This year we'll snap about 48 billion digital photos. Organizing all those photos into albums can be a challenge, but photo-management software can help create order out of chaos.
One of the easiest programs to use is Picasa 2.0 (www.picasa.com; free), released by Google. This program offers enough substance to satisfy most family photographers when it comes to organizing and editing. Picasa quickly grabs photos located anywhere on your hard drive and arranges them chronologically. You can attach key words to individual shots, and give groups of photos a label.
Picasa's basic photo editing tools are sufficiently robust to rescue some real dogs, and you can use special effects to add a tint or create a soft focus. Not bad for a freebie.
We prefer Picasa to Kodak EasyShare 5.0 (www.kodak.com; free). EasyShare has organizing skills similar to Picasa's, but its editing tools aren't as sophisticated. Nevertheless, you can have fun turning photos from, say, a trip to the zoo into a coloring book or a cartoon.
If you're set in a Windows frame of mind, the best album software is a program you have to pay for, Paint Shop Photo Album 5 (www.corel.com; available as a free, 30-day trial download, then $45; $49 for a boxed version).
Paint Shop is fairly intuitive, but if you get stuck there's good on-screen help and a nice printed manual. Beyond the basic editing tools, there are some sophisticated features. You can, for example, stitch a series of overlapping shots into a panoramic photo, add a voice recording, create slide shows, dress up photos with borders and frames and even take off a few pounds with a "thinnify" tool.
The full version of Adobe's Photoshop Album 2.0 (www.adobe.com; starter edition free; full version $50) is as good a photo organizer as Paint Shop Photo Album. Photoshop Album also uses a Windows-style filing system, and it has many of the same features, such as a calendar view. The thumbnail display screen is uncluttered and employs clear icons.
For example, a bar graph-like timeline sits at the top of the photo window. By clicking the month you took your photos, you can quickly zero in on an album. With the full version, you can also burn CDs and produce slide shows with music.
Bottom line: Paint Shop Photo Album and Photoshop Album are comparable organizers, but Paint Shop Photo Album is a better deal because of its stronger editing functions.