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24 Nov 2020

The best alternatives to Picasa: free editing apps for PC and mobile compared

Picasa is out of the picture and Google Photos is set to limit free storage and editing tools, so take a closer look at these other apps if you're looking to switch

Launched in 2002 by tech company Ideas Lab and sold to Google two years later, Picasa was originally an application that managed photo storage on users' own computers as well as offering editing features.

However, what made Picasa unique when it launched was that it also allowed users to create photo albums online, share them with friends and add them to websites. This, together with its simple-to-use interface, meant it offered something to suit everyone's needs. The icing on the cake? It was free.

But in February 2016 Google said it would no longer support Picasa's offline storage and editing features, and would migrate users to its own cloud-based Google Photos app.

Below, we've rounded up some of the best free and paid-for editing apps that can help you move on from Picasa.

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Alternatives to Picasa

Best for editing images on your device

  • Adobe Photoshop - From £10 a month / Windows, Mac
  • Photoshop Elements - £80 / Windows, Mac
  • Photoshop Express - Free, with in-app purchases / Android, iOS

Adobe's Photoshop is a firm favourite among both professionals and amateurs for manipulating and editing digital images. Photoshop is the creative professional tool, which you can buy as part of a Creative Cloud subscription as a single app or as part of a package with other Adobe applications. Photoshop Elements, a standalone version of Photoshop for a one-off price, is aimed at knowledgeable amateurs. Photoshop Express is a free mobile app (you need to create an Adobe account to use it) that offers lots of options on your phone or tablet.

As well as traditional correctional tools, it also gives users the option to get creative with photos. It lets you crop, colour correct, add captions, filters, coloured backgrounds and even draw on the screen.

All the apps will take time to get to grips with, but offer plenty of features to dig into.

Best for advanced editing and managing a photo library

  • Adobe Lightroom - From £9.98 a month / Windows, Mac Free, in-app purchases / iOS, Android

Lightroom is another string to Adobe's bow, offering photo library management and editing tools that allow you to apply corrections to more than one photo at a time. This is aimed at professionals, and the mobile apps, which are free to download, are designed to help pro photographers manage their workflow on the move. You can do some basic editing such as cropping, applying filters and sharpening for free, and pay to upgrade to more advanced editing features.

Lightroom on desktops aims to streamline big photo libraries and batch editing, and integrates with Photoshop, if you have it, for when you need more detailed or powerful pixel-level editing tools

Best for storage

  • Google Photos - Free (15GB storage) / Android, iOS, Windows, Mac, ChromeOS

Google Photos replaced Picasa as Google's own photo management and editing app in 2016. While it lacks some of Picasa's most-loved features, it does offer editing tools such as cropping and rotating images, filters to change the overall look of the photo and the ability to write and draw on images - although the Picasa caption tool is no more

Google Photos' biggest appeal is that it's cloud-based, which means your photos are available on any compatible device: you can either use the mobile app or a web browser to access your photos. The service has hitherto offered unlimited free storage if you select the 'high-quality' setting (images are a maximum of 16Mp, and any over that size will be compressed down. Videos are stored in 1080p high definition), although Google has recently announced that it is to limit free storage to 15GB - although photos uploaded before June 2021 won't count towards that limit. You can add paid-for storage if you want to add best quality images and videos.

Google uses AI to tag your images, which means its search is very powerful. It can, for example, identify photos of the same person, which you can then label with their name. You can also search by location and even the contents of photos - for example, 'churches in Spain'.

The software also creates albums automatically and even photobooks, which you can then order to be printed.

Best for quick & playful edits

  • Pixlr Basic - Some tools are free, premium from $3.99 a month / Mobile app is free, but ad-supported; in-app purchases / Online, or app for iOS and Android

Pixlr offers browser-based editing via two online apps. Pixlr X is for more 'playful' edits such as applying effects, cropping, removing blemishes and adding text to photos. The more advanced Pixlr E has an interface similar to Photoshop's. The former is easy to get to grips with and quick to use, but also suitable for those with more advanced skills.

There's no photo management option: edits you do via this tool have to be saved to your hard drive, but you can share them directly to social media accounts from the browser.

Best for advanced editing

  • Gimp - Free / Windows, Mac, Linux

Gimp is a powerful free open-source alternative to Photoshop, popular with amateurs and those with more advanced skills. As it's open-source, its community contributes to and maintains it.

It offers a lot of functions but isn't the most immediately user-friendly software. Be prepared to spend time getting to know it - beginners to image editing might find it overwhelming.

As it's open-source, anyone can take the code and develop a version, so there are mobile versions in the iOS App Store and the Google Play store, but those are often ad-supported and/or offer in-app purchases.

Best for storage & managing your photos on your PC

  • Phototheca - Free. $39.95 for advanced features / Windows only

One of the key appeals of Phototheca, which runs on your Windows PC (aside from being free) is that it makes storing photos straightforward.

Phototheca's filing system is simple and efficient. Once you've imported your photos (there's a maximum of 5,000 allowed in the free version), it will then encourage you to add tags your images.

The more you tag, the more organised your library will be.

Phototheca also uses AI to categorise your photos and make searching easier, and uses that to sort photos into albums.

Best for storage

  • Dropbox - Basic service free, upgrades from £7.99 a month / Windows, Mac, Android, iOS

Dropbox is one of the many cloud-based options you have if you're looking to store images and share them with others. It also lets you connect online image-editing tools such as Pixlr to your Dropbox account, meaning you can do some editing of your images stored there and save your edits back to your Dropbox storage.

Dropbox is useful if you want to share images, and if you want to access your stored pictures across all your devices.

The free tier only gives you 2GB of storage, which you'll use up quickly, but you can add more with the paid plans.

Can I still download Picasa?

It's very tempting to download the versions of Picasa that you can find on third-party software sites, but we don't recommend this, for two reasons.

First, it's no longer supported by Google, which means it hasn't had any security patches since it was discontinued. That means not only will any existing security holes not be fixed, but also should cybercriminals discover more holes, those won't be patched either. Using unsupported software puts you at risk from hackers.

Second, software from third-party sites often comes bundled with extra programs such as adware, browser banners and other PUPs (Potentially Unwanted Programs), or even malware. Always download software from its official website.

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