Picasa Mac

Google Drive vs Google+ Photos vs Picasa Web

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+ photos
Google Drive

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

Google Drive sharing
Picasa Web sharing
Google+ sharing

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.


91 responses to “Google Drive vs Google+ Photos vs Picasa Web”

  1. Tony M.

    I couldn’t agree more. I was so excited to put my 80gb of storage to use with Google Drive (I originally purchased it to backup my photos in Picasa but discovered that uploading was not as convenient as I had hoped it would be as you point out). With Google Drive, I thought that once in Google drive I could “share” to Picasa in a relatively simple manner but that turns out not to be the case.

    However, Google is a fairly smart company and I’m sure one of the engineers there will come to the same realization and solve this in their 20% time in short order.

  2. I hope someone at Google is reading along. Totally disappointed by the lack of Picasa integration in Google Drive. Though I do think they will get there in the (hopefully near) future.

  3. I couldn’t agree more with you! I’ve used the Picasa desktop client for years to back up my photo collection to Picasa Web. When Google + came along, I was hoping the two would integrate smoothly without taking away any features or rights from the users.

    Now that Google Drive is here, I don’t know what to think. I was initially excited, and thought this would be the best way to back up my photo collection. Now I’m very hesitant with how much constant change there has been since Larry Page became CEO.

    Hopefully the engineers at Google will find a smooth way to integrate the 3 services without taking away our rights or features. If not, then I might just call it quits on Google, and switch to Amazon’s back up service.

  4. Same concerns here. I have been using Picasa/Picasaweb, Google Docs, and Google Plus/photos. I have been backing up photos and videos to Picasaweb. Now that Google Drive is here, I do believe it is been a late entrant considering this is a sweet spot Google, I was expecting integration from day one. I appears primarily to be Docs 2.0. I do look forward to integration with Picasaweb storage and perhaps in integration with Play on the server and client side. Is there a location where Google share the strategy and the roadmap for consumers like me?

  5. one other good thing about drive compared to the other services is the possibility of subfolders (different levels), which i really need for our photo collection (also for efficient sharing). it seems a bit early though to all pics to drive just for this reason.

  6. Stewart

    I am just disappointed.

    I expected more from Google!

    It seemed to me they rushed it out (G+ photos) before it was ready.

    Looks like desperation.

    I went to Google for the simplicity, clean windows, etc. etc.

    They are loosing the thing which made them.

    Come on Google get a ‘Quality manager- department’ who can stop release until it is ready for General release.


  7. Franciela Pedroso

    I completelly agree. And would add “sharing in” Facebook. Sorry Google+, not worth to use two social networks that are not integrated..

    Franciela Pedroso

  8. Good write-up. I agree w/ you. Google is the new Microsoft.

  9. I am using Google Drive to store the folders containing the actual photos (one form of backup), and then using PicasaWeb to store and share the albums (another form of backup), though this approach uses 2x storage from my combined Google Drive / PicasaWeb storage account. I find that PicasaWeb is the best way of sharing photos. While it is true that you can only share whole albums, you can organize your albums as you like. And the PicasaWeb way of sharing is more user-friendly for non-tech-savvy recipients. Also, PicasaWeb allows you to correct the orientation of photos, etc. As you pointed out, Google Drive is more related to Google Docs and is a blatant imitation of DropBox (I guess Google has better lawyers than DropBox), whereas PicasaWeb is basically a photo sharing web site. The two can be used in combination for backup up photos, but in non-obvious ways.

  10. I completely agree, its an absolute mess. I thought it was just me! I have about 20GB worth of photos, which I started storing on picasa about 2 years ago. I bought a 20GB plan (which made about 25GB along with my gmail storage space – just enough) and starting the long arduous and tedious process of uploading every album I had.

    I had them grouped into folders like “holidays” “parties” etc and a few other ones. Picasa has no grouping system. You can tag individual photos, but you can’t tag albums. And even if you could, you can’t view them grouped in either the online or client interface. This vexed me, and it made it a lot harder to track my progress and see what albums I had already uploaded. I ended up writing a .NET app which connected to the PicasaWeb data API and added tags via the comments on the albums, and created my own grouped view of the online storage.

    Then Google+ came along, and suddenly my photos were automatically uploaded to Google+ (and also picasa) from the phone. But not grouped the way I like.

