Back in the old days, things were very simple. We had a camera. We took photographs. We sent the prints away to BonusPrint. We discarded mistakes. We filed the photos in albums. We ordered duplicates for grandparents. Best of all, my involvement in the whole process was negligible.

Then some idiot invented the digital camera. We still took photos but the whole issue of printing became more complicated. You could be adventurous and attempt to print on your inkjet printer at home. This would result in ludicrously sized and distorted A4 images, drenched in ink, that gave small children nightmares.

Alternatively, you could hoard all your photos on your PC and proudly drag dinner guests and relatives into your study to hunch over your computer for 3 hours to admire your holiday snaps from Corfu. You would forget to serve dinner (which was burnt in any case) or get drinks for anyone.

Any request from Grandma for an actual glossy print would be dismissively rejected with ‘Oh no. What do you need that for ? It’s so much easier to look at them on my PC.’ Easier for you maybe but not for Grandma, particularly as she didn’t have a PC.

Your marriage almost ends when the PC suffers a fatal hard disk drive error. Losing your CV is one thing but 1,387 photographs of the family is quite another. Telling the wife, you didn’t burn a DVD containing all the photos is not a pleasant experience. Particularly as she repeatedly asked you to do so and, worse, you repeatedly assured her it was in hand. You are forced to get a job in technical consulting which means you travel a lot until she cools down. Three years and counting…

Then some idiot invented image editing software. This meant that every single digital image was now subject to a time-consuming, rigorous and thorough review by the ‘Photographic approval and refinement committee’ (my wife is CEO). Each photo is now subject to prolonged and detailed scrutiny. Every human effort is made to improve the end product. Like a surgeon, you will try to remove redeye, crop, sharpen, brighten and resize in an effort to salvage an image that previously would have been discarded instantly.

Digital cameras came bundled with cut down trial versions of expensive photo editting software packages. Typically, this software was bloated, slow, difficult to use for novices and horrendously complicated.

After an unfortunate experience with Ulead Photo Express and a short stay in The Priory, my counsellor suggested using Kodak EasyShare. This software was still slow and bloated but free. Eventually, I was able to modify images, save images and burn a CD. Then I would simply take the CD to BonusPrint and normal service was resumed.

I didn’t use the ‘Albums’ in EasyShare. I simply stored all the photos in my own folders. A folder for each year. A sub-folder for each event. Because the left side of my tiny brain still thinks in hierarchies not tags.

I would download all photos from the camera into ‘Staging’ for approval by the commitee. Then I would create another directory ‘ForPrinting’, burn the CD and forget the whole nightmare for another 3 months.

However, after a recent PC rebuild and watching the gigabytes of EasyShare software downloading and installing for 35 minutes, I finally capitulated. I decided to try Picasa out. Picasa was installed and running very quickly. Picasa scanned my folders and indexed all my photos - fast. As a bonus, Picasa fixed one of my biggest problems by identifying and skipping duplicate photos.

The Picasa software was fast and intuitive (like most Google products). There was a minimal feel to the interface which meant I could actually understand it. Some other photo software packages are so cluttered with menus, views and tabs, there is no room to actually display the photo. Also, Picasa has a useful ‘Undo’ operation for every change.

Picasa keeps a copy of the original image and maintains additional versions for any modified photos. Hence, it was not easy to make changes and simply overwrite the original image as I used to.

Now I can actually manage (search, delete, fix) my photos more easily. Some of the early photos have lost the original date and time thanks to other nameless software packages. Oddly, Picasa doesn’t support modifying EXIF data directly so I used the 30 day trial of ACDSee (great name, eh ?) to update the timestamps in batch.

It’s early days yet but Picasa looks promising. It has all the standard image editing features, email and blog capability, printing support, incremental backup, integration with ‘BonusPrint’ for glossy prints, a ‘Create Gift CD’ just for Grandma (who now owns a PC).

There are also some additional, esoteric features in Picasa 2.5 (Geotag, FTP publishing, integration with Google Video) and the inevitable shared Web albums.

PS. Just noticed that while Picasa can add a ‘Caption’ to a photo, there is no tagging (like Flickr). This is one area where the right side of my tiny brain definitely wants tags. A single photo could be tagged with the names of the people, the location, ‘Holiday’ etc etc.