Google has enhanced its desktop-based Picasa photo organizing program by offering users the ability to upload albums and easily share photos with others.
Picasa Web Albums is launching as a limited test that will be available only to existing Gmail users on a first-come, first-served basis—if you want to try the service, you should act quickly to try to secure your account.
Google has designed the service to be easy to use. To create a web album, select the photos you want to upload in Picasa and click the new "Web Album" button. Follow the instructions to name your album and specify whether your album is public, meaning it will show up in your "gallery," or unlisted. Unlisted albums can be viewed by anyone who knows the unique URL of the album but will not be displayed in your gallery.
Once an album has been uploaded, you can view images individually or as a slide show. Images are automatically scaled to fit the size of the monitor you are using, so you'll see smaller versions of a photo on a laptop than you will on a large-screen display.
You can also easily download an entire album making it easy to get copies of your own photos onto different computers, or to get photos from friends who have shared their images with you.
In addition to making it easy to share photo albums with others, Picasa Web lets users add comments to photos in your public albums.
Google is providing 250mb of storage space for photos (about 1000 photos) for free. If you want more space than that, during the limited test period you can expand storage to 6 gigabytes (about 25,000 photos) for $25 per year.
For more information, see the Picasa Web frequently asked questions page.