Picasa.ini files not properly updated

Like many people I've been using the wonderful (and free) Picasa to manage my photos. One of the huge benefits of Picasa aside from its fast and friendly user interface is that it doesn't write changes to your images. Instead it stores a record of changes that are made to each original image in a Picasa.ini file in each directory. This means you can make changes to your images in Picasa, such as adjusting the contrast and brightness or cropping (or marking with a star), and you don't need to worry about it overwriting your original images.

In order to keep performance reasonable it stores a cache of these adjusted thumbnails and the changes in your Local Settings directory too.

I discovered a problem with Picasa's method of updating these Picasa.ini files though - if you make changes to a file, and then move it to a different folder, within picasa, it doesn't update the original or the new .ini file. This means there's a record of the changes still in the old directory, but not the new one, but it doesn't seem to matter because Picasa tracks this information in the Local Settings database.

The problem comes if you lose the database, or (as I did) intentionally delete it. Picasa will happily then trawl back through your pictures directory and rebuild most of the information from these .ini files. Unless you've moved the images to a different folder after editing, in which case your changed will be lost.

The frustrating thing is that this information is still available, picasa just doesn't know where it is.

To fix this with my photos, I wrote a short perl script to trawl all the Picasa.ini files to pull data out of them, then write them to folders where this information is missing. There are a couple of caveats with this though:

  1. If your camera doesn't keep track of file names (they return to 0001.JPG after emptying your memory card) this almost certainly won't work properly.
  2. If you've made changes to the image in the new folder too, they won't be updated or merged. It will warn you if there's filename duplication though.
  3. I ran this on a linux computer. It should work on windows too, using something like activeperl, but I've not tested it.

If you do find it useful, please do let me know, and remember, back up your files before using this script. It works for me, but I make no guarantees that it won't mess up your images.

You can get the script here

To run it simply give it the full path to the directory that contains your photos. e.g.:

./picasa.pl /home/bcc/photos

After running it, you'll need to clear out Picasa's database for it to pick up the changes. Hold down ctrl-alt-shift as Picasa starts and it will ask if you want to do this. You will lose any labels you've applied to images, but if you need this script then that's probably already happened...

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