Imaging, Scanning & Printing

  

 

Fotor Photo Finisher

Thereís no shortage of free photo editing programs out there and some of them are very good indeed but hereís another one that is definitively worth the price of a download. Itís called Fotor and itís available for Windows, Android, iOS, and Mac, and it has some truly impressive features up its sleeve, some of which you wonít find, at least not all together, on any other image editor. However. The big selling point Ė not that it is going to cost you a bean Ė is how easy it is to use. Simply load up your image and choose what you want to do to it from an extensive list of scene presets, crop options, manual adjustments, effects, borders and you can also add text and titles to your snaps. It even has a Tilt Shift effect, which is really unusual on a freebie editor. Each category brings up a list of sub menus and thumbwheels showing what each effect or preset will do. Thereís also an EXIF data viewer, zoom, flip, rotate and compare tools, save and share functions, and thereís plenty more to explore when you get bored with that little lot. You can use it to create collages and apply changes, borders and effects to batches of images. Thatís just a quick taste of what it can do but try it for yourself and see. The install is clean with no hidden toolbars but there is one thing to watch out for. If and when you want to uninstall it, it can be a bit sticky. The built-in uninstall options appear a tad flaky but itís no match for the excellent Revo Uninstaller, which does a bang up job of cleaning it from your machine, so if you havenít already done so, install that first.

25/08/14

 

Raising The Dead

Few things are as annoying as a stuck pixel on an LCD display, and to make it worse, some manufacturers do not regard it as a Ďfaultí by, unless it is at or close to the centre of the screen. Normally there is very little you can do about pixels that are always on, or off, but hereís a little freeware program that might just be able to fix the problem. Itís called Undead Pixel and it works in two ways. First, to test your display and help you to locate dodgy pixels it floods the screen with each of the primary colours, plus Black, White and Yellow and this will show up any wonky pixels that may be only occasionally visible. Second, it generates a rapidly flashing single pixel, or a 5 x 5 block of pixels, that you drag onto the dead one and simply leave, for several hours if necessary. Subjecting a faulty pixel to this sort of harsh treatment can, in theory at least, bring it back to life. There are no guarantees, of course, but if your screen is blighted by a pesky pixel, what have you got to lose?

07/04/14

 

Itís A Snap!

As you doubtless know itís easy to take a screen shot in Windows, simply press the PrtScn button and a bitmap image is saved to the Clipboard, and if you hold down the Alt before pressing PrtScn you capture just the active window. Anyway, the point is, itís simple and straightforward, but not very versatile, and if you want to capture just a part of the screen, you have to open and edit the image before you can use it. There are plenty of advanced screen capture tools knocking around, but hereís one that you might find useful. Itís a freeware utility called SnapCrab, and the big selling points are ease of use, you can capture the whole screen or just a specified part of it, capture web pages, translucent Aero glass windows, display the colour code of any point on the screen under the mouse pointer, and instantly share your captured image on Twitter, Facebook and Flickr or save it to Evernote. Thereís a preview window, so you can accurately judge what you are about to capture, it has a self-timer, functions can be assigned to hotkeys, you can set the size and aspect ratio of images before they are saved, and screencaps are saved automatically, so you can snap away without having to wait between each shot. If you do a lot of screen captures and are still using the old PrtScn method, SnapCrab could be a revelation.

11/11/13

 

A Flipping Great Program

First a quick word of caution, if you download this very useful freeware program please pay attention during the install as it offers to install a particularly pernicious toolbar and a VPN program, which is okay, but you may not want it, so watch out for and read those check boxes! Itís all good news from now on and Free Video Flip And Rotate from DVDSoft, needs very little in the way of explanation, the name says it all. So, if you have a smartphone and a growing collection of videos taken in portrait mode, that you want to turn the right way around, through 90 degrees, maybe a video of something going from left to right across the screen, that you want to go the other way, then this is for you. It can rotate movies through 90 or 180 degrees, or flip vertically or horizontally. It handles most popular video formats, and, to cut a short story even shorter, it just works.