    Now they’re all over the place. Some from my phone are backed up to Google+/Picasa, some aren’t (it doesn’t always get them all). Some are on my laptop, some on my desktop. Some on my work computer. I just want them online! I’ve been lucky in that I have 25GB space on Google Drive (from my 20GB plan, now carried over) 18.5GB on Dropbox from referrals, 25GB on Skydrive and the new Windows 8 Mesh because I used it at least once, and 50GB on Box.NET because I own a Sony Xperia Phone. Only Dropbox is consistent and uncomplicated, but they charge SO much for extra space and I’m not filling my precious 18.5GB with photos. They wouldn’t even all fit!

    The world is really crying out for a clever photo sync tool which uses one of these cloud storage systems.

  11. Erik van eeuwen

    Picasa sucks… As Shahid points out, it is a mess…
    Google+ is the better viewer, and drive good for backups.
    My guess is, that the fact that picasa(web) is not integrated in Drive, and the fact that there are no significant updates, means that the entire servcie will be discontinued, and the functionality will go to G+. I think they are working on ways to import picasa pics into G+, as the fact that tags are different, yet compatible suggests.
    Hop e they do not keep us waiting too long!

  12. Since the new look gmail and the new icloud, I swapped to icloud. GDraive could be excellent if: They ditched gphotos and made gdrive work like picasa – then ditched picasa. Picasa is excellent for backing up images to the cloud, drive, if it were a bit more of a ‘viewer’ tool would also be great. At present it’s just a shoe box under the bed.

  13. Brian

    Please notice that Google never releases anything that is complete and polished. Their approach is very different from Apple. Apple works a product until they think that it’s ready to be released. Sometimes it flies (iPhone, iPad) and sometimes it flops (Apple TV). I’m sure some readers have different opinions on these products, but you get the point.

    Everything Google does starts relatively small. They monitor user activity and collect user feedback. For example, they have users “star” issues to follow them, also providing a signal on which issues should take higher priority. Then they iterate. Google doesn’t try to release a finished product on day-one. They release a functional product then help it evolve.

    I completely agree with this post’s assessment of the photo situation in Google products. I also think that combining Google Drive and Google+ Photos is in line with Page’s unification campaign. If you have a Google+ account, then go to the Photos > (gear icon) > Send feedback and suggest that these services be integrated.

  14. Agree! The best thing would been if there was an actual photo album function on drive.google.com. To open one and one picture is stupid, and nothing someone actually wanna do. And a mobile app (iOS in my case) that I can choose wich albums I wish to cache on my device. There are plenty of apps for Picasa with this functionality.

    I don’t want to use Picasa because it converts RAW to JPG and if I upload my videoes there I can’t get them back in my original format. Not even with Google Takeout.

    I somewhat like Dropbox’ approach, but they are overpriced compared to Google. And you don’t have the same good mobile apps that you have with Picasa.

    Also, Dropbox web interface is way better than Google Drive. Not only on pictures.

  15. Bob Bob

    lets not forget the constant “server error… please try again” yellow banner every time you try and delete something.

    As much as I hate to say it skydrive with it’s free 25GB, has been pretty good for backing up… not so good for sharing.

  16. Completely agree. I would love to backup all my content to drive, but the viewer is no good. I have lots of videos that are uploaded to picasa, but I can’t get them out if I want them again. Sad that i’m approaching my 80GB old storage plan and the price is going to dramatically increase for me from $20 a year for 80GB to $60 a year for 100GB.

  17. Darren

    I am just starting out with photo uploading and am comparing Google photos storage to Windows Skydrive. I have discovered I can sync my picasa photo folders and upload them to Google+ photos quite easily and can then select whether I wish to have this sync feature turned on or off. The photos appear online okay but I cannot see any option on Google + where I can download one folder of pictures back to my computer, maybe I will discover this. I have also installed Google Drive tonight and just dragged a picture in there and then checked it synced okay. My only concern is I can only view one photo at a time with Google Drive and if this is the case it will be pointless as I like to have photos in different folders. I have only tried on the online version of Windows Skydrive and this seems relatively easy to use. It just seems to me that when you try to use a google product, you need to investigate how to use it and it gets a bit confusing. Windows on the other hand I find easy to follow, though I like the integration of gmail and google+ better overall.

  18. Thanks Shahid,
    I have been thinking about this and you confirmed my thoughts; I hope Google is listening too.

  19. Thanks for the helpful review of the differences between the picture storage products. I would like to recommend that folks reading this article slow down the google hating. If you want to blast on Picasa, I would like to remind you that they came first with face detection. It is very clear they are putting their efforts elsewhere these days and it is for the right reasons. Google seems interested in integrating everything (Picasa, Docs, Social Media, Email, Talk, Voice) together hence the change from Google Docs to Google Drive and it will just take time. This an extremely large and ambitious project and to those whose suggest that they should wait until they have everything finished before releasing it, I would say that it would be a stupid. Just like video games have Beta tests to figure out how well their system is working, so Google is releasing in stages. Thanks for reading.


