A reader writes: “Do you have any idea why Google stopped supporting the free photo organizing/editing system called Picasa?  How would we contact them to plead for it to be brought back? Do you know of any system that could replace it?”

We hear you. Once you know your way around a program, it’s tough to switch. Google  thinks their online editing tool, Google Photos, is better. It lets you crop, enhance light, and save photos to your computer. But not everyone wants to work online.

If you’re a Windows 10 user, try the built-in photos app. Click “start,” then “photos,” to get started or search the web for the phrase “How to Use Microsoft Photos,” to get more detailed instructions. If you want a program similar to Picasa, consider “FastStone Image Viewer,” for Mac or PC.  Like Picasa, it helps you get organized.

But those programs don’t do what our reader liked best about Picasa: She used it to make photo greeting cards. For that, we love Canva.com. It’s free, and their templates are gorgeous. A tutorial shows you how to drop your own photos into their backgrounds and use their wonderful fonts to liven things up. Download your card  to your computer and print it yourself or pay a fee to use their professional printing. It’s not as easy as greeting card software, like Hallmark Studios, which shows you the front, back and inside of the card you’re designing, but it has great results. In Canva, we have to design two separate pages. One is our front and back. The other is our insides. We print them out and glue them together with rubber cement or a glue stick.

Another great alternative is  Zazzle. They print the card and they mail it. We opted for the $35 a year option to get free shipping. Nearly every time we make a card there, they have a promotion going, so our latest card cost only $1.35, including the stamp. We’ve gotten a bigger reaction from these cards than our Hallmark creations, even when we didn’t choose the giant card option: 8.5-inch-by-11 inch. To add images for birthday cards, we Google the person’s name along with the word “birthday,” to add images that feature their name on a birthday cake or billboard. It’s easy to pop those images into Zazzle’s templates. Or you can use their pictures.

Googling for Errors

Sometimes knowing too much can get you in trouble. We’ve been victims too.

A reader writes that he got a Windows error message on his screen. Then his system wouldn’t boot up. Being a savvy guy, he searched the web using the exact error code he received. But the web is like the Wild West. Two of the answers were wrong and the third came from a scammer who looked legit.

For  $28, the “Reimage” software seemed to fix things for our reader at first. Then it did an “analysis,” which found new problems requiring another $28. At that point the reader balked. Not only was the second request suspicious, but they’d hung up on him when he tried to call them.

Fortunately, the reader’s Lenovo Yoga 2 comes with its own reset button to bring the computer back to its original pristine condition. Other computers require you to hit the F8 key or some other key during boot-up to go into Windows recovery mode. But the reset action wipes all your programs. If you don’t have the original installation codes or disks, and you’ve installed a lot of programs, it can get expensive and time-consuming to replace everything.

What didn’t work for the reader is the boot disk he made when he got the computer. Windows often prompts you to  make one, but in our experience, these are easy to make, hard to use. Windows said his was “invalid.” The same thing has happened to us.

But all’s well that ends well. After the reader uninstalled the scammers’ program, he was able to get his system up and running again, even with all his old programs on it. It was scary for a minute, since the scammer’s program, Reimage, made it look like his Windows operating system was also being deleted. Fortunately, all was saved. Bottom line: Go to the manufacturer’s website and follow their advice for recovering a computer that won’t start.

Going Paperless

We have boxes and boxes of drawings, poems and love notes we’ve made for each other. In fact, our ongoing romance is using up all the remaining space in our small apartment. Time to go paperless.

We’ve always liked “Abbyy Fine Reader,” which works with scanners to turn paper copies into digital documents you can read on your computer or share in an email.  But early on, Bob realized a phone can do the same thing, more conveniently. For one thing, you usually have it with you. For another, it’s quick.

“Abbyy FineScanner” is a free app for iPhone and Android. It allows you to get a super-sharp image of everything you have on paper. If you need to search an image for the text inside it, or edit the text, you’ll need the “premium” version, currently on sale for $10 a year. In our tests, we found it difficult to preserve the look of the original after we extracted the text, but it did create searchable documents.


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