Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Beautiful front-end for Picasa web galleries

Ever wanted to make your Picasaweb gallery look better?

Although I don't use Picasa desktop application, I upload many of my photos to Picasaweb. Partly, this is for historical reasons, partly I like the usage of the existing Google account and very cheap storage (20 Gb for only $5 per year - it's hard to beat that).

However, I am really really not happy about how the Google's gallery looks like - both the original Picasaweb interface, which has the distracting white background as well as the newer Google Plus-integrated interface, which doesn't display my album maps and hides my photo captions too quickly. And the URLs have recently become uglier - Google no longer displays your username in the URL, but has replaced it with a bunch of numbers. Oh well...

So, because there wasn't any better solution, I decided to quickly write a new, more beautiful front-end for Picasaweb during the days off during the last Christmas. I still like the storage space and the direct uploads to Picasaweb from most open-source and commercial photo management software, so there is no need to reinvent the back-end part.

Here is what I came up with:


As Google provides a Java API for accessing to its services, I decided to write a simple Java web app and host it at Google App Engine (for free!).

The web app fetches all the data from Picasaweb, but displays the albums and photos completely in its own interface, which is (surprisingly) quicker than the Google's own and looks more beautiful, with minimal distractions from the photos themselves. See my example photo gallery to check out the transition effects, full screen photo viewer with copy-pasteable URLs, cross-fading between photos, and a search within your photo metadata (captions, labels, etc). It is optimized for mobile browsers as well.

The source code is available on Github and is licensed under GPL. You can just install it to your own Google App Engine account for free (see the instructions on the github) or use the link at the bottom of my photo gallery to display your own photos - the link will be permanent, so you can even send it to your friends!


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