Google, Please Bring Picasa to the Mac

by Chris Howard Mar 26, 2007

This piece is meant to be a review, but instead, it became a bit of a tirade and a plea. I spent hours yesterday trying to find an application to solve a problem that just shouldn’t exist in the first place.

Have you ever been stuck on a Mac with an older version of iPhoto than your iPhoto library, which you’ve got a copy of but, sadly, old iPhoto can’t open? Fair enough it can’t open, but it doesn’t get you back down the creek.

The institute I’m studying at has older Macs with iPhoto 4 on them. I carry a copy of my iPhoto library back and forth because it contains all my photos for school as well. But when I need to find a photo it can be a very, very laborious task.

Dear Apple: why the heck doesn’t the Finder included a folder/file browser file like iPhoto does? (Did you like that? I didn’t say “like Windows Explorer.”) The team developing iPhoto understands we want to browse our photos in a hierarchal manner, with the folder structure in the left pane, and the thumbnails of all the images in the right. Yet good ol’ Finder doesn’t provide that view option. The absence of it sucks with a capital “S.” Could you imagine if iPhoto only provided the view options that Finder does? You wouldn’t use it. No wonder people hate the Finder. The fastest way to visually find files is by scrolling through a folder hierarchy with icons or thumbnails on the right. Maybe you forgot that people don’t keep all their image files in iPhoto.

So, this major shortcoming set in place a hunt that yielded…nothing. I went looking for a file manager (Finder replacement) that would give me that view option.

PathFinder, Finder’s supposed ideal replacement, does the same stupid thing, providing only icon, list, and column views. As a Mac user I feel insulted and offended that developers think I’m that much of a Mac zombie that I couldn’t cope with a Finder replacement that didn’t mimic Finder.

I did come across an interesting little app called File Browser. It borrows Windows’ idea of folder icons showing a preview of the images in that folder. It does only run on Tiger whereas I need a solution for Panther (which the lab Macs run). File Browser is an app to watch; however it suffers the same stupidity, assuming we’re so Mac-ified we only want to drill down through folders looking for photos and then up again and then down again and up again and down again….

Since I love coining words and terms, I’ll call these types of file browsers “yo yo browsers.” Down and up, down and up. It’s like picking fruit by climbing out one branch at a time, when you could use a ladder and quickly cover many branches.

When I dropped File Browser in my trials folder, I noticed an app already there called Caffeine Browser, which I remembered was something to do with photos that I’d looked at when I was looking for an app that would print contact sheets with EXIF information (which Caffeine doesn’t, Photo Mechanic at $150 was the only one I found that did).

Firing it up again, I discovered it was exactly what I needed now. Sadly, I was about to strike out again. The system requirements specify Tiger as a minimum.

ShoeBox was another image browser app I looked at. It was okay, but had a horrid hierarchy structure, with each branch in its own window, like Finder’s column view, which is an infuriatingly cumbersome way of browsing folders. Shoebox also was Tiger only.

One app I briefly got excited about was RAGE Macintosh Explorer. Finally I thought I’d found a developer who wasn’t afraid to be different. However, he got bitten by another issue of OS X, and Macintosh Explorer brought my system almost to a standstill, using 80% CPU when viewing folder contents as thumbnails. In the end I had to force quit the app. (It also had another major bug where I had to restart it whenever I plugged in a new external drive or opened a disk image, before it would recognize them.) Judging by customer comments on the RAGE site, others may not be experiencing these problems, so I will look further into Macintosh Explorer.

It raises this question though: why must Finder/OS X generate the image preview thumbnail every time I visit a folder? Oh, okay, so it caches them. But it’s still noticeably slow. How hard would it be to include the preview in the file metadata somehow? This would then mean any application accessing the file would get access to that thumbnail instead of having to generate its own.

I need this app today, so have been obsessing about finding it. Finding this solution to Finder’s stupid design cost me a few hours last night, not to mention all the wasted time with yo yo browsing in the past.

For me, the most important thing is it runs on Panther as well as Tiger. And that becomes gripe number three. Many people try not to upgrade each time a new version of OS X comes out. I personally like to keep up; however, this little failed exercise proves what I’ve long suspected, which is that Apple doesn’t make it easy for those who want to stick with the previous OS. Is it reasonable that an application, correction, many applications can’t run on an OS that was only superseded two years ago?

The best affordable image browsing application I’m aware of isn’t yet available on the Mac, and that’s Google’s Picasa (and a Mac version was where my quest began). I’m telling you, Picasa can’t come to the Mac fast enough! I like iPhoto, but it’s only good for images contained within it. Picasa accesses all images on your drives. It doesn’t matter which is better at anything else, the reason we need Picasa is so we can have a single method to view manage all images on our computer.

So, Google, please, please develop Picasa for the Mac as soon as possible. Oh, and please make sure it also runs on OS X 10.3 (Panther).


  • Have you tried GraphicConverter? It has a great folder browsing mode: shows list of folders in one pane, thumbnails in another and big preview of selected thumbnail in a third. All are resizeable.

    moldyapples had this to say on Mar 26, 2007 Posts: 8
  • I wasn’t all that impressed with Picassa at first but it has REALLY improved in a short amount of time.  At the very least it would provide a nice FREE alternative to having to pay to upgrade iPhoto.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Mar 26, 2007 Posts: 2220
  • Thanks, moldy, I’ll check that out. I’ve used GC a little but not had a good look at the browser.

    Thanksw, MacGlee, I’ll check that out too.

    Chris Howard had this to say on Mar 26, 2007 Posts: 1209
  • THANKYOU Moldy! You just solved two problems with one app.

    Not only does GC provide an adequate browser (though I would prefer one not integrated with an app, at least it lets me open images with any app), which was the issue of this article, it also can print CONTACT SHEETS WITH EXIF INFO!!!! YAYYYYY!

    And it was right under my nose the whole time. oops!

    Though I do need two versions - one for Tiger and one for Panther. Hope I don’t have to buy it twice.

    Speaking of their pricing, buying thru PayPal costs 30 Euros, whereas thru Kagi US$30, a saving of nearly US$10!

    Chris Howard had this to say on Mar 26, 2007 Posts: 1209
  • hmm… Well, here’s what Picasa has available as a plugin for iPhoto…

    Wouldn’t that do for you?  Assuming you already, as you stated, have your photos chilling in iPhoto.

    Zamyatin had this to say on Mar 27, 2007 Posts: 7
  • I want Picasa because it can catalog all images on all drives. iPhoto only catalogs what you put in it.

    Chris Howard had this to say on Mar 27, 2007 Posts: 1209
  • If you are serious about managing your images, consider a dedicated catalogue program such as Espression Media Pro or Extensis Portfolio.  They are a huge step up from browsers which do not maintain data, and need to create new thumbnails every time you open them.  You can enter your metadata, & key words, and create catalogue sets - which make finding your images a BREEZE!  I work my images in LightRoom (sorry Apple), finish them in Photoshop, and then manage them in Expression Media.  Lightroom has very good cataloguing properties, but on my G5 is a bit slow.  A Super resource for the serious shooter: The DAM Book, by Peter Krough - O’Reilly Media.

    DanHolmesPhoto had this to say on Apr 06, 2009 Posts: 1
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