A Direct Comparison of Picasa for Mac vs. iPhoto

John P.

picasaYesterday was the day I’ve been waiting on for months. Google finally released the popular, and FREE, Picasa image management software for the Mac!

Let me explain. You see, a while back I was forcibly converted to the Mac at work. At first I complained. A lot. But later it grew on me. Now, even though I hate to admit it, I have to say I actually prefer the Mac for most computing operations. One of the things that I did not enjoy, however, was the pathetic iPhoto software which was pretty much the only game in town for Mac users… until today.

So, Picasa, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways:

  • photo-directoriesFirst of all, I hate any sort of application that unnecessarily forces it’s users into a proprietary closed platform. And right off the bat, iPhoto does this (just like freakin iTunes!). You see, when you import photos into an iPhoto library it basically takes all of your individual pictures and lumps them into a giant ball, from which the average users can no longer extract them without great pain!

    Clearly they do this for the sole purpose of excluding the use of any other image editing software once they’ve got their grubby hands on your photos, because once they are imported you are going to have one heck of a time getting them OUT of iPhoto without making a huge mess. (You can opt out of this default behavior, but most people don’t know that.)

    If we take a look at Picasa on the other hand, this image management tool simply organizes your photos into directories on your hard drive which it efficiently scans and catalogs – without moving things around or messing stuff up!

    It also means that if you wanted to make a copy of your entire photo library, or a portion of it, for a friend or relative all you need to do is copy those folders onto portable media and hand it over. Can’t do that with iPhoto without a messy Export session! Oh, and while we’re on this topic, the folks behind Picasa were nice enough to include an “Import from iPhoto…” function to help you free those images from their bonds.

  • Speaking of liberating your photos, God forbid you ever end up with photos in two separate iPhoto albums! Like one on your desktop and one on your laptop! Attempting to combine them means you’re going to have to literally spend money on third party software to make it happen. That is inconceivable! (You keep’a using this word. I do not think it means what you think it means…)

    But again, Picasa makes this as simple as copying your photo directories to the other computer, and voila! It catalogs the images automatically. And you can still even gain access to those images with another piece of image editing or management software since the photos are just sitting there in directories, just like normal.


    By comparison, the Picasa image editor screen places your image in a window on the right, and clearly displays all the tools on the left, and even some more options on the bottom of the screen. Absolutely anyone can figure out how to edit their images using this method. Even my dad. (Love ya Pop!)

  • Next, let’s talk about the primary interface for a moment, shall we? iPhoto attempts to organize everything into “Events”, and while this might work for someone who doesn’t take that many photos, it will eventually grow completely out of control. For example, I have over 60,000 photos that I’ve taken over the last decade on my primary computer at home. They are neatly organized into directories. How in God’s name could I possibly organize them all into “Events”?

    Picasa deals with this quite elegantly. It displays all of the directories on the left and they can be expanded as usual, then on the right side it displays a chrolological stream of the image thumbnails. While doing so it also manages to nicely integrate the ability to do other things such as sync the directory to the Web, burn a CD, change the directory name, and much more.

  • In addition to the massive differences outlined above, there are a ton of little things that make all the difference between the two applications. For example, zooming in on an image. With Picasa you simply grab and drag the zoom bar at any time when looking at an image. In iPhoto you have to be in the edit menu. This almost drove me to drink!

    If you also check that image above again, you’ll see that Picasa is constantly showing you all sorts of vital details about the image you’re viewing like the resolution, size on disk, etc. This detail is all buried in the iPhoto interface for no good reason whatsoever.

  • Let’s talk about printing for a moment. My freakin iPhoto literally won’t print an image! I paid $79 for this software, and when I try to print it gives an error! I have to export an image and print it elsewhere.

    Meanwhile, Picasa has a wonderful print wizard which basically lets you choose the size of the image, how many you want, and make adjustments to the print settings while you’re at it.

Believe me, I could go on for hours about how much better Picasa is, but I’m bored with all this documentation, and frankly if you aren’t sold on giving it a try yet, nothing is going to work. But to sum things up, you can also watch this little Google video that explains some of the features in more detail:

I hope that all of you Mac users out there give Picasa a serious try. You’ve got nothing to lose since, unlike iPhoto, it won’t lock you in or make irreversible changes to your photo library.



  1. says

    Thanks for your heads up article on Picasa for Mac. I sure will give it a try.

    I too have developed a love hate relationship with all my Appel devices. Dam things are so “auto magic” that I often hate them. Both iPhoto n iMovie choke on them self trying to make thumbnails if you use them a lot. The iPad always feels to me that it is about to slip out of my hands. iMovie makes it difficult, almost a secret on how to delete footage which again causes it to choke on it’s self always regergatating thumbnails on your entire library when you are only using a tiny portion of it. Than there is the issue of there corporate greed, paying just a tad above slave wage but have over 100 BILLION in the bank n paying 4% tax to help maintain n operate the country they base there success from. Ain’t capitalism great…….. With 7 billion of us it is actually quite destructive……

    Just like you I could go on n on but live is short of us all so I will not.

    Aloha, Glennnnnnnn

  2. Ken Pichon says

    I enjoyed your explanation of Picasa for Macs. I have been exploring Picasa on various forums, and evidently there are many glitches in Picasa for use with Apple OS X Lion 10.7. Could you take another newer look at Picasa for the newest Apple operating systems?

  3. Joyce Eisen says

    I just got an I mac after using a pc for years. I loved picasa and am trying to appreciate on the mac. My pictures in the web albums cannot be downloaded Help!! I want to use picasa but my movies aren’t playing.I have a collection of 7 years of pictures and movies on my pc. I would like to use them on my mac.

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