Picasa versus Windows Live Photo Gallery

Google’s Picasa and Microsoft’s Windows Live Photo Gallery are free tools for organising, editing and sharing (via the web) collections of photos on your PC. They have both been around for some years, and have each gone through a number of iterations, adding features each time.

I first blogged about Picasa back in 2005, when I compared it (favourably) with Microsoft’s Digital Image Library, a product that was subsequently discontinued by Microsoft, and replaced by Windows Live Photo Gallery, which was released in 2007. As each new version of Picasa or WLPG has been released, I’ve taken a look at them and blogged about my findings. Up until a couple of days ago, the latest versions meant version 3.8 of Picasa and build 15.4.3538.513 of WLPG. These are fairly evenly matched in features, but they both suffer from issues such that I do not make much use of them.

Picasa version 3.8 would not display my geotags correctly, as you can see from the examples I show in this blog post. And once Microsoft had corrected a horrendous geotagging bug in WLPG, I was still left with the fact that WLPG will merrily corrupt Makernotes in Exif metadata if you use it to edit metadata or tag people’s faces. That Makernotes corruption bug was acknowledged by Microsoft a year ago, but it is still there in the latest build of WLPG.

Now, Google have just released version 3.9 of Picasa, so I took a look at it to see what has changed.

Geotagging and Geocoding

Picasa and WLPG handle geographic metadata in completely different ways, and it’s as well to be aware of the distinction.

There are two main approaches to handling geographic data: Geotagging and Geocoding. In short, geotagging is the process of adding coordinate data (i.e. Latitude and Longitude) to an image file’s metadata, while geocoding is the process of using other forms of geographic data (e.g. a street address) to derive the coordinate data for that location.

Picasa has gone down the geotagging route, hence the use of the map interface. When you place a pin on the map displayed in Picasa and associate it with a particular photo, Picasa will write the GPS coordinates of the location’s Latitude and Longitude into the image file’s Exif metadata.

WLPG, so far, does not have a mapping interface for handling geographic data. That’s because WLPG does not do geotagging: you can’t use it to add coordinate data into an image file’s metadata. However, and somewhat confusingly, you’ll see that WLPG has provision for what it calls “geotags” to add geographic metadata into an image file. This metadata is not coordinate data, but textual data, e.g. a street address, and when you add “geotags” to an image, it will store the information as XMP metadata in the image file.

If a file contains GPS coordinates in the Exif metadata when it’s brought in to WLPG, then reverse geocoding will be triggered automatically and WLPG will assign a location address to the file based on the GPS values. It does this by sending the GPS values to an online Bing service, which then returns the location as text strings.

Let me try and illustrate this. Here’s a screenshot of a photo being displayed in Picasa, and I’ve used Picasa to assign a set of GPS coordinates to the image file, by moving the red location pin to the correct location on the map:

Picasa Geotag 4

When I save this location to the image file, Picasa uses the online Google Maps service to find out the GPS coordinates of the location and writes them into the image file as Exif metadata.

Since the image file now contains GPS coordinates in its Exif metadata, when I look at the same file in WLPG, you can see from this screenshot that WLPG has performed reverse geocoding by using the GPS coordinates to derive the closest address for where the photo was taken, in this case, Energieweg, in Doetinchem, in The Netherlands:

WLPG Geotag 2

Under certain circumstances, WLPG can store this address information in the image file, using the IPTC Extension LocationCreated metadata fields. Since this is a cross-industry standard, other applications that support this standard should be able to work with the metadata. However, you cannot use WLPG to create GPS coordinates for an image. Perhaps in the next version?

One point to be aware of is that although WLPG will automatically generate its “geotags” from GPS data that has been set by Picasa (or any other geotagging application), Picasa will not do geocoding; that is, it will not automatically generate GPS coordinates from the IPTC Extension LocationCreated metadata fields – it simply ignores them, and will not even display them in the information panel in Picasa. This means that if you use WLPG to set “geotags”, you need to go through the photos again with Picasa if you want to have proper geotag (i.e. coordinate) data in the photo metadata.

I do wish that Microsoft hadn’t called this metadata “geotags”, because it is not, in the generally accepted sense of the term – it’s not coordinate data. It would have been better to name it “Location”, because that’s what it is, and it also refers back to the IPTC LocationCreated metadata standard.

On a more positive note, I’m very pleased to say that the geotag display problem of version 3.8 of Picasa has gone, and geotags are now displayed in their correct locations on the map. Here’s the screenshot I used to demonstrate the bug in my blog post of version 3.8 in September 2010 (click for the full-sized version):

Picasa Geotag 2

And here’s the same folder of photos in version 3.9 displaying the correct locations of the geotags on the map:

Picasa Geotag 3


As the old joke goes: the great thing about standards is that there are so many to choose from. I’ve noticed that Google and Microsoft have interpreted the IPTC Core standard slightly differently in at least one area, and that is in the captioning of photos.

Take another look at the single photo being displayed in Picasa. Notice that it has a caption (showing underneath the photo) that reads: Public art in Doetinchem.

Now take a look at the same photo being displayed in WLPG. I’ll show a new screenshot below, since in the first screenshot, the caption was being obscured by the “geotag” information:

WLPG Geotag 1

In the information panel to the right, you will see that the caption reads: 20090818-1201-41. In both cases, this is the same photo, so why are the captions different? The answer is that Picasa uses the “Description” metadata field from the IPTC Core standard to display the caption for a photo, while WLPG uses the “Title” metadata field from the IPTC Core standard to display the caption.

Frankly, I think that Google have made the right choice and Microsoft the wrong choice. If I look at the IPTC definitions of the two fields, I read the following:

Description A textual description, including captions, of the item’s content.
Title A shorthand reference for the digital image. Title provides a short human readable name which can be a text and/or numeric reference

I’ve followed these definitions for my own photos. I use the filename of the photo to set the Title field (it’s the date and time of when the photo was taken as a reference), and I use the Description field to hold a caption describing the content of the photo.

Also, if I use Flickr to upload the same photo to my Photostream, you can clearly see from this screenshot that Flickr actually displays both the Title and the Description fields under the photo:

Flickr 4

Both Flickr and Google seem to me to have made the correct interpretation of the IPTC Core standard, while Microsoft’s WLPG team has got it wrong. However, I think that there’s little chance of them changing now. We’re probably stuck with it. Curiously enough, the WLPG team seem to have struck out on their own here, since they use different terms to those used in Windows itself. Here’s a screenshot of the photo being displayed in Windows Explorer:

Explorer 1

Notice how Explorer does actually use “Title” according to the IPTC Core definition, and using “Subject” to align with the IPTC Core definition of “Description”. So Windows is better aligned with the IPTC standard for photo metadata than WLPG…

Descriptive Tags

Both Picasa and WLPG support the use of descriptive tags, and both use the “Keywords” metadata field from the IPTC Core standard to display the keywords, or descriptive tags for a photo. This means that the same photo should be displayed with the same set of descriptive tags in both Picasa and WLPG. And, subject to one slight quirk, that’s what they do.

The quirk is caused by the fact that I use hierarchical tags with my photos. That’s to say that, for example, my tag cows is actually part of a hierarchy that starts Nature/Animals/livestock/cattle/dairy cattle/cows. That way, when I search for photos with the tag cows, it will just show me those with cows in them. But if I search for photos with the tag livestock, it will show me photos of cows, horses, pigs, sheep, and so on. I use a tag hierarchy because I find it more flexible than an enormously long list of single-level tags. See this blog post for more detail of how I tag my photos.

