1. Photo organizer. So where did you put that picture of the elephants? You may have thousands of pictures on your computer's hard
drive. Finding the one you want without a good organizer like Google's Picasa2 can be problematic.
When you start Picasa2 (http://picasa.google.com
; Windows only), it will search your hard drive or just designated folders. In addition to pictures, it searches for video. The process is quick, even on large hard drives.
Captions and labels are easily added to pictures. This helps you go back later and find particular shots. The search function is powerful. You can search for a date, a name, a label, a keyword, the
kind of camera you took a picture with and even a color.
You can also browse pictures by using the timeline. A button on the bottom of the screen allows you to scroll across folders organized by date. Double-clicking on any album found in the timeline
automatically starts a slide show.
Picasa2 also has other functions. It contains basic image-editing tools and the ability to create slide shows. And it will burn your pictures onto CDs. But Picasa2 is strongest as an organizer.
2. Advanced image editing. Adobe Photoshop CS2 is extremely popular with professional and serious amateur photographers. However, its $650 price tag leaves it out of range for many. That's where GIMP
(GNU Image Manipulation Program) comes into play.
; Windows, Mac OS X) is an extremely powerful digital image-editing program. By adding layers to an image, you can radically alter an image's original state. It also has a host of
filters. These will remove dust or scratches from a scanned image, sharpen or blur an area, and more. There are dozens more tools, too numerous to describe here.
GIMP has a steep learning curve and its manual is not deep. Advanced users might be happiest with it.
3. Easy image editing. Advanced editors are great, but sometimes all you want to do is click a button to remove red eye. Paint.NET http://www.eecs.wsu.edu/paint.net
; Windows only) makes it easy to Remove red eye, crop images, change image size and create really cool effects. And you won't have to take a class to figure it all out.
Paint.NET does a fine job of balancing advanced features with ease of use. For example, want to turn your snapshot of a sunset into a painting? Just click on the "oil painting" effect. And it even more
creativity: You can change the brush size and coarseness of the effect.
One of the best features is that the various windows, such as tool bars and color wheels, turn transparent when not in use. You can easily see and edit your image, no matter how cluttered your workspace.
4. Stitch it up. Have you ever wished you could piece together a series of shots, like a parade, into one large picture? AutoStitch
; Windows only)
Will take multiple pictures and create a two-dimensional panorama.
AutoStitch does everything automatically, with surprisingly good results. Select the files you want sewn together, and the program does the rest. AutoStitch does allow you to change the output size,
blending methods and quality settings. But a little tweaking is necessary to create a good panorama.