    P.S. Google is nothing like Microsoft.

  20. Yep, this isn’t quite there yet. I just read excitedly about Drive/Docs’s OCR feature, where it can convert a scanned image of a document into a document you can edit online.

    When I take a picture of some text with my phone, it’s automatically synced via “Instant Upload” with my Google+ (which I don’t use). Now I want to take that image and send it to my Google drive to edit as a document. What’s the easiest way to do that? Go to my Google+, download a full-size image, and import that into Drive? A bit cumbersome, in my opinion.

  21. jason

    I’m not interested in a social media app like google+. I don’t have the time to waste figuring it out. I want the simplicity of uploading video and pics to google drive, the ability to share the link to individual files or folders with specified people, and a user-friendly way for them to view what I have shared.

  22. Nick Hodder

    Great article. I have used Picasa Web Albums for years. It still annoys me that you can’t share individual photos without sharing the whole album.

  23. Rupert white

    I am an avid Mac user and have been for years, but Gmail, Chrome, Google+ and Android have convinced me to make the switch and live entirely (and happily ever after?) in the Google cloud.
    The only thing stopping me is this very issue. Sort this out and music (for non Americans) and you have won the day, Google.

  24. Gilles

    Besides backup, I´ve chosen using Picasa synchronized to Google+ / Picasa Web for :
    – face recognition
    – social integration : I want to share my photos with my social network.
    – editing photos
    All in the same place with Picasa interface.
    Nice move from Google to enforce using Google+.
    As stated above, I´m sure that Google, will, with time, integrate better all his services. What I don´t like is the slow speed of uploading.
    For Music, no discussion for me : it´s iTunes Match the best provider today

  25. Xiao G. Wu

    Holly smokes I can’t agree more with this post. Google’s photo sharing legacy is a bear to deal with. One thing not mentioned by the post or in the comments was the photo ordering capability that is lacking in Google+. It’s available in Picasweb and Picasa desktop client. Both are kludgy interfaces to have to deal with and sometimes the ordering process doesn’t work. Mostly because they work with 3rd-party photo vendors. When it does work, the convenience of ordering prints and picking them up at the local Walgreens in less then an hour (most times) is amazing. Especially for those of us who recently have had a child and grandparents wanting physical photos!

  26. I completely agree with you, Shadid: photo cloud sync & sharing with Google right now is just a complete mess.

    I have been using Picasa for years, and especially love the facial recognition; setting up people albums for everyone in my family.

    Recently however, I’ve decided to give SkyDrive a go. Sadly I lose the facial recognition side of things, but it has made life a lot more unified with both automatically backing up to the cloud (via the local client) and sharing (via skydrive.live.com) working with the one service. Previously I was having to sync my photos via SugarSync and manually share albums with Picasa Desktop.

    @Gilles @Rupert: So far I’m absolutely in love with Zune Pass. $11.99 per month and you get access to almost any song in their store.

  27. Benjamin Flux

    Way to go man! We totally need an integration of the three. I’m pretty sure Google are working on it

  28. Word.

    Let’s get their attention.

  29. Neffab

    Any news on this issue? I look so forward to a solution ….(or a workaround..)

  30. The three services differences have made a big mess.

    I was hoping that I could easily set up a folder in Google Drive that would allow large groups of people to upload photos into that folder.

    PIcasa web has some great features, but I don’t want it searching my entire hard drive. I’m doing work for a volunteer organization. If I use Picasa Web with my Google Apps acount for the organization, I don’t want my personal photos to intermingle.

  31. Doogle

    So true. So true. Google+ continues to perplex me. I’ve used Picasa for a few years , and have my photo collection quite organized. Sharing photos (albums) has been simply a matter of uploading to picasaweb, but alas, with G+ taking over, it’s now time to look at other options. In my opinion, G+ is a waste of Google resources.

  32. Robin

    Just posting to say I agree. I want to take a picture and my ICS phone, and have it synced to picasaweb when I’m on wifi, dropbox is already doing this so unless google get a grip i’ll be dumping their service and doing a full migration to dropbox.

  33. carolwill3404@gmail.com

    Could someone please explain a few things to me. First of all, I’m paying to have my pics on Picasa. Then, I accidentally paid for google drive storage…do I need both? If I stop paying the Picasa, what happens to my pics that are already up there?