The quirk shows itself by the fact that WLPG displays just the last term in a tag sequence; e.g. for a photo that is tagged with the tag Nature/Animals/livestock/cattle/dairy cattle/cows, WLPG will just display “cows”. For our photo taken in Doetinchem, WLPG displays this for the descriptive tags (see the screenshot above):


Picasa, on the other hand can’t deal with a tag hierarchy in a friendly fashion, and has to display the whole sequence:

Picasa Geotag 5

As you can see, this gives rise to problems in handling long tag sequences: the Quick Tags buttons can only display the beginning of a tag sequence, rather than displaying the last term in the sequence.

Mind you, WLPG is not perfect in this area, either. Both could do with improvements. For the moment, I’ll be carrying on doing tagging and other metadata work with my preferred tool: IDimager. (Note: IDimager is no longer available. Its successor is Photo Supreme, which I am now using)

People Tags

Both the current versions of Picasa and WLPG provide face recognition technology, so that you can easily tag people with their names. However, while WLPG used XMP to store the people tag metadata in the image files, version 3.8 of Picasa stored the tag information locally on the PC. This meant that it was very difficult to share tag information across multiple machines, since the tags did not travel with the file. I notice that in version 3.9 of Picasa, there is now an option to store the name tags in the image files themselves. Unfortunately, at the moment, there is no real information available from Google as to what this actually means. Are they using XMP? If so, is the schema documented? Microsoft have documented what they do for people tags, but so far I have not seen anything similar from Google.

I’ll be prepared to bet that the two approaches for people tags are not compatible; that is, if I tag people in Picasa, those tags will not show up in WLPG, and vice versa. It’s been a year since the Metadata Working Group published their guidelines calling for standardisation in the area of people tagging. I doubt that we’ll see fast progress, or any progress at all, given the fact that Google and Microsoft have probably planted their flags in different places.

Update 13 December 2011: Well, there’s a surprise: Picasa version 3.9 is using the XMP metadata fields proposed by the Metadata Working Group for people tags. See this thread on the Picasa Help Forums, where this is stated. I’ve just checked this, and I can confirm it. This is excellent news. It also means that Google has adopted the proposed industry standard ahead of Microsoft, who are still using their own XMP schema. That’s a bit ironic, considering that Microsoft are one of the founding members of the Metadata Working Group. It will be interesting to see whether Microsoft will adopt the same standard for people tags in a future version of WLPG. Then, like descriptive tags, people tags can also be shared by Picasa and WLPG. If Microsoft do adopt the standard, we’ll probably see at least one version of WLPG where both standards are used, in order to provide a transition period.

And here’s a second surprise: it looks as though Picasa 3.9 can read WLPG people tags, so there is at least some degree of compatibility between WLPG and Picasa regarding people tags. I think I’ve lost my bet.

I discovered this because Picasa started assigning names to some faces, without my having to do so. This could only mean that it was getting the names from somewhere, and that turned out to be from the Microsoft people tag metadata in some files – I had used the face tagging capability of WLPG on some files before I discovered that WLPG was corrupting Exif Makernotes.

Unfortunately, Picasa doesn’t use this information to then write back the face tags into the file using the Metadata Working Group schema, but just holds the information in its local database. I’m going to have to find some way of wiping out all trace of the Microsoft people tags, and then apply them exclusively from within Picasa. Since for those files, the Exif Makernotes are already corrupted, I’ll try using WLPG to delete the face tags and see what Picasa does…

Update 14 December 2011: Right, I’ve been playing around with the people tagging feature, and this is what I’ve come up with:

  • Picasa 3.9 will read WLPG people tags and create people tags in Picasa’s local database only (they are not written out as metadata to the image files).
  • Picasa 3.9 will read people tags created in earlier versions of Picasa that are held in the local database. It will not write pre-existing tags out as metadata to the image files.
  • Picasa 3.9 has an option to store people tags as metadata, in addition to holding them in the local database. This option is not retroactive; that is, once selected, Picasa will not write out pre-existing tags to the image files, but only write out metadata on newly-created people tags.
  • There seems to be no way to force Picasa 3.9 to write out pre-existing people tags as metadata to the image files.
  • The current version of WLPG will not read Picasa’s people tags, either from Picasa’s database, or from the people tag metadata in the image files.

In the end, what I’ve had to do is:

  1. Ensure that all people tags were deleted from WLPG.
  2. Uninstall previous versions of Picasa, and delete the Picasa database.
  3. Search for all Picasa.ini files that Picasa strews through your picture folders, and delete them.
  4. Do a fresh install of Picasa 3.9, and ensure that the option to store people tags as metadata in the image files was enabled before starting to do any people tagging work.

Clearly, this is a bit of a pain if you’ve already done extensive people tagging in either WLPG or Picasa, but I see no alternative at the moment. That is, if you want to prepare for the future and hold people tags as industry-standard metadata in your image files.

Update 2, 14 December 2011: Sigh, it looks as though storing the people tags as XMP metadata into the image files with Picasa 3.9 is buggy. I’ve found that, even though the option is selected to write out the metadata, not all the image files have the people tags written out to them. Even though Picasa is showing people tags, the images themselves do not have the XMP metadata written to them. I’ve raised this as a potential bug in the Picasa Help forum.

Update 3, 19 December 2011: I think the comments made by Ben below are worth including here in the main entry (for the benefit of people who read the entry, but not the comments). He has found a few more people tagging behaviours worth noting:

  1. WLPG does not read the Iptc4xmpExt:PersonInImage tag.
  2. Picasa does read the Iptc4xmpExt:PersonInImage tag, but this information is buried in the properties, labelled “Person Shown”. People tagged in this manner will not show up under the “People” pane or in the “People Manager”. Likewise, you cannot search for people that are tagged using this tag (as far as he knows).
  3. WLPG allows you to tag a person without specifying the area they are in. If you tag someone in WLPG without drawing a box to indicate where they are, they will not show up in Picasa. As already pointed out, people tagged in WLPG that DO indicate where they are in the photo will show up in Picasa as expected.

Update 4, 20 December 2011: Another Picasa bug has crawled out of the woodwork. I’ve just discovered that of the 1,895 photos that Picasa has written name tag metadata into, seven of them have had their “Date Taken” and “Date Created” metadata overwritten by the date/timestamp of when the file was modified, i.e. had the name tag metadata written out to them.

I think it’s time to stop using Picasa version 3.9. There are just too many bugs present in the current build (135.80,0).

Synchronisation Between Online and Local Photos

One area where I think Picasa is still ahead of WLPG is the ease of sharing photo albums online, and keeping them synchronised with the photo albums on your PC. With a single mouse click, any folder of images on your PC can be mirrored online and the two kept synchronised. And this is a two-way sync – changes made locally on your PC will be automatically reflected in your online web folders, and vice versa. Very nice.

In the current version of WLPG, while you can publish images from your PC to a variety of online sites (e.g. SkyDrive, Flickr or Facebook), these can’t be automatically kept synchronised. This is a rather surprising omission, particularly since Microsoft have provided online synchronising technology for some years. However, the issue was that they had a couple of competing approaches. I suspect that there is a major technology revamp going on behind the scenes, and that the next versions of Windows Live Mesh and WLPG will provide at least the equivalent of what Picasa is already doing. We may have to wait for Windows 8 to see real results from Microsoft in this area.


Summing up, I think I would have to say that, at the moment, Picasa is clearly ahead of WLPG. This is for three reasons:

  • Picasa’s automatic synchronisation of local and online photo albums is a feature that WLPG simply does not yet have.
  • Picasa will not corrupt your Exif metadata. As far as I’m concerned, WLPG’s wanton corruption of the Exif Makernotes is a cardinal sin. I refuse to even countenance using WLPG for any metadata work until this is fixed.
  • Picasa version 3.9 has adopted the Metadata Working Group’s standard for face tagging.