09/09/13

 

High Compression

For many of us the single biggest consumer of space on our hard drives is our photo library, and if you have had a digital camera for more than a couple of years you can easily rack up several hundred gigabytes worth of pictures. There are ways to make hem take up less space, by compressing the data, but this can result in a noticeable reduction in quality, loss of detail, colour depth and contrast and so on, which you may later regret if you want to get any of your pictures enlarged. However, compression technology is improving all of the time and a new open source compression utility, called Caesium claims to be able to achieve compression levels of up to 90 percent without a drop in quality. It achieves this impressive sounding feat without changing the file format, or requiring any additional decompression or viewer software. Files can also be processed in batches and you control the compression level with a simple slider control. It all sounds too good to be true, but you can easily judge for yourself the effect it will have on your photos with before and after preview windows. It behoves us to say that thereís no magic, or free lunches in image data compression, and something has to give if you strip away 90 percent of the data, but we have to say this one does appear to do a very good job indeed. Donít take our word for it, though, itís all free so try it for yourself and make up your own mind.

19/08/13 

 

Random Surprise

Hereís a weird one and a bit of fun. All you really need to know is that it is called Colour Surprise; itís freeware and it does peculiar things to your photographs. Okay, so maybe it needs a bit more explanation, but the basic idea is that it randomises colours. Just open a photograph, click the Randomize button and a few seconds later your photo is transformed. Mostly, it has to be said, the changes are not an improvement so be prepared to experiment. A lot depends on the photo Ė the more colours the better the chances of getting something interesting Ė but if you donít like what you see just click Randomize again for another version. When you find one that you like you can print or save it. There are simple tools for zooming, rotating and flipping the image and undoing changes and it works on most popular image formats, including .jpg, .png, .gif, .tif and .tga.

12/08/13

 

Photo Freeware Contender

Although Photofiltre remains our favourite freeware image-editing program, itís now facing some very tough competition from a new freebie, called PC Image Editor. Itís really easy to use, with all of the most useful tools arranged down the right hand side. These include sliders for brightness, contrast, saturation, gamma correction, hue and lightness. Thereís also individual RGB levels and Colourize; each adjustment is shown on a small preview screen. A range of extra effects and special filters are available at the click of a mouse; thereís rotate, reproduce, twirl, skew and perspective and on the Filters sub menu thereís sharpen, zoom blur, motion blur, gaussian blue, noise, diffuse and mosaic. It also has a simple resize facility, infinite undo, print and scan, it supports the most popular image formats. Defintiely worth trying for quick and easy picture editing lacking in the tools department, so for the moment at least, Photofiltre still stays on top.

22/04/13

 

New Movie Maker and Photo Gallery for W7 and 8

Two old favourites have been given a makeover for W7 and 8 and new versions of Windows Movie Maker and Photo Gallery are now available for download. Movie Maker has several handy new features, including H.264 compatibility by default, and a de-shaker or stabilisation mode. Thereís also easier ways to find music to accompany your videos, from three on-line services (Audio Micro, Free Music Archive and Vimeo). This helps avoid the embarrassing problem of your soundtrack being stripped when it is uploaded to YouTube because you do not have the rights to use it. Another new audio feature is waveform visualisation, which superimposes a level display on the video, making it easier to match the sound to the images. Youíll also find it easier to add narration, and it now has a text outline option, to make titles easier to read against different types of background. New in Photo Gallery is Auto Collage, for making eye-catching picture collections Ė great for desktops, greetings cards and movie stills, and it now has built-in on-line sharing for stills and video using Vimeo.

13/08/12

 

On A Roll

Much of the software weíve been looking at recently has been all doom and gloom, concerned with privacy and security and way too serious, so hereís some light relief. Itís called Eyeroller and itís a free (donations welcomed) image animation program that works on portrait images of faces. If you havenít worked it out by now, it makes the subjectís (victimís) eyes roll in a most comical manner. Check out the examples on the Eyeroll website to see it in action. Anyway, there are two ways to go, you can manually define the eyeballs and irisís, or let the program do it automatically. Either way, itís very easy to use and loads of fun for all of the family, so why not eye it up and give it a spinÖ

09/07/12

 

Artistic Tendencies

Unleash the artist within you with Artweaver Free. Itís a proper painting program with a a huge selection of brushes, colour and textures and the only thing you need to add is your imagination. You can create vivid images from scratch, or amuse yourself by doodling on your favourite photos. Itís suitable for beginners and experts, with many interesting features, including event saving and playback, so you can show how you did it, or undo unwanted steps. It supports most popular image formats, and there are transparency. layer and layer group functions, it has all for the usual image editing tools (gradient, crop, fill and selection), thereís an abundance of filters, like sharpen, blur, emboss and mosaic and it can be extended using plug in modules. But rather than waste time reading about it here, have some fun and try it for yourself.

