How to Tag & Organize Using Picasa

I want to chat with you today about my digi organization system. There sure has been a lot of talk about organizing, purging and backing up your digi supplies here at Scrapaneers this month. Oh how I wish I’d have known all this stuff when I first started digi scrapping! In reading this month’s posts, the common theme is that we all just want to be able to find all our digi goodies when we want to use them so we can make beautiful pages and of course we want our digi goodies safely backed up!


Tagging and keeping my digi stash and photos organized is super important to me. I have to be honest, I do not enjoy tagging, but I’ve got a really focused personality and it would drive me absolutely nuts if I couldn’t find something at a moment’s notice. I keep my process simple and straightforward so it works for me. In the long run, tagging is a huge timesaver and I really don’t know that I’d be able to scrap nearly as well if I wasn’t organized. I keep my digi stash organized with Picasa and today I’m going to share with you an overview of my organization process.


First I’ll quickly share my organizing back story on how I came to use Picasa. It was a bumpy ride getting here. I’ve been using Picasa for a couple of years now and it works very well for me. It took me a couple of missteps and other programs over the years to get me to Picasa but I think I’m here to stay. When I started digi scrapping I was on a PC and I tagged with ACDSee. All was good with the world, but then I switched to a Mac. (I never looked back BTW! I love my Mac!) ACDSee wasn’t an option for Macs at that time so after doing some research I switched to Shoebox. Unfortunately I had to retag everything when I made that switch. It was a huge pain, but I survived. Shoebox worked great for me for a while, until it just didn’t anymore. There were software problems, customer service problems, you name it. The program just blew up on me. I had to make a change again. At that time I did more research and switched to Picasa. Guess what that meant? I had to retag everything AGAIN. Ugg! To say retagging everything for the third time was a pain would be an understatement. Again, I survived but I don’t ever, and I mean EVER want to start tagging from scratch again. Three times is enough! I’ve been using Picasa for a few years now and I’ve always been very happy with it. An added bonus is that Picasa is FREE and who doesn’t love free?!


Using Picasa (or any program for that matter) for the long haul is huge, so do your research and do lots of reading and comparing right from the start when you’re choosing a program that’s right for you. One of the big things about Picasa is that it writes your tags to the file’s metadata (but not to the metadata of PNGs or PSDs), so other programs can access those tags. For instance, I recently purchased Lightroom for photo editing and I now I go back and forth using Lightroom and Picasa to organize my photos. Lightroom reads all my Picasa tags so it’s just works. Now, when I’m scrapping I’ve got LR open for my photos and Picasa open for my digi stash.


So, now it’s time to share with you the nitty gritty details of my organizing process.


First off here’s a quick note before you even get started tagging. In addition to Picasa searching by the keywords (tags) you assign to a file, it also searches by folder names and file names. So, if a designer assigns a descriptive name to an item (i.e. button), Picasa will find it in a search. If you pay attention to the names designers give their products as well as think about the names you give you folders, you might be able to find things without even tagging a thing! How’s that for great?!


 1. The first step: Downloading New Kits & Pre-Tagging Organization

When I download a new kit I keep it in my Downloads folder until I’m ready to tag it in Picasa. I’m on a Mac so all my kits are automatically unzipped into my Downloads folder as I download them. I LOVE that!


I’m going to describe the folder structure of my external hard drive (EHD) in a bit, but before I get to that, I do some pre-organization of kits when they’re still in my Downloads folder before I ever move them over to my EHD.


I keep each kit in one folder. As you’ve seen when you buy new kits, they often come in many downloads in several folders. I pull all those folders together into one main kit folder. I name my kit folder by designer name and kit name. For example, Karla Dudley’s Life Story kit folder is labeled “kd_lifestory”. In that main kit folder I keep subfolders for the different categories of downloads within the kit. Looking at the kd_lifestory folder a couple of the subfolders I have are: kd_lifestory_buttons; kd_lifestory_journalcards; kd_lifestory_elements; kd_lifestory_stampsheets, etc.


