Wed 29 Oct
Without apology, I admit a prejudice against any Windows-based software that blatantly mimics innovations that originated on the Mac OS; a prime example is Candy Labs’ App Rocket, a startlingly faithful and shameless reproduction of Objective Development’s superb LaunchBar that was developed for — you might even say “ported to” — Windows XP recently.
Unfairly or not, I regard those indiscretions with scorn, and not a little indignation, which was my attitude when stumbling across Picasa, a program that bears a remarkable similarity to Apple’s iPhoto software for management of digital photos. I might have dismissed it altogether, but the attractive design of their Web site hinted at some level of cleverness at work, and so I decided to download and install the software on my Windows box for a trial run.
So I’m swallowing my pride here to say that my initial prejudice was completely unfounded, and that even though Picasa owes a tremendous debt to iPhoto and even to Mac OS X itself, its developers have not borrowed lazily; they’ve actually used their brains and injected a nontrivial amount of original thinking and elbow grease into improving upon the principles that made iPhoto so successful: top-shelf ease of use, attention to detail and willingness to invest the engineering resources and effort into creating not just a pleasant user experience, but a fun one.
If nothing else, this should be a wake up call to the iPhoto team at Apple, which already is in the hole for its delay in updating iPhoto’s dog-slow management engine. Working with my library of two thousand some iPhoto images is excruciating; its glacial pace even makes me reluctant to launch iPhoto at all.
Having not loaded more than about 150 images into Picasa, I can’t say for sure whether it would be dramatically faster when handling ten times that number of photos, but the program also has more going for it. Its photo album management is, in some ways, superior to that of iPhoto in that it serves to reflect the file structure users already have in place before installing Picasa. This approach also yields the truly excellent Timeline view, which takes those logically grouped collections of images and displays them chronologically in an animated, highly-responsive and highly original interface.
I’m not describing the Timeline feature particularly well, in part because it’s such a unique presentation, but it’s well-worth experiencing for yourself. My reaction to using this for the first time was one of pure delight, which is something I almost never experience with Windows software, and which is as clear an indication as any that Picasa has managed to capture at least a little bit of that Apple magic.