  34. anthonybox

    Totally agree with this article…

  35. Michel

    Google is a beta company which produces creative products but often unfinished/buggy ones.

    For example when you delete photos from Google+ they are deleted forever. Why not use the same approach as with the Drive where deleted elements are put in a bin? Nowadays when you delete something, you always expect to be able to get it back.

  36. Neffab


    Interesting thread. Do you know any apps or something for photo viewer for Google Drive in for example Google Chrome?

  37. Edward

    Just what I was thinking but rather better expressed.

  38. I thought it was just me. I really don’t know what pictures I have and where they are located. My desire is to take a photo and have it automatically upload to My Drive. I thought that photos I put in My Drive were accessible from Picasa; they’re not. I thought that when I selected auto upload they went to My Drive and Picasa; no again. It even took me awhile to figure out that Google Drive and My drive were not the same thing. And on and on. “It’s a mess” is an understatement.

    On the positive side I know a friend who made a lot of money by just writing an ebook on how to use a Nikon camera because it was confusing and poorly explained by Nikon. There is a real opening here for someone who can really explain things in writing. Unfortunately, I’m an engineer. Every engineer, including me, thinks they can write. Engineers are actually the worst writers. While what they write is usually accurate, it is rarely readable. Then we always blame the reader for not being able to read.

  39. Yes, I have been so confused on how I should store my photos online as a backup to my local storage, I want to use a Google service since I’m already paying for extra storage, right now they are all in Picasa Web but I think I’m going to move them all over to Drive, It would be good to go through them as well as I think I have a lot of duplicates.
    But I think Google are waiting for developers to build apps for Google Drive, as Drive is intended to be a framework which developers would use to allow users to store their data from an app in, e.g. Google Docs uses Drive as it’s method of storing documents you create with it, may be a bad example since Google developed both of them, but you get the idea.
    So if you want a nice photo viewer for Google Drive, make one.

  40. ShadowVlican

    great article, you address a couple pet peeves i have about using Google for my photos

  41. Google is a progressive company that is revolutionising web service offerings.
    Unfortunately it is also a company that never delivers a finished product.
    The individual products/projects are great in isolation, but it does appear that no one at google is:

    1) Driving and overall strategy for integration of products
    2) Driving the completion of products.
    3) Listening to its customers

    Google needs to get its shit together and polish its current offerings. It also needs to listen to its users who through various blogs are telling them how its products need to work together!

  42. Completely agree with the comments above.

  43. chris rogers

    I have only discovered this short coming on my honeymoon where I have been forced to back up to drive where I would have preferred 🙂 to store on google plus or Picassa. Google need to get the integration sorted very soon. Its starting to piss me off.

  44. Great thread and I agree. De-dupped, organized and loaded all 60+gb of pics to google drive. Would be reasonably happy if I could now view easily (grid thumbnails) on my phone and to tag photos.

  45. Glenn Nelson

    Here’s a puzzle: all “instant upload” photos from my phone during a two week period in April appear in the G+ view of the “instant upload” album, but they DO NOT appear in the picasweb view! AFAI can see, all instant upload photos from other time periods appear in both views.

  46. Rob Tonks

    I’ve just noticed in Picassa 3.9 that there is now an import from Google+ and it worked great for me.

  47. So, I have a photographer that took a few hundred photos at a recent HS class reunion. I created a Page in G+ and made her a manager so she can upload the photos. I was then going to share the link to the class via FB and email.

    I want each viewer to be able to download photos that they wish to have and NOT have to sign up for G+ or any other service.

    Is this the proper route to go? Should I use Picassa instead or Flickr?

  48. Not sure if mentioned above but blogger integration is also an issue. In blogger you can easily add a picture to a blog post from picasaweb. At this point drive is not integrated (you have to upload the pic from your hard drive). I’m sticking with picasaweb at this point till full integration is completed in drive.

  49. Why doesn’t Google connect PicasaWeb, Google+ and Google Drive? It seems to me Google+ has the best photo interface. I want to be able to share galleries in Google Drive the way I can in Dropbox, but with a nice interface, such as the one Google+ has. C’mon Google, this is easy to do, and stupid to have left out…

  50. I bought the 100gb upgrade for Google drive so my wife could move all of her photos from her hard drive to the cloud and free up some room on her, quickly disappearing, hard drive. However, it seems to just sync, leaving the photos both places. Does anyone have any suggestions on how to just store the photos in the cloud and not sync?


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