I pull all of the previews from the various portions of each kit into the main kit folder. I rename the previews with an “*” at the beginning so the previews always stay at the top of the folder. (When I scrap, after I find a kit I want to use using Picasa, I also like to have my Finder window open to the kit so that’s why this organization matters to me.) I also keep all of the papers from a particular kit in the main kit folder (I don’t have a subfolder for any papers). I do this because when I tell Picasa I want to “Show in Finder” I know I’ll be able to see all the papers and previews at one time.


After taking these steps, my new kit is organized on my hard drive and if I want to scrap with it before I get it tagged I know I’ll be able to look at it in an organized fashion that works for me.


2. Moving New Kits to an EHD

I keep my tagged digi stash on a dedicated EHD that holds ONLY my digi stash. The only digi kits on my laptop harddrive are kits that are not yet tagged. I currently have 195 GB of digi goodies on my EHD so you can see why an organization system is necessary! I don’t move my digi supplies to my EHD until I’m ready to tag them.


I have Picasa set up to automatically scan new items as they are moved to my EHD, so I launch the Picasa program prior to moving a kit to my EHD. As soon as I move a kit over to my EHD I can watch Picasa recognize and scan it. I do not have Picasa set up to scan my Downloads folder. FYI, if you don’t have Picasa open when you move the new folders to an EHD, it’s no problem. Picasa will scan it when you next launch it.


3. Folder Structure on My Digi Scrapping EHD

If you were to look at my EHD, the first level you’d see is folders with designer names. In the past I started with a store level structure with designers in folders under their particular store, but since designers move around, I now keep them all separated individually by designer name. It’s easier for me. This is what a section of my main EHD folder structure looks like:




NOTE: I do still have a couple of store folders mixed in with designer names. In those store folders I keep my collaboration kits that have been created by all of the store designers. For example, in my Pixels & Company (P&Co.) folder I have kits like P&Co’s iNSD freebie kit & Free With Purchase Collaborations, etc.  Under the designer folder you will find each of the individual kit folders that I described in Step 1 above.


Note for CTs, Challenges, etc.

I mentioned keeping kits organized by designer name instead of store. This is something you might find helpful if you’re on a CT or if you like to create pages for a challenge and those pages need to use only items available at a particular digi store. I am on a number of CTs, including the P&Co. store CT. That means that P&Co. layouts created as a CT assignment need to use only P&Co. product. Because of that I will add the store name AFTER the designer name in the main folder structure. For example, Karla Dudley’s main folder on my EHD is actually called “Karla Dudley pandcoct”.   Remember I said that in addition to the keywords/tags you’ve assigned, Picasa also searches by folder names and file names? Here’s a time where that comes in handy. I can add and take off the pandcoct from a designer’s folder name as they either move to or from P&Co. If, for instance, a designer moves to P&Co. I can simply add “pandcoct” to their folder name and Picasa will rescan all of that designer’s subfolders and they will be included in a “pandcoct” search. Same thing goes if a designer leaves P&Co. I can simply delete the “pandcoct” from the designer’s folder name and Picasa will rescan all of their subfolders and they will no longer come up in a “pandcoct” search.


4. Now the real organization begins. It’s time to Tag/Keyword supplies!

When you set up your own tagging/keywording system, think about the way you scrap and the type of items you expect you will want to look for. The level of detail in my tagging has changed over the years. For instance, except for my papers, I no longer tag by color because I’ve gotten better at recoloring items so the color doesn’t really matter anymore.


Tagging Previews

When I’m scrapping, early in the process I’ll want to decide on a kit to use so I’ll probably want to look at my previews first to see if I can find a kit that fits the style I’m looking for. So, for me it’s important that the previews be tagged in a way that I will find them. The first thing I tag is all of the previews. My previews will be tagged with “previewkit” or “previewpapers” or “previewelements” or “previewprojectlifecards”, “previewalphas,” “previewepoxies,” etc. depending on what it’s a preview for. Previews will also be tagged with a theme, if there is a theme.