05/12/11

 

Simple Sizer

Fans of the old Windows XP Powertoys may recall a brilliant free utility called Image Resizer. Alas Powertoys was never updated for later versions of Windows but Image Resizer lives on, as Image Resizer 2.1, so letís see what it can do. Itís a quick and simple tool for, you guessed it, resizing pictures, either single or in batches, and itís incredibly easy to use. Once installed the Resizer option is inserted into the Windows Explorer right-click context menu. In other words, all you have to do is open the file containing the images that you want to resize, select the image, or images then right-click on the highlighted item, click Resize Pictures and up pops a box with four standard options (320 x 480, 854 x 480, 1366 x 768 and 1920 x 1080), click the Advanced button and you can select a custom size and enable options to resize but not create a copy and only make images smaller. Itís free, itís fast and it works a treat!

19/09/11

 

Pinta Your Pictures

You would have thought that the world has enough graphics and photo editing programs, but no, hereís another one, called Pinta. To be fair itís not entirely new as it is based on the venerable Paint.Net, which we looked at a few years ago, but it has been bought up to date with a lot of new and improved features, including unlimited layers, a full history, so you can always undo your changes, there are more than 35 adjustments and effects to fine tune your photos and a set of easy to use drawing tools, but why am I telling you this? Go and try it for yourself, itís not half bad! (PS Ė this is adapted from a Linux program and itís a little bit messy so go for the zip version, which contains all the necessary files otherwise youíll have to install Gimp Toolkit (GTK#), separately).

13/06/11

 

Microsoft Stitch Up

Hereís a useful freebie from your favourite operating systems company. Itís the Microsoft Image Composite Editor or ĎICEí, which is not the catchiest of names, and like as not will put a lot of people off, but bear with me. Itís actually an image stitcher, a program designed to seamlessly knit together a series of overlapping pictures into a single high-resolution panoramic image. Thereís more, it lets you upload and share your pictures with friends, it can be viewed in 3D and the resulting image can be saved in a variety of common formats, like JPEG and TIFF, as well as specialist multi-resolution formats used by Deepzoom. Itís free, and since itís coming from Microsoft you can be fairly sure itís clean of nasties and should work on any PC from XP onwards.

14/04/11

 

Give Your Pix The Bird

You canít have enough photo editing software and whilst we remain loyal to PhotoFiltre -- our long-term freeware favourite for quick editing jobs -- we are always open to new programs, like Kestrel GX.  It occupies the same niche in the market, itís free and designed for straightforward photo editing, but it also has some very useful file management and organising facilities. It supports a very wide range of formats, thereís all the usual editing tools (rotate your photos, crop, resize, remove red eye, sharpen, remove noise and adjust colours, brightness, contrast and saturation), it can convert, create PDFs, add watermarks, perform batch operations, edit exif data, and it has a blisteringly fast search option.

10/02/11  

 

Picture Space Saver

If your picture libraries have taken over your hard drive and are using up all of the free space, then you have a number of options. You can move them to another drive, upgrade to a larger drive, delete some of them or how about this? Itís called FILEMinimizer and it can reduce image file sizes by up to 98 percent. It sounds too good to be true, but itís all down to a proprietary compression technique, and the results are really impressive. Normally such high levels of compression result in a very noticeable drop in quality; the differences are there if you look very hard, but judge for yourself and even in a side-by-side they are hard to spot. As an added bonus the files are saved in the same format so thereís no need to worry about using special viewers. Thereís a choice of 4 compression levels, itís fast too, and it handles both single images and batches of files with equal ease. It can process the most common image formats, including jpeg, bmp, gif, tiff and emf and it doesnít delete anything, so you can check the originals with the compressed images.

20/01/11

 

Duck, Grab and Edit

I am sure we all know about the Print Screen (PrtScn) key, which Ďgrabsí a screenshot of whatever is showing on your monitor and stores it as a bitmap image file in the Windows clipboard. You may even know that pressing Alt + PrtScn captures just the active window, but what if you want a screen grab of a web page thatís too long to fit on the screen? Basically you canít, at least not in Windows, but there is a fix, and thatís a freeware program called DuckCapture. It has four modes, for grabbing just the active window, the full screen, a region of the screen or autoscroll mode to grab an extra long page. Thereís more, once youíve captured your screenshot DuckCapture opens a handy editing utility that lets you draw on and annotate your image. A really useful tool and just the job if you work with screengrabs on a regular basis.

