOS and Android, but no desktop application. On the computer, it is proposed to use only the browser, which is consistent with their philosophy and outlook on the future.

Another key difference between Google's philosophy and Apple's philosophy is their relationship to user data. For them, it is a source of income. And if you accept the fact that the user completely gives the entire history of his family to them for storage, and at the same time Google has the right to look at it, train its neural networks on it, use it for other internal purposes, including to make more targeted advertising, then this service is actually a very good option.

Advantages:

  • the ability to quickly search by date of shooting;
  • the ability to create collages and films from your albums;
  • recognition of people (and even animals) in the photo;
  • search by text description of the content of the photo;
  • sorting into albums.

Flaws:

  • there is no possibility to search for photos by location on the map;
  • primitive photo editing functions;
  • rather high price - $1.99 per month for 100GB (there are much cheaper alternatives).

Stylish and ergonomic Adobe Lightroom Interface
Stylish and ergonomic Adobe Lightroom Interface

Adobe Lightroom

It may be surprising to see this program in this category, because in the distant past it was a common desktop application, but today everything has changed. This is exactly a cloud service plus a desktop application to boot. Paid in exactly the same way by subscription for $9.99 per month. This amount, in addition to the license for the application, also includes 1TB of storage in the cloud. Search and indexing of photos from local folders is not provided there.

This service can be safely recommended to those who are professionally engaged in photography, shoot with a professional camera and want to get the most out of their pictures, since the possibilities of color correction, editing, retouching and other toolset are really at their best. Which is not surprising, because the “big brother” of this program is the legendary Photoshop.

However, for a less professional audience looking for a replacement for Picasa, this is perhaps not the best choice. First, it's expensive. Secondly, this is still a professional tool that will be much more difficult to master. Thirdly, it lacks some of the less professional but handy features that users are used to in Picasa - no slideshows, no event maps, collages, and the like.

Photo archive managers

Having studied all the “neighboring” categories, without which this review would be incomplete, we move on to the type of applications that are much closer to Picasa in terms of their ideology and functionality. There are surprisingly few such apps and almost all of them are paid, but we found two free ones for numerous users who are looking for an alternative to Picasa. Let's talk about them, and about the most popular solution in the paid category.

Modern and ergonomic interface of the Tonfotos app
Modern and ergonomic interface of the Tonfotos app

Tonfotos

This is a brand new app coming out at the end of 2021. It is regularly updated with the necessary functionality, but the most necessary functions are already there. The mission of the developers is to provide the best archive management tools, regardless of its location, allowing the user to decide for himself where and how to store his photos and videos. Definitely this application is worth it to evaluate it and make your own opinion - whether Tonfotos satisfies all the needs of modern users.

Advantages:

  • is free;
  • has a modern design, a very convenient and intuitive interface, largely inspired by the Photos app for macOS;
  • allows you to index an arbitrary number of folders with photos. At the same time, they can be located on a local disk, on an external hard disk, and on a network folder in any combination. In the future, the ability to work with photos stored on Yandex.Disk and other cloud storages will be added;
  • creates albums from photos, regardless of their location;
  • there is a slide show made in the best traditions of Picasa - photos “float” across the screen and smoothly replace each other;
  • supports searching for photos by shooting location on the map;
  • indexes not only photos, but also videos;
  • allows you to fully automatically import new photos from your smartphones, tablets and digital cameras into your archive. You just need to connect them via cable to the computer - and the program will do the rest by itself, you don't even have to touch the keyboard or mouse.
  • connects to Telegram, that is, all the photos that your friends send you will automatically fall into your archive.

A number of important features are still in development plans, such as:

  • face recognition;
  • photo content recognition;
  • editing, color correction and retouching;
  • increasing the resolution of photographs, restoring color in black and white photographs.

The specific interface of the digiKam application - this is how the timeline is implemented
The specific interface of the digiKam application - this is how the timeline is implemented

digiKam

It is a long-established open source program originally written for Linux but later ported to other OSes. Formally, it has many of the features that users are used to in Picasa. The truth is implemented in a kind of "Linux" style. If you want rich features, flexibility of settings and are not afraid of the complexity of development, a peculiar design, then this application is quite possible to try.

Advantages:

  • is free (open source);
  • indexes several different folders and external hard drives;
  • import photos from different sources with a wide range of options;
  • exports to a large number of cloud services;
  • supports face recognition (requires downloading additional components about 300MB in size);
  • reads already available information about people in the photo from the XMP header;
  • there is a slide show mode (but more primitive than in Picasa).

Flaws:

  • specific and complicated user interface that takes time to master;
  • the complete absence of any photo editing functions. The ideology of the program is that it is archive management. For editing, there are other very functional open source programs, such as Gimp. There is an assumption that the authors were much more inspired by ACDsee than by Picasa;
  • the implementation of the map is very upsetting;

This is what the user sees when turning on the mode of displaying photos on the map in digiKam
This is what the user sees when turning on the mode of displaying photos on the map in digiKam

  • inconvenient work with the definition of people in the photo - you need to click on each face in each photo. It can be concluded that automatic identification is completely absent;
  • folders in this case are albums. That is, if you need to make, for example, a selection of photographs taken in different years, then they will need to be physically copied to a separate folder, creating duplicates in the archive.

The main screen of the ACDsee application
The main screen of the ACDsee application

ACDsee

This program has a long history, so it is not surprising why it is the most popular in the category of paid photo archive management applications. And it is she who is often recommended in similar reviews on other sites. Her price is decent - $134.95 for a license. However, you can try the trial version for 30 days. The price is high, but most likely justified, given that the program is aimed at people for whom maintaining an archive of photos in order is part of their professional duties. This is fairly easy to understand by using the program a bit and looking at the rest of the products in the company's lineup. It is unlikely that developers see their target audience as ordinary people who just want to simplify their lives when working with family photo archives and who are not looking for new difficulties.

The functionality of the program is very extensive and it is made much better than digiKam, but still little attention is paid to the enjoyment of viewing.

Advantages:

  • well-thought-out and rich archive management functionality.
  • functional import, the ability to classify photos into categories and put down color labels;
  • good slideshow with animation, like in Picasa;
  • face recognition;
  • progressive support for file formats (for example, understanding heic, in which the iPhone shoots out of the box);
  • a good set of editing functions - cropping, color correction, red-eye removal, retouching and more.

Flaws:

  • inability to search for photos on the map - only viewing and changing coordinates on individual photos;
  • lack of search for photos on the timeline.

Conclusion

As you can see, despite the fact that 10 years have passed since the end of support for Picasa, the situation with alternatives is still not very simple. There are few worthy direct analogues. There are quite a few solutions from neighboring categories, especially cloud services have developed during this time. However, if the user does not want to become dependent on one of the cloud services and wants to decide for himself where and how to store his digital heritage, then the new Tonfotos application seems to be the best option. It still has a long way to go in terms of functionality, but even now it has everything you need to start easily navigating through tens and hundreds of gigabytes of images and enjoy viewing, returning to the best moments of the past.

Since the app is free and extremely easy to learn, everyone can try it out for themselves and decide for themselves if the app is right for their needs. You can download Tonfotos here.