I’ve held off doing any serious face tagging work up until now; partly because WLPG will corrupt Exif Makernotes if I use it to apply face tags, partly because earlier versions of Picasa only stored face tags in its local database, and partly because IDimager (my main digital workflow tool) has its own standard for face tags. Now that Picasa has adopted the Metadata Working Group standard, I think can finally start tackling face tagging in earnest.

Update 20 December 2011. As noted in the section on People Tags, since I reached the conclusion that I can finally start face tagging in earnest, I’ve discovered bugs in the current build (135.80,0) of Picasa 3.9. As a result, I’ve changed my mind – I’ll wait until Google gets rid of these bugs before I use Picasa for face-tagging work.

Update 27 December 2011. Thomas, in the comments below, has pointed out another major failing of Picasa 3.9 – it will remove Makernotes from any file that it touches. Sigh. I had missed this, because I was just checking to see whether the Makernotes section was being corrupted (this is what WLPG will do). Because ExifTool was not reporting any errors, I thought everything was OK. I simply hadn’t realised that it was not reporting any Makernotes errors because Picasa had bloody well removed the whole damn Makernotes section

Right, now I need to restore all the 1,895 image files that Picasa has touched (when writing out People tags) from a backup taken prior to unleashing Picasa on my photo collection. It’s at times like these that I really appreciate the backup capabilities of my Windows Home Server.

About Geoff Coupe

I'm a British citizen, although I have lived and worked in the Netherlands since 1983. I came here on a three year assignment, but fell in love with the country, and one Dutchman in particular, and so have stayed here ever since. On the 13th December 2006 I also became a Dutch citizen.
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120 Responses to Picasa versus Windows Live Photo Gallery

  1. Ben says:

    Thanks for the update, it is difficult to find reviews that do not gloss over the metadata.

  2. Technogran says:

    Very interesting comparison Geoff of these two programs. WLPG always seems to be playing catch up with Picasa and personally I don’t see this changing anytime soon…..

    • Geoff Coupe says:

      Thanks, TG. I think it’s fair to say that Microsoft were first to adopt metadata standards to allow for sharing of image metadata, but Picasa has always been the more attractive and useful program from the average user’s point of view. From my perspective, version 3.9 of Picasa is the first version that I’m likely to keep on my PC. It’s going to be interesting to see whether I start to use it in preference to WLPG. Since I use geotagging, that gives me a reason to use Picasa, and the fact that it doesn’t corrupt Makernotes gives me peace of mind.

      • Geoff Coupe says:

        Except that now, as Thomas has pointed out, Picasa may not corrupt the Makernotes, but it removes them entirely! That’s not acceptable to me either. So I won’t be using Picasa to do any metadata work either.

  3. Pingback: Picasa versus WLPG Redux | Geoff Coupe's Blog

  4. Dan Cedar says:

    Wonderful article, just in time for my searching concerning Picasa’s very own xmp write-out. I used a tool to read picasa.ini files and write this data to the image file itself http://www.anvo-it.de/wiki/avpicfacexmptagger:main – BUT personally I couldn’t get it to a) recognise any face tagged using the new Picasa 3.9 w/ storing names in the photo file itslef, or b) write any xmp/iptc data Picasa would then read and identify as people/faces. YMMV though: would save a ton of retagging for people if this does work though.

    I’ve done the same as you: uninstalled Picasa, deleted the db *and* deleted all my picasa.ini files *which, naturally, wiped all my faces data* and I spend 6 hrs retagging 30k pics. Long winded but work it for me.

    Finally, at least in Picasa 3.8, from what I can deduce,
    *GPS-tagging via the drop-on-map way occasionally wipes out my exif (iso, f/ etc) (!)
    *removing a tag on a pic in Picasa 3.8 will delete the time exif of the photo – date is intact. So ordering photos becomes useless for pictures on the same day (!!) – I only noticed this after I wanted to wipe the people tags I’d used before retagging in 3.9 properly – thankfully I restored a whole backup of 30k pics, but it was a nightmare!

    • Geoff Coupe says:

      Dan, thanks for the comments. Yes, I probably should make a mention of AvPicFaceXmpTagger – Andreas Vogel has provided a useful utility, although I don’t use it myself. I think he used the Microsoft People ID schema for the face tags, so that means that face tagged using it can be picked up in WLPG. But it’s interesting that you say that Picasa 3.9 can’t seem to read the XMP that it makes. Sounds as though it’s close, but no cigar. I also wiped out all the Picasa .ini files – I should add that into my list.

      Now that Picasa has adopting the MWG schema for face tagging, I think the time for Andreas’ utility is now over. I just wish that Microsoft would move to the MWG schema as well…

      That bug of setting the time of the photo to 00:00 in Exif if a tag is removed is not nice, and I didn’t know about it. Have you reported it to Google in the Picasa Help forum? That needs to be got rid of.

  5. Dan Cedar says:

    Edit: re losing exif time: it actually sets the time to 00:00. Still, as useless as deleting it.

  6. Ben says:

    Thanks for the useful updates. I have found a few more people tagging behaviors worth noting:

    1) WLPG does not read the Iptc4xmpExt:PersonInImage tag.

    2) Picasa does read the Iptc4xmpExt:PersonInImage tag, but this information is buried in the properties, labeled “Person Shown”. People tagged in this manner will not show up under the “People” pane or in the “People Manager”. Likewise, you cannot search for people that are tagged using this tag (as far as I know).

    3) WLPG allows you to tag a person without specifying the area they are in. If you tag someone in WLPG without drawing a box to indicate where they are, they will not show up in Picasa. As you already pointed out, people tagged in WLPG that DO indicate where they are in the photo will show up in Picasa as expected.

  7. JL says:

    Incredible, Geoff! Your usual stellar approach to a review. Looks like WLPG and Picasa both have a ways to go to hit my comfort zone. I just carry on with GeoSetter and Photo Mechanic and ignore them.

    • Geoff Coupe says:

      Thanks for the kind words, JL. I suppose I shouldn’t really expect that the big guns of WLPG or Picasa will be perfect, but in comparison to stuff like GeoSetter, they really are disappointing. More hands do not make light work…

      • JL says:

        I admit I keep hoping for the day you give them both a thumbs up. Because they’re there and it would be nice to incorporate them into the flow without worrying about how they’re going to screw things up.

  8. Thomas says:

    I am redaing your interesting blog, since your first article about the issues with the Windows Live Photo Gallery becuase I noticed the same issues with the maker notes and the (now solved) problem with the GPS coordinates . For this reason I still use the old Version. Nevertheless I tried Picasa 3.9 with a about test 1000 photos, and I noticed that when I add keywords, Picasa also “removes” the maker notes. But it seems that you dont have this issue? Maybe it depends of the camera maker, I use Nikon.

    • Geoff Coupe says:

      Hi Thomas, thanks for your comments. I must admit, I hadn’t noticed that Picasa 3.9 was removing Makernotes – on the few files that I looked at, I was just checking to see that ExifTool was not reporting that Makernotes were being corrupted, as it does when I use WLPG on my files. I’ll go and check again – I’m pretty sure that the Makernotes are there in my case, but then, as you say, I’m using Canons, while you are using Nikons.