Some of the common themes I use are: birthday, school, office, spring, summer, fall, winter, masculine, feminine, childish, playful, grunge, Christmas, Easter, etc.


Here’s an example of where my tagging/keywording has evolved over the years. I LOVE when a kit has a fabulous clear preview. It makes me happy. I used to tag each and every journal card and each and every epoxy, and each and every tag, etc. That got to be too much for me. When a designer has created an awesome preview I, will just tag the preview as if they were the individual items. Then, in addition to the preview tags I mentioned above, I will tag with more specifics. For example, I seldom tag individual journal cards/project life cards anymore. There got to be too many journal cards showing up in my Picasa searches so now I just tag the previews with the level of detail I’d use for elements/journal cards themselves. I’ll describe how I tag elements and journal cards, etc. below.


Tagging Papers

The next thing in a kit I tag is the papers. I tag all papers with a “justpapers” keyword. By tagging “justpapers,” when I am looking for a paper I can search “justpapers” and they will all show up in the Picasa search window. Using “justpapers” ensures that I’m doing a search for items I know that I have tagged. If I was searching for “papers,” the search could come up with other items that have been named with the word papers. (Remember Picasa also searches by file name.) I of course can narrow my search in Picasa by adding more tags.


After I’ve highlighted all of the papers in a kit and tagged them “justpaper”, I will highlight all of the solid papers and tag them “solidpapers”. I then tag all papers by the colors on the paper. I really wouldn’t need to tag by color because recoloring is so easy, but that’s how I’ve always done it so I still do that. If a paper has a distinct pattern I will tag it with that pattern. That’s an important level of organization for me and a type of search I do frequently. If a paper is particularly textured I’ll tag it with “texture” as well so that I can search for “justpaper” “textures” and find textures I might want to blend into other papers down the road.


The main pattern tags I use are: stripes, dots, ornate, floral, vintage, wood, texture, and chevron. If there’s a particular theme to a paper I will include a tag for that as well.  (I use the same themes I mentioned using when tagging the previews.) So … for a floral paper I might have the following tags: justpaper, floral, teal, tan, pink, and spring.


Tagging Elements

I tag all elements with “justelements”. (For the same reason I use the word “just” in the “justpapers” tags.) I consider pretty much everything that is not a paper or a template to be an element. Here’s where designer previews come in. If a designer has a fabulous preview I’ll give all my specifics tags to the preview. For example, lots of Karla Dudley’s kits come with a set of awesome frame brushes. Here’s a preview from Karla’s Anywhere Frame Brushes. Instead of tagging each and every frame brush I will just tag the preview. NOTE, when tagging previews instead of the individual elements themselves I make sure to also assign the tag “justelements” so that my particular tags will come up in a targeted search.




Following are some of the keywords I assigned to this preview: justelements, previewelements, previewframes, justframes, wordart, projectlifecards, thecostashapril2013, explore, childish, abrbrush, photooverlay, love, inspiration, journey.


I’ll give you another example of how I’d tag a preview for the Buttons in Karla’s Anywhere kit.




Some of the tags I’ve applied to this preview: justelements, previewelements, epoxies, family, together, wordart, teal, clouds, project life.   You get the idea!


Pretty much I look at a preview and think about what kind of thing I might look for down the road and assign it a corresponding tag. Of course there are always a ton of random goodies included in a kit’s general elements folder. Sometimes I can get away with tagging just the preview and tag what’s shown, but for the mix of items in a kit’s general elements folder, I’ll usually tag many individual items (particularly the items I know I’ll search for individually down the road like stitches, flowers, brads, etc.). I highlight all of the kit’s elements and tag them first with “justelement.” After that I go through and tag what the items are. I do not tag by color. Here are some of the elements keywords I’ll use: flower, tag, circletag, office, filelabel, sunburst, thoughtballoons, paint, spatters, glitter, gems, justbrads, justframes, vintage, wordart, photocorners, ribbons, straightstitching, wonky stitching, flourishes, metal, fasteners, tape, paperclips, binderclips etc.


