BOOT CAMP 397 (08/11/05)

Pictures on your PC, part 3


Having looked at digital cameras, memory cards and camera-to-PC file transfer we now turn our attention to what you can do with your digital photographs once they are on your PC.


However, the first consideration is how and where to store your images and my first tip is not to bother with the Windows default ‘My Pictures’ folder, it is used as a dumping ground for image files by various applications and it can get very cluttered. The folder is also buried several layers deep inside the Windows directory tree so it’s not especially easy to get at which also makes it harder to archive your pictures -- more on that in a moment.


I suggest starting afresh with a new, structured filing system for your photographs so begin by opening Windows Explorer, go to the File menu, select New > Folder and create a folder in the root of your C: drive called something like ‘Pix’ or ‘Pictures’. Inside that create several sub-folders labelled ‘2003’, ‘2004’, ‘2005’ and so on, for the images you already have on your PC. Finally, within each sub-folder create folders for particular events, themes or topics i.e. ‘Francemarch’, ‘Andrewswedding’ etc. Once that is done you can set about moving all of the images stored on your PC and elsewhere into their new homes.


I cannot stress enough the importance of making a backup of your photo library. In all probability your collection of digital images exists in only one place, on your PC’s hard drive. If that suffers a catastrophic failure you could loose the lot! The best option is to include your picture archives in your automated backup strategy. However, on the assumption that relatively few home users bother with such things, try and get into the habit of copying the contents of your Picture folder onto blank CDs or DVDs and update your archive as often as possible and certainly whenever you add a new sub-folder. Archive discs should be stored in a safe place, preferably cool, dry and dark and well away from your PC.


Online storage is another option and if your ISP has given you an allocation of free web space you could use that though it’s unlikely to be enough to hold more than a very modest collection of images. In the past couple of years a number of web sites have sprung up offering to store your picture in online ‘photo albums’. The free ones usually have strings attached and there’s no knowing what would happen to your pictures if the site disappeared so there is an element of risk. Paid for or subscription-based storage facilities should be more dependable long-term but either way I still feel a little uneasy about trusting my photographs to the vagaries of the Internet.


Once your pictures have been safely filed and backed up you can think about viewing them on your PC monitor or a television, using a DVD player. 


Your digital camera probably came with picture viewer and file manager program and some of them are quite good but it’s worth exploring the alternatives. Windows XP has its own built-in picture viewer utilities. They are fairly basic but unlike third party software they are instantly from within Windows Explorer.


The first one is Filmstrip and it works in any folder containing image files. Just click on the Views menu or icon and you should see the Thumbnails and Filmstrip options. Clicking on the latter will display all of the image files or sub-folders in a strip along the bottom of the window. Double-clicking a filmstrip image generates a full-size display; below the image is options to step backwards and forwards one picture at a time and to rotate the image left or right in 90-degree steps.


The second, more sophisticated option is Windows Picture and Fax Viewer and you can launch this from Filmstrip Viewer, just right click the image and select Preview. Picture and Fax Viewer has a number of extra facilities including variable zoom (try the scroll wheel on your mouse), there’s also a slideshow option and Print function, which launches the XP Photo Printing Wizard. This provides a range of print styles, including single and multiple image and contact sheet formats. 


My own favourite picture viewer utility is Picasa, a freeware program that has more features and facilities than many commercial offerings (see also Top Tip). The list is far too long to go into here but suffice it to say it has everything your are likely to need, including a sophisticated file organiser, slideshow and email modes, advanced printing utilities, CD backup and some simple editing tools.


We’ll round off this week with another digital photograph viewing option and that is to transfer your images to a CD or DVD and replayed on a DVD player. Nowadays a lot of DVD players can play back JPEG image files directly, in which case all you have to do is copy your picture files to a disc. To force them to play back in a specified order it may be necessary to rename the files by putting a simple numeric code (i.e. 001, 002 003 etc.) in front of the file name). Older DVD players without JPEG replay can play VCD format CDs containing still images; there’s a simple to follow how-to-do-it guide to making them in Boot Camp 278. 


NEXT WEEK -- Pictures on your PC, part 4





Internet Service Provider -- company providing Internet access, an E-mail address and a mailbox where messages sent to you are stored before they're downloaded on to your PC



Postage stamp sized images that allow you to quickly view many image files contained in a folder



Video Compact Disc - older (pre DVD) videodisc format capable of storing 74/80 minutes of video or hundreds of still images. Most DVD players can play VCD discs



If you’ve been using Picasa since we first recommended it last year you may not be aware that there is a new updated version available with even more facilities Picasa 2 -- still completely free -- has even more editing tools including crop, straighten and redeye fixes, manual and automatic contrast, fill lighting and colour adjustments. There’s also a range of ‘tuning’ adjustments for fill light, highlights, shadows and colour temperature plus a dozen special effects to sharpen, soften, convert to black and white, add a sepia tone, film grain, tint and ‘force’ black and white (removes colour around a selected area). Picasa 2 also has CD backup and ‘Gift’ CD options, the latter includes a viewer utility so your images can be played on any Windows PC. For more digital imaging freeware and shareware and the complete Boot Camp Top Tips Archive go to





© R. Maybury 2005, 0211

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