Roughly one year after rolling out facial recognition on its Picasa web-based photo service, Google is finally bringing the same functionality to the desktop. The latest version of this popular photo organizing software, Picasa 3.5, analyzes the faces of the people in your pictures and groups similar ones together, making it easier to identify subjects by name for sorting and searching.
The program does a great job of pulling out the faces in your images -- even though the scanning process can take quite a while depending on the size of your library -- and listing them in the People tab with an "add a name" label next to them. As for the face recognition feature itself, honestly, I was amazed at how accurate it was; as soon as I began tagging a few friends and family members Picasa went on and found some more photos were each of them appeared and prompted for confirmation, making almost no mistakes.
Google made the process fairly simple too, by letting you simply click through each picture for confirmation, and adding an option to bulk accept or deny suggestions. If you already use name tags in your Picasa Web Albums, you can also log into your account and download that information to the Picasa application.
While obviously the main focus of this release was face tagging, a few other improvements were made across the board, including Google Maps integration for faster and easier geo-tagging, a smarter keyword-tagging interface, and more importing options. Picasa 3.5 is available for both Windows and Mac OS X systems.