17/01/11

 

I Spy With My Little Webcam

Now at last hereís a proper use for all those webcams youíve been collecting over the years. Itís called iSpy and it turns them, and your PC into a well specified video surveillance system. This freeware program lets you connect as many webcams and microphones to your PC as you like, it can detect, highlight and track movement, you can define the movement areas, PC, time-lapse record video, record audio, send email and SMS alerts and framegrabs to your mobile device when movement or sound is detected, combine PCs running iSpy over a network or the web to form groups, watch live and recorded video over the web, and much, much more. Suffice it to say thereís everything you need to watch your house being burgled whilst you are on holidayÖ

30/09/10

 

Water Treatment

If you publish images on the web you may be concerned that they could be used by anyone. To be honest thereís not much you can do about it, the web is after all a public resource and if you donít want your photos out there, donít put them on the Internet but if you would like to at least be able to identify them as yours once they go into the wild then the thing to do is to Ďwatermarkí them. Watermarking is a highly visible way of tagging an image and itís a fairly common feature in image editing programs but itís less straightforward if you want to watermark batches of photos. At least it was until TRS Watermark Image came along. Itís a freeware utility thatís designed to make watermarking single or multiple images as easy as possible. You can add an image or text (normal, embossed or chiselled), change the transparency and angle of the watermark, even resize your images while you are watermarking. All in all a very useful little tool and ití free for personal use.

05/08/10  

 

Smoother Viewer

Hereís a slick new way to manage and view the photographs stored on your PC. Itís called Viewer 2. I strongly suggest that you watch the YouTube video on the download site to get a feeling of what it can do because you really need to see it action to appreciate just how clever this freeware program is. In a nutshell it gives you complete access to all of your images in a completely intuitive way, allowing you to sort them in almost any way that you like but the really impressive feature is the way you can pick and choose images, move them around and zoom in and out of collections, groups or individual images with the flick of a mouse thumbwheel.

07/06/10

 

Shake Smoother

How many of your photos have been ruined by camera shake or motion blur? Sometimes itís unavoidable, especially in low-light conditions, when shooting from moving vehicle, or when the subject suddenly decides to move at the wrong moment so wouldnít it be great if there was some way of turning back time and getting rid of the blur? Indeed it would but it would require major changes to the laws of physics, however, there is a way to reduce the worst effects of shake and blur in the form of a little freeware utility called Unshake.

 

Itís not as slick as some image editing programs and it takes a bit of practice to juggle the settings; itís not very fast either, but it actually does a pretty good job of recovering images that would otherwise be fit only for the Recycle Bin. Available for all platforms though be aware you will need to have Java installed on your PC though itís highly unlikely that you havenít got it.

24/05/10

 

Magical Manipulator

So you are in a hurry, you want to download 50 images onto your iPod, iPhone, Zune or PSP, or you need to convert a few dozen images for emailing or web uploading, what do you do? Well, there are plenty of programs that one way or another can carry out batch processing on images but Iíll warrant none of them are as quick or easy to use as Photo Magician.

 

Itís an absurdly simple three-step process, just select the folder where the original images are stored, nominate where you want the processed images to go then select the Profile. Thereís more than a dozen presets sizes/resolutions/aspect ratios to choose from, including the previously mentioned iPods, iPhones and games consoles, plus DVD and HD (720 & 1080) or you can set a custom size. Just make your selection, click the Process button and away it goes and in a matter of seconds itís done. And thatís really all you need to know, so get convertingÖ

25/03/10

 

Free Poster Printer

Poster printing is a specialist business. To begin with you need a really big printer if you want to make seriously big posters, but hereís a way to use your bog standard A4 home inkjet or laser printer to make monster posters, up to 20 x 20 metres. Itís all thanks to a freeware utility called Easy Poster Printer. All you have to do is chose your image, set the size you want it to be, make any changes, such as switch the background colour, then click print and out it comes. Your poster emerges in handy A4 sized chunks, which you can assemble into the finished image.

22/02/10

 

Size Does Matter

Although Windows has a built-in utility for resizing and attaching images to emails, it is very basic and not much use for anything else. Most image editing programs have a picture re-size facility tucked away somewhere but they can be quite difficult to use and usually only work on one picture at a time, which brings us neatly to VSO Image Resizer. This handy little program can quickly resize single images or batches, change files names and even add watermarks. It operates both as a stand-alone program and also as a shell extension, with the various options available when you right-click on an image file in Windows Explorer.

25/01/10

 

Sketchy Details

FotoSketcher is a brilliant little freeware program that turns your digital photos into great looking paintings, sketches and drawings. Yes, I know feature like this can be found in lots of image editing programs, but most of them are one-shot processes, with little or no choice over the finished image. FotoSketcher puts you in control with the facility vary all of the key parameters so you can tailor the look to suit the image, and your own preferences. Itís really easy to use, the split screen shows the before and after effects of your manipulations, and the control box shows a preview, so you can fine-tune the changes. For good measure thereís a few basic photo editing tools as well, ideal for doing a quick touch up, tweaking the contrast, brightness, colour, sharpness and so on.