    • Geoff Coupe says:

      Damn, you’re right, Thomas – Picasa 3.9 *is* removing Makernotes from my images. I missed it, because I was only looking to see if ExifTool was reporting Makernotes errors – I completely missed the fact that they weren’t there at all after Picasa had touched the file…

  9. Thomas says:

    Ok, thanks for the reply, it seems that is a major problem of Picasa 3.9, not only limited to certain cameras. As a conclusion neither Microsoft nor Google is able to keep the Maker Notes untouched. I think I will have to use WLPG (Build 14.0.8117.416) for another year.

  10. Hi Geoff,
    thanks for your very useful comparison. Due to the various limitations I end up using Picasa, WLPG, and Geosetter depending on what I want to do. I have some comments/questions. Have you thought about fixing the makernotes issue in Geosetter. I was one of the first to come across this problem in WLPG about 2 years ago and since then have fixed it by making sure that Geosetter is the last to make a modification, usually by doing my geotagging there. For the files I discover with corrupt makernotes, I just give them a single star rating in Geosetter, write back the files, then undo the star rating, write back the files. My assumption here is that Geosetter (actually Exiftool) fixes it and does not hide it. On this basis I do all of my people tagging, captioning, descriptive tags in WLPG.
    I am experimenting with the writing back of people tags in Picasa now to see who it interacts with WLPG. Although tags created by Picasa seem not to be recognised by WLPG, the reset faces function in Picasa does seem to clear the tags written by WLPG. I think you were wanting to do this,
    Basically my preferred tool is WLPG based on functionality you did not mention in your comparison. WLPG inherited its library display mode from Microsoft Digital Image and is able to display photos in date order across the directory hierarchy. I store my photos in a meaningful directory hierarchy not unlike a descriptive tag hierarchy. For example under My Pictures I have a directory called Germany and under that Goldhausen (where I live) and under that several directories called Garden, Visitors, Snow, Views, Walks, etc. Then if I click on Garden I can see all photos of the garden in date order, which is no different to Picasa. However, if I now click on Goldhausen I can see ALL photos in Goldhausen and its subdirectories in date order. Then if I click on Germany, ALL photos in Germany in date order, etc. Finally if I click on My Photos I can see all of my pics in date order regardless of where I have filed them. Picasa cannot do this and I find it incredibly useful for browsing and finding photos. This is the key capability which makes me stick with WLPG. Others were embedding of people tags in the files, hierarchical descriptive tags, captioning of multiple files, date taken correction of multiple pics.

    • Geoff Coupe says:

      Geoff, thanks for your detailed comments. That’s an interesting point that you make about Geosetter/Exiftool apparently being able to fix Makernotes. I must give that a whirl to see if it can fix the damage that WLPG has caused.

      However, since Picasa 3.9 seems to be removing Makernotes altogether, I don’t think I’m going to be able to include Picasa in my digital workflow (despite the fact that the face tags are using a preferred standard, instead of WLPG’s proprietary, and broken, one). I rather think that once Picasa has removed the Makernotes, Geosetter/Exiftool won’t be able to restore them, since they are no longer present…

      With regards to your naming hierarchy, I used to have my folders arranged in two main hierarchies: location and people. But since about 2006, I’ve used a date-based hierarchy.

      See here for the details. WLPG cannot create this hierarchy for me automatically (despite Microsoft claiming that its import engine has the capability to do so, but they’ve never bothered to expose this in their Import function). However, my main workflow tool, IDimager, can do this, and also automatically renames the photos with a date/timestamp, which gives an additional easy-to-understand reference in place of endless IMG_xxxx filenames.

  11. Geoff,
    I am getting some very peculiar effects with face tag compatibility between Picasa and WLPG. I am finding that people tagged in WLPG (drawing a box around them) do NOT always appear in Picasa, but some do. If I now do a reset faces on a problem pic in Picasa, the tagging is also cleared as far as WLPG is concerned. If I then retag in WLPG, Picasa now sees the tagging. Put that in your pipe and smoke it!

  12. Geoff,
    I think you understand metadata much better than I do so I would be interested to know if Geosetter/Exiftool does actually repair damage to Makernotes done by WLPG. All I see is that the warnings brought up by Exiftool go away after the file is rewritten by Geosetter.
    On the naming hierarchy, the point is not what hierarchy method you use, but rather the ability of WLPG to display photos in date order regardless of where you are in the hierarchy.

    • Geoff Coupe says:

      Geoff, I tried using Geosetter/Exiftool on a test image that had its Makernotes corrupted by WLPG (I used WLPG to write out a test Descriptive tag). Geosetter showed that the Makernotes were corrupted, but then when I rewrote the file using Geosetter/Exiftool, the errors remained. They were not removed. So I’m seeing different behaviour to you. I’m also using a Canon 450D – Makernotes are very manufacturer-specific…

  13. Geoff,
    I just did another couple of experiments with interesting results. Seems that I cannot alway clear the corruption by setting and clearing a rating star in Geosetter. The corruption reported by Exiftool is [minor] possibly incorrect maker notes and [minor] suspicious makernotes offset. I generate the problem just by (re)writing a caption. However I did seem to reliably clear the problem by geotagging an image in Geosetter, or moving an image a few meters if already tagged. What did you change in the file to get Geosetter/Exiftool to rewrite?

    • Geoff Coupe says:

      The first time, I just changed the rating setting. This time, I moved the geotag, but I’m still getting warnings from Exiftool and left with seven warnings in the Makernotes:

      Warning Invalid CanonShotInfo data
      Warning Invalid CanonCameraSettings data
      Warning Invalid CanonFileInfo data
      Warning Invalid CustomFunctions2 data
      Warning Invalid ProcessingInfo data
      Warning Invalid MeasuredColor data
      Warning Invalid SensorInfo data

      So I don’t seem to be able to correct the errors…

  14. Bob Weiss says:

    Hello Geoff,

    Excellent article. I’ve been reading many of your image organizing articles and I find the information extremely useful. Unfortunately, it has also made me decide not to use most of the programs you’re reviewing because there’s always something you mentioned about it that I don’t like. I was wondering if you could make a recommendation for me.

    I want a program that can easily tag photos with hierarchical keywords and store them in the actual image file (JPG.) But I want it to be stored with an industry standard, so that many programs can read the hierarchical structure. I thought Photoshop Elements would do the trick, but one of your articles made it sound like it doesn’t write the keywords into the actual file as a hierarchy. Is there an image organizing program you recommend?

    I don’t want to lose all my hierarchical keywords if I move from one program to another.



    • Geoff Coupe says:

      Bob, while there’s an industry standard for storing keywords (IPTC-Core), there is, as yet, no industry standard for how a hierarchy of keywords should be handled. Version 2 of the Metadata Guidelines document published by the Metadata Working Group contains a proposal on how this might be done using XMP, but as far as I am aware, no commercial product out there has actually implemented it as yet.

      What we have at the moment, then, are a number of individual approaches to handling hierarchies. The usual approach is to use the IPTC-Core Keyword field to store the keywords, and to use a delimiter character to identify a change of level in the keyword hierarchy. Not all applications use the same character. For example, WLPG uses “/”, while Lightroom uses “|”. In addition, Lightroom uses a separate XMP property to store these hierarchical keywords separated from the normal keywords. And Photoshop Elements doesn’t support keyword hierarchies in the metadata at all, but only in its proprietary database, which is the worst of all approaches as far as I’m concerned.

      Personally, I still use IDimager as my primary digital workflow tool. It does support hierarchical keywords, and it has the flexibility to handle your choice of delimiter characters. It can also handle keyword hierarchies written by Lightroom.

      I’ve set up IDimager to use “/” as the delimiter, so that the keyword hierarchy can be read by WLPG. The latter is then an easy-to-use browser of our photo collection for other family members.

