There are a lot of different photo cataloging and organising applications out there, but the three main ones that stand out are iPhoto, Photoshop Elements and, Picasa. I have used all three at one time or another. Most recently I’ve been using Picasa, mainly because I can manage my photos locally on my computer and yet still have the important ones (or all of them) backed up to Picasa Web Albums and made available to view from any other computer just through a web browser. But, what happens if my computer suddenly dies one day? I know my photos would be safe, but what about all the tags, faces, location information and albums that I’d setup, the extra information that makes all those photos manageable? Would they be safe and would I be able to synchronise all my photos and data back down from the web to my desktop? I wasn’t going to take any chances.
I’ve previously written about how to ensure your iPhoto catalog is automatically backed up to Dropbox, and here I will explain how to do the same thing using Picasa. This solution definitely works, I can attest to that. Not long ago I had to have the hard drive in my computer completely replaced. I had actually completely forgotten to do anything about my photos. When I was back up and running, a very quick trick instantly restored all my photos, tags, albums and face information.
This guide applies to Picasa for Mac. Picasa separates your photos and data. That means you can have photos from anywhere on your computer appear in Picasa. It also means that moving everything across to Dropbox takes two steps. If you need a Dropbox account you can sign up here. You’ll get 2GB of online storage space for free. To find out how much space you’ll need, read on.
Moving the Photos
Picasa isn’t fussy about where you photo files are stored. So the very first thing you want to make sure you do is move the photos themselves. This will update the catalog so that it knows their new location and will start to back them up to Dropbox. Then, when we move the catalog database, all the references to photos will be correct.
First, enable Tree View for folders by going to View > Folder View > Tree View.
Then you will be able to see the complete folder structure for the location of your photos. Two-finger click (right-click) on the folder that contains all your photos. This folder might contain other folders with in, that’s ok. Just select the highest level folder that has everything. Then select “Move Folder”. In the popup box that appears, simply navigate to your Drobox folder, probably in the Pictures folder to be safe. You can move your photos to anywhere you like in Dropbox. Once you’ve chosen the new location, let Picasa update anything it needs to and then completed close it (CMD+Q). You’ll notice now that Dropbox is already uploading all your photos. Be patient, the upload could take a while, but you don’t need to wait for it to finish, you can even turn your computer off and when you later turn it back on, Dropbox will pick up where it left off and keep backing up your photos.
Before you go ahead and move the folder, you can first see how much space you’ll need on Dropbox. Two-finger click on the main folder again and select “Show In Finder”. Then in Finder, two-finger click on the same folder and select “Get Info”. The total size of all your photos will be in the top right corner. Make sure you have at least this much free space in Dropbox for the best backup solution.
Moving the Catalog
A big difference between moving iPhoto catalog to Dropbox and a Picasa catalog to Dropbox is how obvious it is to find and identify the actual catalog file. It’s easy with iPhoto – it’s the big colourful icon somewhere in your home folder. With Picasa, it’s not so obvious and gets a little bit tricky, but not for long.
First we need to find the catalog (or database) that Picasa uses. Open up Terminal (Launchpad > Utilities) and enter the following:
cd Library/Application\ Support/Google/Picasa3/
This will take you into the right folder where all the Picasa program files are. Now we need to move the catalog into Dropbox. To move the catalog into the “Pictures” folder in Dropbox, enter the following:
cp -R db3 ~/Dropbox/Pictures/PicasaDatabase
This will copy the catalog information into the folder “PicasaDatabase” inside the Pictures folder and it will immediately start to be backed up by Dropbox. Now, just to be safe, we will backup the old catalog files. Do this by entering the following in Terminal.
mv db3 db3_backup
Finally, we need to tell Picasa to look for the catalog files in Dropbox instead of that silly hidden folder. Enter the following line in Terminal.
ln -s ~/Dropbox/Pictures/PicasaDatabase db3
And that’s it! Open Picasa again and all your photos and catalog will still be there.
If, like me, your computer completely goes mental one day and you need to get a new one, you can restore your Picasa albums by first installing Dropbox, then completing the “Moving the Catalog” section, since your photos will already be in Dropbox.
This guide is a little tricky, especially when it comes to moving the catalog files. If you have any questions or feedback, please leave them in the comments area below.