11/01/10

 

Freebie Photo Editor

Ninety-five percent of my photo management and editing needs are met by just two programs, namely Picasa and PhotoFiltre, but Iím always open to interesting alternatives and one such is Photo Pos Pro. Until very recently this was a well-specified paid-for application but the publishers have now decided to give it away, so who are we to argue with such generosity? It supports a very wide range of image file formats, scanners and cameras. Thereís a wealth of editing tools and special effects and that includes advanced facilities, such as layers, masks, gradients, texture, script tools, batch operations and numerous add-ons. In spite of all this it is actually very easy to use and even novices should find it easy to get to grips with. So whatís the catch? Well, as far as I can see there isnít one, though if I had recently purchased the program I would probably be a bit miffedÖ

30/11/09

 

Pick A Tint

You have probably seen those eye catching black and white photographs with a bright splash of colour, to make the subject stand out, but how is it done? Itís normally the province of high-end photo editing programs but hereís a simple little freeware utility devoted to the task. Itís called Tintii, and you can use it as a stand-alone application, the paid for version, which works even better is a PhotoShop or PaintShop Pro plugin. Even so, the freebie trial program on its own is still very effective and easy to use. Simply open the chosen image, which appears in black and white, then use the colour icons and colour controls to pick out the part of the image you want in colour.

02/11/09

 

 

A Brush with Creativity

Hereís something to get those creative juices flowing. Itís a freeware drawing utility called Livebrush and I can almost guarantee that within a couple of minutes of installing it youíll be composing eye-catching images with just a few flourishes of your mouse (just ignore my poor efforts...). If you need inspiration just look at some of the designs other Livebrush users have come up with. Itís really easy to use, and designed to get an image or design out of your brain, and onto the screen with a minimum of fuss and bother. Itís cantered around a set of clever brush tools, controlled by your mouse or a touchpad. These react to simple gestures and movements that encourage you to flick, jiggle and twirl your mouse, and thatís not something I thought Iíd ever sayÖ

29/10/09

 

New Movie Maker Makes Sense (and DVDs)

A lot of Windows users are blissfully unaware that they have a useful video movie editing package on their computer. Those that do know about Windows Movie Maker often complain that it is very basic, which it is, but hey, itís free, so stop griping. Nevertheless, the one big grumble about Movie Maker is the limited array of output options, basically to CD and AVI file, but whereís the option to make a DVD? Well now it can. With the release of Windows Live Movie Maker, which has just finished its beta trial, and is now available for download, free, from Microsoft. The catch? Well, needless to say there is one, and the bad news is it will only run under Vista and Windows 7, which will not please the legions of XP users but thatís progress. By the way, other new features include easy import from PhotoGallery, Post to YouTube, HD Support, improved import from PC and camcorder, improved transitions and effects, idiot proof ĎAuto Movieí mode, and improved audio editing. Get it while itís hot!

27/08/09

 

Gallery Generator

This one is for all you digital photo junkies out there, specifically those of you with lots of pictures, and have become bored with conventional slideshow programs. Say hello to Photo 3D Album, the USP is that it implants your favourite pix into a 3D environment, very much like one of those first person video games, where you move around inside rooms and between locations, with your pictures displayed on the walls and surfaces. Itís really clever and great fun to play with. You can choose between conventional venues, like a virtual art gallery or showroom, or if you fancy something a little more unusual, how about an Egyptian Pyramid, Chinese Garden or a spooky Halloween set? There are plenty more free galleries for you to download. You can also share your albums, upload them to the web or copy them to CD, with viewer software included. 

20/08/09

 

Seeing the Big Picture, in MiniatureÖ

Photo Mosaic software has been around for a while and thereís nothing especially new or unusual about Foto-Mosaik-Edda, except that itís free, very easy to use and very good at what it does, especially if you can rustle up a really big pool of images Ė 1000 or more -- for it to use. The process is simple, just tell the program the location of your database of pictures, select the image you want to turn into a mosaic, tweak a few simple presets and away it goes. The finished image is saved in a folder of you choosing and if you really like what you see you can even order a poster online. Itís donationware so donít forget to show the author your appreciation if you decide to keep and use it.