      IDimager comes in a couple of flavours: Personal and Pro. Both will support hierarchical keywords (a comparison between the two is here: http://www.idimager.com/products/idimager/comparison-sheet ) You can also export keywords and the structure in a variety of ways for use in other applications.

  15. Bill Lee says:

    I’ve just started playing with Lightroom 4 but don’t (at the moment) plan to completely give up Picasa. Immediately, I notice that importing into Lightroom does not include the geotagged information that had been added by Picasa. Do you know why that might be?

  16. Erin Harvey says:

    Hi my name is Erin your article is very indeep. I do find that Picasa can do more of the complex tasks, but I find that microsoft organises folders much easier. I can place multiple folders inside of a main folder, for example I can put sisters wedding, brothers wedding, joannes wedding, pauls wedding folders into Weddings folder. I find that it is very difficult to look through 50 to 100 folders to find the one I want. I’m trying to help my nan to convert to window live for the ease of organising. But have noticed on my nans computer that not all the photos appear on windows live or my pictures from the hard drive, but they are appear in Picasa? Do you have any idea why there would be sooo many empty folders that have been named in my pictures? I don’t have this issue on my computer so I’m confused.

    • Geoff Coupe says:

      Erin, when Picasa is first installed, it asks you whether you want to include all the folders and pictures on your computer in its library, or just the folders and pictures contained in the “My Pictures” folder. WLPG, by contrast, only includes the “My Pictures” and “Public” folders and subfolders by default. It sounds to me as though your nan’s Picasa was set up to include everything on the computer, while WLPG is just looking for pictures in the default folders. If you want to include other folders in WLPG’s library, then just click on the “File” menu, and then “include folder” where you can add the folders/subfolders to WLPG.

      • Erin Harvey says:

        Hi thank you so much for your reply. I checked and the folders are also empty on the hardrive in Pictures. So when I go to the directory I get empty folders or folders with a hand full of photos. I thought that Picasa used the photos from the hardrive, but it seems that it stores the photos it’s self. I have made sure all the hidden files are shown but it has made no difference. I have a screen shot but it won’t let me paste it here.
        Cheers Erin

        • Geoff Coupe says:

          Hi Erin, no, Picasa does not store the photos itself – it only makes thumbnails of them to display in Picasa. The photos themselves must be elsewhere on your computer. They’re clearly not in the usual places (i.e. in the My Pictures folders). I’m sure that Picasa will tell you where it is finding the photos. I think you can right-click on a picture and there will be a menu option like “show file location” or “properties” (sorry, I don’t have Picasa installed on my PC anymore, so I can’t be precise). Then you can see where the photo actually is on your computer.

  17. esolonline says:

    Hi. Thanks for a really interesting article, which I mostly follow! I have used MS Digital image 2006 in the past to ‘tag’ names and whilst it writes it to the photo, it doesn’t seem to carry into other programs. I have also used face recognition in Picasa in the past, but I think these are stored locally.
    I am going to scan in quite a few old photos and want to date, geotag and people tag them. What would you recommend I use, that will be reasonably ‘future proof’! I am on part time hours at the moment, so the cheaper the better!!

    • Geoff Coupe says:

      Hi. Thanks for your message. I’ve also used MS Digital Image in the past – but I don’t think it ever stored metadata in the photos, only in its database. That was one of the reasons that I stopped using it.

      At the moment, the two front-runners of free full-featured (edit/organise) software applications are either WLPG or Picasa. Frankly, both have their drawbacks; neither are bug-free. If you just wanted to date and geotag your photos, then take a look at Geotagger GeoSetter. It does these tasks very well indeed.

    • JL Beeken says:

      I would recommend GeoSetter or XnView. Those are what I would called the two front-runners in the ‘free’ category.

      I find WLPG is quite odd in the way it names ‘tags’ – not up to the usual standards at all. I avoid it like the plague.

      If you’re scanning ‘old’ photos (or any in my opinion) they should be saved as TIFF. Picasa doesn’t tag TIFF’s although it pretends it does. For instance, try tagging a TIFF in Picasa and you’ll see it does not carry through to other software. Also, the fields available for tagging are severely limited. I think it’s a totally retarded program, frankly.

      • Geoff Coupe says:

        JL – thanks. I had a senior moment and called GeoSetter by the wrong name… I’ve edited the comment…

        • JL Beeken says:

          Thanks for reminding me. I was going to look up “Geotagger” because I thought I’d missed one.

          I was looking at Windows metadata the other day to see what would come up if I selected all the options under ‘choose Details’. It’s got some really strange ways of naming fields. What they call ‘Subject’ is actually Caption. And ‘Title’ is also Caption. ‘Tags’ is Keywords. And then, of course, a whole bunch of other stuff isn’t there at all. I wish they’d make up their mind if they’re in the game or out.

          I was looking at GPS co-ordinates on Bing Maps one day and it appears they’d reversed the standard order of Latitude/Longitude. In Windows World it’s Longitude/Latitude. Do they have to mess with everything?

  18. Darren Burnhill says:

    With regards to retroactively tagging People Tags, try selecting all the thumbnails of a given person under “People” then right click and choose “Move to New Person…” and reselect the same name. Clicking on “Choose” then seems to do the updating of the files and also adds the tags for all other people who have been recognised in the affected photos.

  19. Interesting article. I am hoping that the date taken bug is gone by now??

    • Geoff Coupe says:

      Melissa, as I think you’ve read on the thread in the Picasa forum, it’s apparently still there…

      • Geoff, I had not picked up on this date taken bug until Melissa asked this question. I then went off to check how many of my photos had gone time travelling since I have recently been people tagging with Picasa, and with the option set to write back to the file. As an initial indication I looked through the people library for myself sorted in date order to see if there were any out of place. Sure enough I soon found one which was a scanned BW photo from 1960 suddenly appearing in 2012. What is strange though is that it is only Picasa that thinks that the photo was taken in 2012. WLPG, Windows explorer, and Geosetter exiftool all think it was taken in 1960. The bug you were talking about had the date taken overwritten by the modified date when Picasa people tagged the photo. What I am seeing is that Picasa is interpreting the modified date or file date as the taken date in its sorting decisions, the the date taken has not been changed. Sorry if I am being a bit thick and misunderstood what you meant.

        • JL says:

          It sounds like WLPG fixed this bug in their software sometime since 2010 because I have hundreds of photos with the wrong date-taken caused by simply opening WLPG briefly two years ago before quickly uninstalling it. I assume it isn’t Picasa because I don’t use it. None of the other software I use changes the date-taken so the culprit is clear. One of these days I’ll have time to fix them all.

  20. Dear JL, maybe you need to read my posting again. It is nothing about WLPG. What I am saying is that Picasa is wrongly using the “file date” instead of the “date taken” for sorting by date.

    • JL says:

      Dear Geoff Poskitt, you did mention in your post that WLPG works fine in regards to dates. Well, no it doesn’t or certainly didn’t two years ago because I’m still dealing with the damage, which is exactly what I said. Perhaps you need to re-read your own post.

  21. Sorry, guys, I just checked on the Picasa help forum and this is a known issue and complaint with Picasa. When sorting by date, Picasa uses the “file date”, not what everyone would expect, i.e., “date taken”. There is no option to sort by “date taken”. I think this is absolutely crazy.

    • Geoff Coupe says:

      Yep, the Picasa developers make some strange decisions at times. I think at one point Picasa would update files, but not change the “File Modified” date/timestamp. Some people seemed to think that this was a good idea. Myself, I thought it was the equivalent of breaking the laws of thermodynamics – i.e. it shouldn’t be possible in the known universe.

