On Wednesday, Google released the test version of an online photo album called Picasa Web Albums. Requiring a Google (or Gmail) account, it is available only in limited release, and functions only with Google’s Picasa photo organizing and editing system.

That’s not necessarily a shortcoming. Picasa continues to evolve into a quite capable amateur’s tool for editing, organizing and otherwise manipulating image files. I use the word amateur only because it is not meant to – nor does it – interface with the common professional editing software such as Serif, Paint.NET, the GIMP, and various renditions of PhotoShop. Google has finally straightened out the goofy filing system, and Picasa can now be made to display files in (more-or-less) the Explorer style we’re accustomed to. This was my biggest general complaint about it. I’ve otherwise found it capable ever since it was purchased from the developers a couple of years ago. All in all, Picasa will do just about anything the average user would like, and it will now post to the Web as well.

Having messed around with your images and gotten them to your liking, you click on the Web Album button in the toolbar at the bottom of the screen. This connects you to picasaweb.google.com/your user name. Since this is a limited version, you have to apply for a place in line at picasaweb, first come, first served, and standard editions of Picasa2 don’t have the magic button. You must download the new beta, which works just fine as far as I can tell, and has some neat new features that I’ll let you discover for yourselves.

Everything is laid out in the sensible – albeit quirky – Google way. I had no trouble navigating around the page and setting up an album without consulting the help files. Free upload capacity is limited to 250 MB for the test, but you can increase the limit to 6 GB for US $25 a year, payable by credit card only. Interestingly – VERY interestingly – Google has along with this release quietly rolled out its first paid service. More, I am sure, will be revealed.

Rather than my trying to explain it all, why don’t you have a look at the test album I posted? You can find it here. Then click on the link and get in line for a test drive. If you already use Picasa, it’s a natural step. If you don’t, you should at least take a look at the system.

[tags]google,bill webb,picasa,picasa web album,photo site,photo organize[/tags]