Tagging Templates

All of my templates are tagged with one of the following tags:  template_12x12, template_8x11, or template_24x12.


After that the only other tag I assign to a template is the number of photos: onephoto, twophotos … fivephotos, sixplus photos. That’s it. Templates are super quick to tag and super easy to find! Actually, sometimes templates come with other “stuff” that I might want to use on a page. For instance, Katie Pertiet’s templates oftentimes come with lots of element goodies so I’ll tag many of her templates with “justelements” as well as what items are included on the template.


That’s the general gist of how I tag and organize my digi stash. What works for me may not work for you. Use it as a general starting point for your organizing process. Think about how you scrap and the types of things you find yourself looking for. If you’re a kit scrapper, then maybe tagging previews is all you need to do. If you like to scrap pages using lots of “this & that” from various kits, then you may need to do more detailed tagging. It all just depends on your personal scrapping style.


There is so much more I could talk about with regard to how I tag, but I wanted to share the basics. If you have any questions at all, definitely post them in the comments. I’m happy to answer any questions you might have!


In addition …


  • Stacia Hall wrote a great post describing how she tags in ACDSee. You might want to check that out here if you’re on the fence with which program would work best for you.


  • Judie wrote a great blog post last week about backing up your digi supplies. You can read her post here. I’m big on backing up my digi stash and photos often. I’ve had multiple EHD failures (probably because I’m always carrying my EHDs around and I might be somewhat clumsy at times. Oops!) so I make sure to do frequent backups. Once I’ve moved my digi supplies to my EHD and gotten them tagged and backed up twice (I’ve got two EHD backup drives; one at home and one I keep off site). After everything is backed up I’ll delete the kits off my laptop’s Downloads folder. FYI, despite having had several EHD failures, it’s always been very easy to recreate my Picasa database so have no fear!


  • Remember I said I’ve got 195 GB of digi goodies on an EHD? That’s AFTER I’ve done a number of digi puges like Lisa described here. Purging and decluttering your digi stash is a good idea once in a while!


  • Finally, Jennifer Flaherty prepared a video about how to organize your digi stash using iPhoto. Warning, it is pretty long (20:27), but really shows how user-friendly iPhoto is and how well it can handle your digital supplies. You can find the video by clicking HERE. For those of you that want to cut to the chase, here are some highlights:
    1. Jump to around 4:25 to learn how to change the “Key Photo” (i.e., folder icon) of an “Event” (folder).
    2. Jump to 6:40 to learn how to batch keyword your supplies.
    3. Jump to 9:40 to learn how to merge events.
    4. Jump to 11:30 to learn how to rename events.
    5. Jump to 12:30 to see how the search function works.
    6. Jump to 14:30 to see how easy it is to create smart albums.
    7. Jump to 19:05 to see how to use ratings to label your favorites.


Again … have fun scrapping and organizing and post any questions in the comments.   Until next month, happy scrapping!



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  • Carole May 25, 2014   Reply →

    Love your post Barbara! I had ACDSee, lots of problems! I am going to try picasa. I love that it works with Lightroom!

    • Barbara May 27, 2014   Reply →

      Thanks Carole! If you have any questions, feel free to ask. I’m happy to help!

  • Boris August 9, 2014   Reply →

    Hi, I wish for to subscribe for this web site to get most recent updates, therefore
    where can i do it please help.

  • Kris Beauregard February 12, 2015   Reply →

    I have loved Picasa for organizing my photos & my digi stash. I just got a new laptop and want to make sure I have a good system in place before transferring supplies, and this is a great resource. Thank you!!

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