October 21, 2006

Google Picasa screensaver a little bit evil

I love Picasa, and was delighted to try out the new version 2.5 that just came out. They did an incredible job in addressing just about every one of my concerns (such as not being able to see photos based on where they are on disk, and not being able to save changes to photos back to the photo that was edited). And they even added a very nice pan & zoom screen saver that integrates into Windows, much like OS X's nice one.

However, they must have been feeling a little too proud of themselves. Because they have gone wild in forcing the Google logo on you. The screensaver starts with a *4* second full-screen Google-only logo display. I thought that was a bit much, but hey, I figured - it is a free product and it is reasonable that they take some advertising attention from their users. But the issue is how much. I thought that 4 seconds was a lot (half a second would have been plenty for me to remember that it was a Google screensaver without being annoying).

And then it starts to get a little bit evil. Every so often, during a photo transition, a fairly large bright colorful Google logo is displayed on top of the photo. I couldn't bear to watch it too long, but it appeared after the 3rd photo, and then after 8 more.

Does Google really think I don't know where Picasa came from? Do they really think that by presenting their corporate logo on top of my personal pictures while I sit and look at them with my family that I am going to think - oh what a nice little company to give me this free software. No, I'm going to think - what a greedy multi-billion dollar corporation that would never have done this a couple of years ago. Google, you apparently haven't the learned the lessons of Real, AOL and other companies that making your customers mad at you by being pushy is never a good idea.

Simplicity and trust goes infinitely further. And I fear that this is the beginning of a corporate shift away from their users and trust - which could spell big trouble for Google if they're not careful. Proove me wrong. Remove this ridiculous feature in version 2.5.1 and I'll look at this as a short misguided fit of hysteria.


Also, despite Google's great success with this software and its continued improvements, I was puzzled that the screensaver was missing one simple but crucial feature - which is to have an easy way of including all your photos in the screensaver. There is just no way to do this. You can include all "starred" photos, but I want all of them. The only way to do that is to look at one folder of photos at a time, and for each one, select all the photos and then add those photos to the screensaver "album". But then every time you add a new photo, you'd have to remember to add it to the screensaver album, or it wouldn't appear.

There's also a way to include photos from disk via the Windows Screensaver Settings. However, I was flabbergasted when I manually added the photos in question, and Picasa explicitly excluded all the photos that Picasa manages. So, not only do they not make it easy to do this - but they purposely stop you from doing this. Do they actually think that no one ever wants to just see all their photos? This is our family's favorite thing to do - precisely because you never know what you're going to get, and that gives something to talk about. Looking at only your few favorites gets boring pretty quick.


Anonymous said...

I still think the best photo manager tool out there is the standard file manager + windows screensaver. This is about the only interaction I have with the photos on my computer.

Anonymous said...

Looking at all the ways my parents have trouble with digital pictures, I don't know what to do. My mom can't drag and drop, and if the context sensitive task pane in windows XP didn't exist, she'd be totally lost.

I had thought that Picasa would be the answer, but then I found out that there's no way to have all of your pictures removed from your camera after downloading. What that means is if you just want to download one picture, you select it, download it, and Picasa deletes all pictures on your camera.

Isn't that nice?

Ben Bederson said...

I checked, and Picasa does nicely only delete the photos that have been safely imported into Picasa. Not sure what is going wrong - perhaps you aren't the using the latest version (2.5)?

Sean said...

When I first used Picasa I thought it was incredible, and it soon became one of my favourite pieces of software. I am also a big fan of nearly everything Google does in terms of usability. But as Picasa continues, it seems to be getting harder and harder to use. Google needs to sort out some of the weird usability issues before adding more features.

Anonymous said...

Picasa was bought by Google, Google had little to do with it's interface or ease of use (much like Google Earth).
Picasa is pretty good for my needs but it still has some terrible bugs correctly saving metadata, and the library feature is broken if you ever want to edit what folders are scanned or not. These bugs have been around for years, it is too bad they haven't been fixed.

JJ said...

It would also be good if the screensaver pictures could be randomised a bit more. Picasa tends to display pictures in rough date order with a few more random pictures thrown in every now and then. The problem is that you tend to see the same old pictures when the screensaver starts and the screen powers down before you reach the later ones.

Despite this, its still an excellent piece of software.

Janek said...

I've written some instructions on how to remove the Google logo, it's pretty easy.