Picasa – understanding why you don’t have to save your work

lossyPicasa is different. With most programs, we teach .. Save, Save, and Save often. With Picasa, we teach – Don’t Save!

This is important for maintaining the quality of your photos. Usually your photos are .jpg type of files. These type of files are compressed. Every time you re-save them it goes through the compression process and you lose some quality. This is called ‘Lossy’ compression. If you want to understand it, I found this good article on the .jpg format. Basically, every time you make a change and re-save a .jpg picture, you are degrading the quality of that picture by one generation. If you crop it and save, you’re 2d generation. If you then add some fill light and save again, your picture is now 3d generation, and on and on.  Think of making copies of copies and you’ll get the idea.  Although the amount of degradation is invisible to the human eye on the computer screen – it will make a difference if you ever want to print your picture.  The example of the purple flowers is an extreme example and you’ll need to click on the picture to see the difference.

Picasa does not allow you to overwrite your original photo. When you make edits, Picasa stores them in its picasa.ini file. When you look at a photo using Picasa you are seeing thru the eyes of this .ini file – with all the edits you made – but your original remains untouched. When you print, or email, or upload, or export – Picasa applies the edits on the fly so you see what you expect. Using this technique, your end result will never be more than 2d generation. If you do use the save command Picasa will save your original in a hidden file, thereby duplicating the amount of space taken up on your computer.

Our recommendation is: Don’t Save! Let Picasa do it’s thing. Use Export to create pictures for other programs to use.

Geeks on Tour Members will want to watch the following videos on this topic:

  1. How Picasa Handles Edits: Non-Destructive Editing
  2. Ways to Save
  3. Exporting Pictures for Use in Another Program
  4. Resizing Pictures
  5. Resizing a Batch of Pictures
  6. Resizing Pictures to Width and Height

This tip brought to you by Geeks on Tour

Geeks on Tour is a membership website.  There are lots of tutorial videos on editing your pictures with Picasa’s tools.  The first 3 are free for all to view.  To see all of them, you need a Geeks On Tour membership.  It’s only $7/mo or $58/yearly.  Join Today!

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Chris is a teacher. Although she comes as close to an expert as possible in many areas of computer usage, she can still remember what it's like not to know these things! That means she can communicate with students in a way that teaches and doesn't demean. She really enjoys teaching one-on-one and for groups of people, but she reaches a worldwide audience with her tutorial videos on the GeeksOnTour.com website. She currently travels the country in an RV with her husband, Jim. As Geeks on Tour, they present computer seminars at RV rallies, computer clubs, and Senior Centers all over the US.

5 thoughts on “Picasa – understanding why you don’t have to save your work”

  1. When you “save” a picture in Picasa the original is backed up in an extra subfolder “.picasaoriginals”, and it’s easy to retrieve. After working on some of my pictures, straightening, resizing, perhaps retouching, I want to be able to use these, and not the originals, or just rarely the originals. Therefore I like to “save”. Takes disc space though. And later, when I remove old picture folders from Picasa, I don’t loose my editings.


    1. Compact! Picasa asks you if you want your pictures compacted in the web when you store them into a web album. That makes a lot of sense. It does not compact your local picture, do not worry.


  2. Help! I had lost some pictures, so was going through all my folders, clicking on each picture and SAVING it, thinking that the problem was I had not saved before! My list of folders is full of folders with the same name, but different numbers of pics in each folder — I guess these duplicates are where I have edited and saved, edited and saved. What can I do???


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