Here at Liquidstate, we use Picasa 3 at home to manage our photos and Picasa Web Albums to share them with family and friends. As you would expect, we store all of our data on a central storage server (UnRAID running on an ESXi host if you must know). Unfortunately, although Picasa 3 will let you add photos from network mapped drives, it seems to be hardwired to assume that it should keep its database on the local PC, which would normally limit usage to a single device. Google have hinted that a future version might include the ability to share the Picasa database, but until then its necessary to do a bit of fudging to get this to work…
Share your photos to the network
So, first you need to make sure that all your photos are stored in a shared folder. Here at Liquidstate, we have an UnRAID NAS Server which offers a number of network shares to the rest of our local network. Unimaginatively, we have a share called “Photos” where we store everything in their own folders (eg. Wedding, Iceland Sailing Holiday, etc). On our laptops, we have this mounted as a network-mapped drive, “P:”. So, now, from either of our laptops, we can open “My Computer”, then “P:” and browse the photos. Its important that you use the same drive letter for the mount on each of your end devices.
Move the internal Picasa database to the network
Picasa creates a new database when it’s started for the first time. Annoyingly, it also demands that it at very least scans your ‘My Documents’ folder – there doesn’t seem to be any way to tell it not to search for photos. So, before you run Picasa for the first time, I’d recommend that you temporarily move any photos you might have on your local PC to a directory that Picasa won’t scan.
So, go ahead and start Picasa up, let it generate its database and then shut it back down again. Don’t go adding any of your photos yet, we just want a nice empty database. We’ll add our photos later!
The internal Picasa databases are stored in two system folders in Windows 7:
You’ll need to create a new home for these that it accessible to other computers on your network. Here at Liquidstate, we simply created a new directory along side our photos called “Picasa Library” and moved both the Picasa2 and Picasa2Albums folders to this newly created “Picasa Library” folder. So, the internal databases are now available on all of our laptops as:
P:\Picasa Library\Picasa2 P:\Picasa Library\Picasa2Albums
Trick Picasa into using the network
At this point, you should no longer have a Picasa2 or Picasa2Albums folder on your laptop in your C:\Users\<username>\AppData\Local\Google\ folder. If you do, then you probably copied the internal Picasa database folders, rather than moving them. For this next part, we can’t have real folders with those names as we’re going to replace them with Symbolic Links that will fool Picasa into accessing our new shared copies instead. So, go ahead and delete the following directories from any laptop that you plan on using Picasa on:
So, now we have to create Symbolic Links that will look just like the folders we deleted, but will actually redirect Picasa to our new network-accessible locations. Click on the Start menu and type “cmd” into the run box at the bottom, but do not hit Enter yet. Instead, right-click on where it says “cmd.exe” just under “Programs (1)” and left-click “Run as Administrator”. If you get an alert box asking if you want to allow the program to make changes to your computer, select “Yes”.
Now navigate to the original home of the internal Picasa databases and create symbolic links for both the Picasa2 and Picasa2Albums folders that point towards wherever you stored your shared copy. Below I’ll show what we used here at Liquidstate:
cd C:\Users\<username>\AppData\Local\Google mklink /d Picasa2 “P:\Picasa Library\Picasa2” mklink /d Picasa2Albums “P:\Picasa Library\Picasa2Albums” exit
You have now created Symbolic Links that will look and act like regular folders, but in fact, will allow you to access files stored your network mapped drive. You will need to this on all the laptops that you plan on using Picasa with so that they all have a consistent view of the data.
Configure Picasa and Enjoy!
Run Picasa 3 on your laptop and select “Folder Manager” from the “Tools” menu. Remove any mention to directories that only exist on your laptop. Now, go ahead and add your shared photos folder and let Picasa 3 update its album. Here at Liquidstate, all of our photos are stored on a single network mapped drive “P:”, so we just add that.
Assuming you’ve correctly set up the Symbolic Links on each of your laptops, you should now be able to use Picasa on any of your devices and see the same library, faces, etc.
As a word of warning, I’d recommend against trying to use Picasa on multiple computers at the same time. The internal databases are not designed to be shared and writing changes from two places at once might corrupt the data. Only one computer and one user should access Picasa at any one time.