Goodies from Google: free software
July 30, 2004
WASHINGTON — The world's most popular search engine is about a lot more than
searching these days. Yet you wouldn't know it by looking at
Google's still-spartan main page www.google.com.
A search field is just about all you see there. Yet the search
engine giant is slowly but surely offering users a growing number
of goodies, all for free, and all targeting areas of keen interest
to the plugged-in generation: digital imaging, file sharing, and
Digital camera owners will appreciate Google's new Picasa file
browser and image organiser www.picasa.com/google.
Picasa's interface is unique – instead of traditional menus along
the top, the program has buttons along the side and top that make
accessing the appropriate features a breeze. Once images are found
on your hard drive, the program organises them for you
Perhaps best of all, you can use Picasa to assign keywords to
your photos for easy retrieval later. You might have thousands of
photos scattered across your hard drive, but if you've tagged them
with appropriate keywords in Picasa, you can easily get to all of
the photos of, say, your vacation travels or your pets.
Picasa can import images from just about any Twain-compatible
device, including digital cameras. Scrolling through the images
with Picasa is very smooth, and the program offers some rudimentary
but effective editing controls, as well, including enhancing,
cropping, and rotating. The editing controls are easy enough for
novices to use. One advantage of Picasa as an image editor is that
it's a lot less complex and daunting than Adobe's powerhouse
graphic editor PhotoShop.
Sharing photos is another forte of Picasa, and for that the
Picasa feature known as Hello is front and centre. Hello www.hello.com is a free tool from Google that lets you send
your photos instantly to any number of friends. Within Picasa, you
just highlight the image you'd like to send, click the Hello
button, and you're whisked off to the Hello Web page.
If you haven't signed up for Hello yet, you'll be presented with
an opportunity to do so. Registration is a simple affair: create a
user name and password, and supply an e-mail address.
Hello works like a cross between an instant messenger and a file
sharing application. The main application allows you to send as
many image files as you wish to any number of friends, even if
you're using a slow dial-up connection.
The images are transmitted almost instantly, thanks to a
proprietary image transfer process, and if your friend wishes to
download a full-sized printable version of an image, he or she can
do so at will. The images can be displayed simultaneously on your
computer screen and that of the recipient, and you can use the
Hello interface to chat about the pictures in real time.
When used with Google's Picasa, images transmitted via Hello
will appear automatically in the recipient's Picasa folders.
Why can Google offer these tools for free? The one obvious
moneymaking hook with Picasa is that there is an optional photo
printing solution available from the application. You don't have to
use the photo printing solution, but it's there, and it's a for-fee
service. Hello and Picasa are advertising them as free, however, at least
In addition to these new tools, Google is now the force behind
Blogger www.blogger.com/start, a program that makes it
very easy to join the blogging revolution by creating your own
What's a blog? It's short for "Web log," a kind of online diary
that you make available to the world. Blogs are being used these
days for all kinds of purposes – from purely narcissistic to
For example, in the United States, journalists are using blogs
at this year's Democratic national convention to give readers
up-to-the- minute accounts of their observations and thoughts from
this newsworthy event. Entertainment personalities are increasingly
using blogs to keep in touch with their fans. The list of bloggers
is getting long indeed.
You can join that list for free with Blogger. What you'll end up
with is a Web address of your own that you can send to people who
might be interested in reading your blog. You can create a general
blog or one centred on a special topic of interest to you. Readers
of your blog can post responses.
Free software is increasingly hard to find these days. While the
old adage that "you get what you pay for" still generally holds
true, thanks to these new goodies from Google, you can get a lot of
fun and useful software for nothing – at least for now. – Sapa-DPA
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