  22. Hi Geoff, just to complete my understanding. Is the bit from you I quote below still your understanding? Or is it that the “file date” has been overwritten and Picasa then sorts on file date. I have not seen “date taken” overwritten.
    Update 4, 20 December 2011: Another Picasa bug has crawled out of the woodwork. I’ve just discovered that of the 1,895 photos that Picasa has written name tag metadata into, seven of them have had their “Date Taken” and “Date Created” metadata overwritten by the date/timestamp of when the file was modified, i.e. had the name tag metadata written out to them.

    • Geoff Coupe says:

      Geoff, no, I definitely had the “Date Taken” and “Date Created” fields overwritten by the “File Modified” date/timestamp in a few cases. However, it was rare: 7 out of 1,895 files. It was also not reproducible on the 7 files in question.

      As I said in the thread on the Picasa forum, it looked to me to be some sort of race condition occurring. Unfortunately, these sorts of bugs are pretty tricky to track down and fix.

  23. Laza says:

    I found this great article while searching for WLPG face tagging support. I have just implemented this feature in my jAlbum skin, Turtle, and wanted to let you know you can now use both Picasa’s and WLPG’s face tagging in the albums. Besides this Turtle supports geotagging too. I want to write a blog post about the face tagging, and might share some info from here. I’d link your blog naturally. What do you think?

  24. Cher Angelo says:

    Hi, Great reviews! I thank you for all the time spent and for sharing with us. I discovered that both Windows Photo Gallery and Windows Live Photo Gallery are on my Vista Ultimate 64 bit (( use Picasa) G but the WPG has different photos than the ones WLPG and of course Picasa shows from Pictures C drive.. I cant figure out why. What might I have done and can I merge the two into one gallery having duplicate noted somehow or should I do an Import of WPG or put WPG in my C drive Pictures as I dont see them there..odd. Thank you for any comments. Cher Angelo

    • Geoff Coupe says:

      Cher Angelo – Vista came with its own version of Photo Gallery (“Windows Photo Gallery”). That was an earlier version of Windows Live Photo Gallery, which came as part of the Windows Live Essentials suite of applications. Now, Windows Live Essentials has been renamed to Windows Essentials. and the latest version of Windows Live Photo Gallery has been renamed to just Windows Photo Gallery. Confusing, or what?

      Anyway, the Vista Photo Gallery application does not (as far as I can recall) use Windows Libraries, which were introduced with Windows 7. I think that it kept its own list of Folders that it would track for photos. So I think that what you need to do is to look at that list of folders in Vista’s Photo Gallery, and then make sure you have the same folders listed in WLPG.

      • Cher says:

        Hi Geoff, I appologize, I sent a second post before i actuallly saw your reply. thanks so much and yes it is truly mind boggling but windows is isnt it? I think then, what probably happened is that i had the vista version of Photo Gallery and when I updated got a second program rather than an update the the first…? I cant believe this mess. i thought it was bad enough that I need to somehow export my entire lot of folders and sub folders etc etc etc from Picasa to some external drive ..well you can read my other post to hear more about this mess if you like. 😦 I have similar situation of 32 bit vista that is inoperable at present. I am wondering when all is tidied up it that ever happens if I will still use Picasa or maybe dl LR 5 to this machine and continue using other photo editors on my desktop which is xp pro and I like it, more stable than the both vistas and I have a SSd systems drive on the xpp which makes it lightening fast. I like vista, but this particular one is riddled with updating issues…and on notebooks with serious known issues that HP refuses to adequately address..but then I am miserably off topic as usual. Sorry. Cher.

  25. Hi George, Thank you for the excellent information on your blog! I am tired of WLPG performance issues (tiring delays when moving from photo to photo after editing) and thus looking at Picasa. Your reviews help a lot with the decision to switch.
    The ‘deleting Makernotes’ issues is the main detractor so I tested it on 136.09,0 and don’t see the error, i.e. the makernotes are still there after adding some tags. Am I doing the test for this correctly?
    We are off on another 90 day cruise in Jan and want a better tool for geotagging our trip.

    • Geoff Coupe says:

      Er, “George”? – Who’s “George”? 🙂

      The Makernotes issue doesn’t appear with every camera. It happens with my Canon, but not with my Nokia Lumia 800 Smartphone, so you may be lucky…

  26. Sorry Geoff, switching between Dutch and English confuses me 🙂 Just kidding, it is more likely a senior moment. I have a Pentax K-5. Will try out with my K100D and WG2 as well.

    • Geoff Coupe says:

      Gerrit, you’re not the only one having a senior moment. I’ve just realized that you were asking about Picasa, when my reply was about W(L)PG. I haven’t tested the latest version of Picasa to see whether it preserves the Makernotes. If it does, then this would certainly put Picasa ahead of W(L)PG, which is still corrupting my Canon Makernotes…

      • I am making an offline backup of my Windows Home Server Photos directory tonight so that I can experiment at will later this week. I will check for anomalies such as Geotags, Date changes and MakerNotes over a wide range of scans and photos.

  27. Arash says:

    very nice and interesting review. thank you
    but i really like to see an update to this review about WLPG 2012 which build number is 16.4

    • Geoff Coupe says:


      As far as I’m aware, nothing has changed with WPG 2012. The same issues that I point out above are present in the latest version. See this blog post.

    • Cher says:

      Hi Arash, Are you the Arash who works with Art Miller the famed bird photographer? Just curious as your names are the same and unique as far as my experience. I just came from his site after reading about sunrise tips he wrote about etc. I wish his works applied to my OE four thirds lens systems (cameras). Cher.

  28. Bob Schmitt says:

    Geoff –
    Great article – wish I had found it a week ago! My need was to discover or confirm if Picasa captions could be used (extracted) in the Greenstone digital library software. Indeed it works and your article now prompts me to test for the usefulness of Picasa’s geotagging. My results are at:
    http://carlibrary.org/PicasaCaptions.htm This makes Picasa a good recommendation for organizations with a need to ID collections of digital photos if they plan to establish a digital library or archive. My primary project involves car collections & museums: CarLibrary.org
    Thanks much!

  29. vixayxavier says:

    Any december updates for this year? I am just starting work on 64GB of photo files and I really want to use Picasa. So please tell me, is the metadata working well with picasa? or still screwy! Portability is a big concern as I will be sharing photos with friends and family.

    • Geoff Coupe says:

      No recent updates that I’m aware of. Picasa did have a page listing the release notes, but that seems to have disappeared…

      • Cher says:

        Hi Guys, The most recent is version 3.9 I forget the build. I see many like the photo id feature but probably since I change my hair every few months, I have tons of photos that it does not recognize and its quite frustrating. I cant seem to get the hang of it. I try putting names on photos but they self delete…and most are unknown…but I have about 3 Tb of photos and I use picasa although I have a number of very elaborte and expensive photo editing sofwares eg Photoshop suite, Corel and others like Lightroom but I cant update all my OS to suite lightroom. I use xp pro with a SSD systems drive for my photo pc for instance. I cant afford updating. I have two notebooks that aer vista 64n and 32 bits. (all of my money was stolen from a safe deposit box a few yrs ago, long story) so I have only a tiny disability pension to live on. I dont like the way Adobe operates. Picasa is good if you dont need to edit your photos much, and just want to submit them to places. I so far am happy with it anyway. But if you have a large photo bank, Picasa can be frustrating as far as organization. It depends on how many subject types you have, too. I recently decided to change my way of filing from year to subject to subject with years under..Picasa does not file the way I want it to no matter what but it remains uncomplicated and I like that. G Happy Holidays. Cher

  30. Bruce Miller says:

    I’ve been using Windows Live Photo Gallery to tag faces for awhile. I’ve got about 20 years of pictures, and I like being able to use the Windows 7 search to find pictures of people. I just installed Picasa, and really like it. It seems to be much faster than WLPG in finding people in pictures, but the Windows search doesn’t seem to find the Picasa tags.Are there any settings I need to set, or is that just a standards issue? It sure would be nice to be able to tag faces in a photo and to be able to give that picture to someone else with the tag preserved.

