After the launch of Google Drive, I was excited to use it as a photo backup & sharing service. Unfortunately, the features for what I consider a good photo viewer are spread out over different Google products (Drive, Google+ photos, Picasa Web.)
I want to back up my photos online
This is easiest in Drive – drop your photos into the Drive folder, and you’re done.
You can’t do it on Google+. Yes, you can upload photos (including the neat Instant Upload function from your phone) but it won’t be an archive, because photos over 2048 pixels get resized from the original.
You can’t do it easily on Picasa Web. You can let you upload your photos and preserve the size at least. However, if you want to download your photos again, you’ll need to install Picasa – you can’t do it from the web. The Picasa client application is a mess.
Let me qualify that last statement. Picasa is a mess because:
- If you connect to Picasa Web, it doesn’t synchronise your online photos with the local store.
- There’s no way to stop it scanning a bunch of areas on your hard drive on install.
- The interface styling doesn’t follow either Google or Apple’s interface guidelines.
- The “Import from Google+ photos” option is fairly confusing as this will be almost the same as Picasa Web, but not quite.
- The “Back Up Pictures” is unnecessary – uploading to the cloud is the backup.
- You can synchronise name tags with Google+ … which implies that name tag data in Picasa and Google+ are actually different.
- Old features, like those for creating gift CDs, should now be removed.
I want to be able to view them online and on mobile in a decent interface
All three products have different photo viewers.
Google+ has the best viewer – there’s a grid of photos on the web and the Google+ mobile app, and a useful fan / zoom animation. Also, the background colour around the photo is black, which helps the photo itself be the focus.
Picasa is similar, but uses a white border, no animations, dated styling, and frames the photo in a smaller area.
Drive’s photo viewer doesn’t even resize a photo to fit into the browser height.
I want to be able to share photos easily
This is easiest in Drive. Click Share, click “anyone with the link can view”, and paste into an email / IM. You know for sure that they will be able to view it without being pestered to sign in or sign up to any services. You can also share to individuals by adding their email address.
In Picasa, you can’t share individual photos in this way without changing the visibility of the whole album. (You can share entire albums no problem.)
In Google+, you can share using Circles. Given that the only people I know who use Google+ are Google employees, I don’t want to share photos like this. Can I put an email address in that input box? Will it nag the target to sign up to Google+ before they can view the photo?
Making sense of it
Comparisons like this are a little convolved, because Google+ evolved from Picasa and the old service hasn’t been integrated properly yet, and Drive evolved from Docs which had a pretty different target segment. That said, it’s important that the offerings as they stand to the consumer today make sense, and right now they don’t.