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Hello William – and welcome to our forum!
I assume you mean that you're using Picasa's Create / Set as Desktop command …
One thing I've realized is that, when you issue that command, Picasa automatically crops your picture to dimensions that will fit your screen – this may be what is preventing you from seeing the 'entire' picture.
To check this out, try manually cropping your picture – click the drop-down list to specify the dimensions and choose the Standard Screen: 4:3 ratio (or one of the widescreen settings if that is appropriate) and see what it does. Does that match what you're seeing when you 'set as desktop'?
If you don't want this crop to happen at all, then I don't think you can use the Picasa command to set your desktop. You would need to use Picasa to Export the picture as is to a folder for desktop backgrounds, then use the Windows commands to use that picture as your desktop. If you need help with that, let us know which operating system you're using (xp, vista, 7)