    • Geoff Coupe says:

      Bruce, there’s an option in Picasa that you need to turn on to make Picasa write out the People tag into the metadata of an image. That will allow you to share a picture with someone and have the tag preserved.

      However, I’m not certain whether Windows will pick up on these tags, because the standard they are using is defined by the Metadata Working Group, and not the proprietary Microsoft standard for People tags.

  31. Andrew Pate says:

    Hi Geoff,
    A fascinating article. As you dont mention it I assume you have little experience yourself with Mac and iPhoto and their interpretation on facial recognitiion, but do you have other friends in the area who you might link to some comparison details?

    • Geoff Coupe says:

      Andrew, as you guess, I am not a Mac or iPhoto user. Unfortunately, as far as I know, those of my family and friends who do use iPhoto haven’t dug into the details of how it is implemented. I don’t even know whether Apple store facial recognition data as metadata in the images, or whether it’s just held in a local database (as earlier versions of Picasa used to do).

      If you have photos managed by iPhoto, and you want to know what metadata is held in an image, then you can always use Jeffrey’s Exif Viewer (http://regex.info/exif.cgi) to display the contents of all the metadata.

  32. Arunas says:

    Hi Geoff,

    Do you know if there a way to reliably move facial tags from Windows Photo Gallery to Picasa (XMP metadata)? I would like to migrate to Picasa but not keen on re-tagging all my photos. Although Picasa shows WPG facial tags it recognizes the same faces again…

    I found something similar on exiftool forum http://u88.n24.queensu.ca/exiftool/forum/index.php/topic,4361.0.html
    But this tool does not work for me (error: No writable tags), and even if it did, as far as I understand it would not remove WPG tags, which would result in duplicated tags in every photo.

    • Geoff Coupe says:

      Hi Arunas,

      As far as I know (it’s been a while since I last played with Picasa), the latest versions of Picasa should read existing WPG facial tags, and use them to create Picasa facial tags, so you shouldn’t have to do any re-tagging yourself – it should be automatic. Although you’ll probably have to confirm the initial tag for a person.

      Yes, it’s true that you’ll end up with two sets of facial tags in your images, one being the WPG facial tags, and one being the Picasa facial tags, but is this an issue for you? I have plenty of images with junk XMP from old applications, but this has not proved a problem (yet).

      I agree that once you start using Picasa to do face-tagging, then the face tags in WPG won’t get updated, so if you ever went back to WPG then you would have to re-tag faces.

      • Arunas says:

        Well, Picasa correctly shows WPG face tags in a photo, but then shows suggestion for the same people in the same photo (where it could recognise a face). So I would still need to either accept or reject these suggestions (probably accept as otherwise Picasa’s face recognition could get confused). Only issue with having both types of facial tags is that Picasa will show each person as appearing twice in some photos. Not end of the world but a bit messy…

        • Geoff Coupe says:

          Ah, OK, I see what you’re saying. Try accepting one of the WPG tags, and see if Picasa merges it in, so that you only have the one tag displayed in Picasa?

          • Arunas says:

            No, it doesn’t merge, that’s the problem. It then displays two different areas (normally one inside another) for the same person.

            • Geoff Coupe says:

              Ah – damn. Then all I can suggest is that you see if Phil Harvey, or another exiftool expert, can develop a script that will strip out the WPG tags.

              Alternatively (he said, as a thought just struck him), what about going ahead with getting the Picasa tagging done, and then going back to WPG and deleting all the WPG face tags? That should leave the Picasa face tags in place, because WPG doesn’t know about them…

              • Arunas says:

                Well, faces are tagged pretty carefully in my WPG library. Lots of them are added manually where automatic recognition didn’t work (partially covered faces, poor lightening, etc). Picasa facial recognition is much better than WPG, but there is no way it could recognise all these manually tagged faces. To achieve the same level of detail I would have to manually go through every single photo.

                Thanks for your suggestions. I will try ExifTool forum. If the tool I mentioned above worked to copy face tags, it shouldn’t be very difficult to modify it to strip-out WPG tags.

              • Arunas says:

                I played with ExifTool a bit and found a way to to copy WPG face tags to Picasa face tags and then strip out WPG tags. Good news is that it would be pretty easy to automatically run this on all my photos and the process is reversible via ExifTool. Bad news is that Picasa still auto-detects lots of the same faces again and shows them as suggestions…

  33. Hi, I am interested in compatibility between WLPG and Picasa. I use three bits of software for looking at and manipulating the metadata in my photos; WLPG, Picasa, and Geosetter. Geosetter is of interest here because it shows the face tags even though it is primarily used for geotagging. It also has exiftool built-in so can so what that tool sees. My observation is that the whole thing is a mess.
    WLPG face tag is NOT necessarily seen by Picasa if Picasa thinks it has found a face, even if it is a suggestion and unconfirmed. You need to do a reset faces on the photo in Picasa in order to allow it to see the WLPG tag and then the face tag disappears from WLPG. If you now go back to Picasa you can see the face tagged by WLPG but it is no longer visible in either WLPG or Geosetter. This is because it is only in the Picasa database!
    If you do a write tags to XMP in Picasa you can see it in Geosetter exiftool, but not as a rectangle in the Geosetter display. Either Picasa is not writing tags correctly of Geosetter is not displaying it correctly.
    To summarise the whole thing is broken!

  34. Thank you for this blog post. It’s so detailed. I am planning to switch to WLPG from Picasa but I have second thoughts after I read that it corrupts some data on the computer. Is it still true today after all the updates?

  35. Actually I think the corruption of Makernotes does matter even when you do not have a Canon Camera, because it makes the whole Metadata not correctly interpreted by another application potentially. A couple of examples from my experience. I uploaded some photos to an online photo print service. The software provided by this print service hung due to the corrupt makernotes. A caption written by WLPG may not be seen by Picasa. I use Picasa as my screensaver on random and want to see the caption come up.
    For a number of reasons I much prefer WLPG (better tagging, captioning, etc). However, I will always do a final run through with Picasa or Geosetter(set a dummy tag and clear it again) to make sure the metadata is clean. Yes I know that Picasa deletes the Makernotes, but I don’t care. Clean metadata is my priority.

  36. Geoff,

    Great info, thanks for your thorough responses. Have you noticed or heard about Picasa deleting manually added face tags when it scans the same photo for face tags? I tagged a bunch of photos and then decided to rescan my whole library and all the manually added face tags were removed. I have tested this a few times and have been able to repeat it. I currently use Picasa for GEO tagging and WPG for face tagging because of this.

    • Geoff Coupe says:

      Stephen, thanks for your comment. No,not heard about that particular issue. If it’s repeatable, probably worthwhile reporting it as a bug on the Picasa forums…

      • Hi Stephen,
        Interesting. Did you make sure that Picasa was storing the face tags in the meta-data, and you had this option checked in Picasa? Did you check that it was really there with exiftool for example? I can imagine the face tag was only in the Picasa database that a rescan would be bound to lose the information.

        • sjbiss says:

          The option to store face tags in the meta.data was selected. I did not confirm with another exif reader that it was actually writing them. I would love to use Picasa because I use google for a lot of other tasks, Picasa just has never worked well for me. Between this issue and sync issues with web albums it just seems buggy. If anyone has any suggestions, I would love to hear them.

