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I am kind of confused by Picasa's photo organisation system which involves albums on one hand and folders plus collections on the other. Does anyone have a good system for using these to keep everything organised?

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Usually, I just stick to folders. All pictures that belong together (e.g. they were shot on the same day) live together in their own folder. Now sometimes, this scheme doesn't work any more, e.g. if I have two sets of pictures from the same event that belong together, but I still don't want to mix because they're from two different cameras or whatever. To be able to keep them in two folders, yet still have them together in Picasa an album / collection comes in handy. Another scenario is that you are making a collection of pictures from multiple photos before having Picasa export or email them.

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This is how I have understood Picasa :-)

  • Folders in Picasa are your actual file-system directories or folders.
    • I prefer to keep a bunch of pictures taken together in a 'folder', straight from the camera
  • Albums on the other hand are more like 'labels' and can be groups of specific pictures that you would like to label together
    • If you edit an album, the originals remain same
    • Albums are good for exporting together and also for batch processing
    • Albums are also 'volatile' bundles as you can re-arrange things from different folders together in an album and edit the list as you prefer (even, over time)
  • Collections are a higher level of labeling to group entire folders together
    • say, you want to get together all your monthly hike-pictures folders together,
      you could create a new collection for them
    • I refer this as labeling again because the original folder locations are not changed by this activity -- just like 'tagging' a picture from a folder into an album does not move it anywhere
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Well, Picasas Online Help will answer your question about Folders versus Albums. Quote:

Folders in Picasa represent actual folders on your computer's hard drive that contain photos. Changes you make to folders in Picasa affect the corresponding folders on your computer's hard drive. For example, deleting a photo from a folder also deletes the photo from your hard drive.

Albums, unlike folders, exist only in Picasa. You can create an album that contains combinations of photos from multiple folders. For example, you might create an album called 'Pictures with Grandma,' and include photos featuring Grandma housed in different folders. Unlike Picasa folders, your albums don't correspond to real folders on your hard drive. When you delete or move photos from an album, the original files remain in their original locations on your hard drive.

Personally, I create a new directory (folder) for each year in Pictures. Inside these year-directories I create sub-directories for each photo event with directory names like YYYY-MM-DD-DESCRIPTION. Picasa indexes these directories and displays them in chronological order automatically. This is good enough in most cases. Occasionally I create an album e.g. to collect images (coming from several different events/folders) on a special topic e.g. "best cat shots". :)

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If you're really nuts, or have lots of images (200+K for me - I'm experimenting with webcrawlers and computer vision image processing) you can also use multiple separate installs of picasa.

After that, you just use folders.

It's normally impossible, but by installing picasa inside Sanboxie, you can have multiple instances with separate libraries, even running at the same time.

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Have you looked at Picasa-mate? (sites.google.com/site/moonishsoftwares/picasa-mate) –  nik May 15 '10 at 10:47
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Yes, I have. However, Sandboxie lets you have multiple, simultaneous instances pf picasa with different libraries. All picasa mate does is rename folders in you /local Settings/Application Data/Google folder. With Sandboxie, I can have two instances of picasa with different libraries running at the same time. –  Fake Name May 16 '10 at 8:30
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