  37. I did make sure the option to store meta data was selected but I did not check to make sure it was actually being written using an external exif reader. I would like to use Picasa because I like Google’s services but it has never quite worked for me. Is there a trick to getting Picasa to write the data if it is in fact not writing it and storing in its DB?

  38. Hi, as far as I know Picasa will always immediately update its metadata if you change anything; the only thing you have to explicitly save is tweaks to the image. I would recommend Geosetter, which has exiftool built-in to check if the face data is actually in the file. Geosetter is actually much better than Picasa for geo-tagging if that is what you are in to.

    • I tested this a bit further using an exif reader. It looks like Picasa is writing the face tags to the meta data and will keep it after a photo is rescanned for face tags. However, the photo will lose the highlighted box around the face in Picasa

  39. this has to be the best WLPG vs Picasa writeup I have ever read. Any chance of an update?

    • Geoff Coupe says:

      Thanks, Akria. However, I think I’ll wait until the next major version of Picasa comes out before I do an update. The 3.9 version builds still have some limitations for me, so I think I’ll wait for version 4.0 – whenever that will be… I don’t think there will be another version of Windows Photo Gallery. Microsoft seems to be focusing on the Windows 8 Photos App going forward. However, at this stage, it’s a disaster, and far, far inferior to Windows Photo Gallery.

      • Ed Hicks says:

        Thanks for this info, Geoff. Even though the main article is now rather outdated, the comments provide at least some updates. I have used Picasa on and off almost since it first became available, but some of the “crap” since the integration with Google+ is really irritating!! The thing I’m trying to find out now (and how I stumbled on your site) is this:

        – Can I prevent Picasa from associating email addresses with name tags? (or at least prevent any notifications being sent to the people tagged, which is my main concern)

        I am not at all interested in having people notified of anything I do in terms of identifying them in photos. I am not a social network type of person, and I have no use for Google+, Facebook or anything of that ilk. In fact, though I have used Gmail since 2005, the virtual forcing of Gmail users into Google+ is making me seriously think about moving to another email program, and using Dropbox or some other simple service for sharing the few photos that I care to share to a very limited audience. Picasa was OK for sharing until Google+, but now it’s too intrusive. Unless I made a mistake somewhere, all my Picasa and Google+ photos are “private”, and the few I share I still share only by sending a link via email. Backup is not a significant issue for me.

        That’s what I want to continue to do, but I would like to use face recognition to more efficiently identify my photos. I like FastStone for many photo jobs, including renaming (though I use Bulk Rename when I need its kind of power), but FastStone doesn’t have either face recognition or significant metadata tools. Irfanview is similarly lacking, though it’s still my default viewing program. I have always found Adobe photo programs to be slow and “heavy”.

        Do you have any suggestions to offer?


        • Geoff Coupe says:

          Ed, my apologies, but I don’t know the answer to your question. I took Picasa off my PC a while back, and will wait for version 4 before I bother with it again. I suggest that you ask the question in the Picasa Support forum. I am not using automatic face recognition in either Picasa or WPG at the moment.

          My primary tool is Photo Supreme because of its superior metadata handling. I’ve been testing the beta of version 2, and this is looking very good. It incorporates geotagging and handles face regions. While it doesn’t do automatic face recognition, it will read in People tags created by WPG, and writes them out using the Metadata Working Group’s standard (the same as used by Picasa). It should be available very soon, and will be a free upgrade for V1 users.

  40. AaronMGregory says:

    Please is there a way in WLPG to force it to detect faces? I stuffed up recently and tagged multiple people as one person, than deleted these tags, but now WLPG wont detect that persons face in ANY photos. So was wondering is there a way to force another face detection on ALL the photos

  41. gz says:

    Thanks for the detailed article. I am struggling around with finding the best workflow including tagging as well.
    Just one further comment: When editing a foto in Picasa,(right now e.g. cropping the picture, Picasa overwrites the following metadata:
    XMP – creator: Picasa
    IPTC – By-line: Picasa
    EXIF – Artist: Picasa
    On another note: it does not seem to delete Maker Notes any longer when tagging in Picasa (checked with Maker: Panasonic).

  42. Arunas says:

    Anyone knows alternative software for face tagging that would be compatible with Picasa XMP metadata method? I’m having issues with Picasa freezing for 20-30 after adding a face tag manually. This makes face tagging using Picasa impractical and I doubt they will bother to fix it (people have bee complaining about this issues on Picasa forums for years).

    • Geoff Coupe says:

      Well, Picasa uses the Metadata Working Group’s XMP schema for tagging faces, and so does Photo Supreme. So you could use Photo Supreme to tag faces…

      In version 2 of Photo Supreme, that’s a manual process, but version 3, which should be available very soon, has face detection built-in. Note that this is face *detection* – not face *recognition* – so you can use it to detect faces in a photo, but not match them up with known faces automatically. That level of technology costs big bucks, and Google can afford it, but not IDimager…

      However, it’s a start…

      • Arunas says:

        Thanks Geoff. Biggest problem I found with Photo Supreme was that it doesn’t build people names database from existing tagged photos. Every person’s name has to entered manually every time. Also, for some reason Picasa doesn’t recognise areas tagged with Photo Supreme (although it could be Picasa issue as it’s a bit crippled on my PC on this point). Will try again when they release version 3 with improved face tagging.
        Do you know any other software that could XMP metadata face tagging? Now starting to think about going back to WPG…

        • Geoff Coupe says:

          Version 3 will improve things. It does link the face areas with the People tags in the Catalog, and these links can be set in a number of different ways to suit your personal way of working.

    • Geoff Coupe says:

      Lightroom 6, Photo Supreme V3 and Picasa are all using the same metadata standard for face tagging – the standard developed by the Metadata Working Group.

  43. Cassandra says:

    Ahh…so great to find this level of detail on metadata! Even years later, I find your article helpful as I’m putting together a new image management system and researching the options. Thanks.

    • Geoff Coupe says:

      Thanks, Cassandra. Despite this being an old article, not much has changed with Picasa and WPG. Neither have had major upgrades from Microsoft and Google. I doubt that we’ll see anything further from Microsoft for WPG. The last version is WPG 2012. Microsoft has switched to focusing on the Photos app in Windows 10. Trouble is, it has nowhere near the same functionality of WPG 2012, and I rather doubt that it ever will have.

      I’m a little surprised that there have been no further major upgrades to Picasa, only bug fixes.

      Meanwhile, I’m still happily using Photo Supreme V3 for all my metadata work, supplemented by Lightroom 6 for image and digital negative editing. LR6 now has face recognition, and it uses the same metadata standard for face tagging as Photo Supreme, so that means that I can use LR6 to help identify faces, and the metadata is carried through to Photo Supreme.

  44. Andrey says:

    Hello. After I bought a DSLR camera I switched from WLPG/Picasa to Digikam because I wanted more RAW editing capabilities. However I had to regret that decision and go back to WLPG/Picasa because Digikam is too buggy. (Regret to say I have wasted few days of my life on it.) Nothing has really changed in 2016, WLPG and Picasa are still the best light and free photo management programs. Google officially dropped Picasa (you can’t even download it anymore). WLPG is still alive but I do not think it will last much longer. Both WLPG and Picasa are still amazing. Hopefully they will still run on future windows versions (windows 10 is just fine). Both Google and Microsoft are switching us users to their web based solutions which sucks because you will never be able to move your database to any other program/service if needs be and you will likely be paying them $$ for cloud storage.

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