16/07/09

 

Tune In To Batch Processing

If you frequently upload lots of images to social networking sites or the web then this little utility is well worth a quick once-over. Itís called Image Tuner and itís an image batch processor, which basically means it can do lots of things to lots of pictures very quickly. The main options are to resize, rename, convert from one format to another (JPEG, BMP, PNG, GIF, TIFF, PCX and so on), and add watermarks. It supports most popular camera formats  (CRW, CR2, RAW, NEF, DCR, X3F, ORF), thereís presets for beginners and adjustments for more experienced users, it has built-in size templates for iPhone, iPod, Facebook, Twitter and DVD, you can twiddle compression and size settings and itíll only take up a paltry 2Mb of your hard disc space.

06/07/09

 

First Impression is Good!

One of the most useful pieces of advice my old dad ever gave me was keep it simple. He would definitely have approved of First Impression. Itís a free image viewer, but quite unlike anything you will have seen before. Thereís no user interface, no toolbars, menus or anything else on display, all you see is the image. Nevertheless, behind the scenes itís all there, you can navigate through folders using just the space and backspace keys, and if you want to do something more exotic, like rotate, zoom, or resample the image, just right-click and a make your choice from the menu that appears. Without all of the clutter itís super quick, and the file is very small, just 234kb so itís just the job for space-poor netbooks or carrying around with you on a USB stick.

22/06/09

 

Full Tilt Photo Effect

TiltShift Generator is a free picture tweaking application that simulates the effect of a specialised, and eye-wateringly expensive Tilt-Shift lens. If you havenít come across this before see this Wikipedia article, but briefly, it works by rotating (tilting) the lens and moving (shifting) the camera to create a curious effect whereby a specified part of the image is in sharp focus, whilst the rest is blurred.  Thereís actually more to it than that but you get the idea. Anyway, TiltShift Generator was originally developed to liven up images shot on cheap or low-res cameras, like those fitted to mobile phones, but it works on any image. You can either upload your image to the Flash-based app on the website, or download the program and run it on your PC. It works on Mac and Linux machines too as itís encoded using Adobe AIR Runtime (which you also need to install).   

01/06/09

 

Seam Carve Your Jpegs

Every so often I come across an application or technology that I just know is going to be big and change the way we do things and one such is CAIR or Content Aware Image Resizing. Thus far it has been confined to high-end applications like PhotoShop but now itís starting to appear in freeware form, and an application called Seam Carving GUI, so letís look at what it does.

 

Normally when you resize an image you have to be careful to avoid altering the proportions, making things look stretched or squashed, of course you can always crop an image, to capture just the part that interests you but in doing so you may lose definition, or chop out bits you want to keep. CAIR gets around that problem using a technique called Seam Carving. This analyses whatís in the picture and works out which bits can be squeezed or stretched, without introducing any distortion. The same techniques can also be used to seamlessly remove people and objects from pictures, and it really works.

30/04/09

 

Seeing the Riot Act

RIOT or Radical Image Optimization Tool is a clever little freeware tool that lets you compare the before and after effects of image compression. Simply open the picture you want to compress then move the slider to see the effect in the second preview pane. RIOT can also resize and resample an image,  pan, zoom, rotate and flip, remove Exif data, change chroma resampling, switch to greyscale, and much more. In short, if you edit or process a lot of images youíll wonder how you ever managed without it.

09/04/09

 

Get the Picture, Fast!

Continuing this short season of picture and image utilities we have FastPictureViewer. Itís a deceptively simple viewer program that lets you zip through folders in record time, using your scroll mouse. Thereís a panel showing Exif data, a colour histogram and a really neat little feature for checking picture sharpness. Just click the right mouse button for an instant zoom view of the selected part of the screen. You can label an image with a simple keyboard shortcut and quickly copy images to other locations. Itís highly configurable and, of course, it wonít cost you a bean, though thereís a ĎDonateí button on the authorís web site, where you can also upgrade to the even better specified Pro version.

26/03/09

 

Picture Privacy

Recently I mentioned a small utility called JPEGSnoop (see below), which could tell you if a digital picture had been tweaked, by looking for the telltale Ďsignaturesí of image editing software left behind in the hidden Exif metadata file. Well, hereís something that might interest anyone who wants their tweaked images to pass inspection by forensic tools. It works by stripping out the metadata, but without affecting the picture in any way. Itís called JPEG and PNG Stripper and it does a very thorough job. Think of it as a privacy tool, if you post images on the web because not only can metadata contain things like the date and time an image was taken, it also mentions the camera, camera settings, and nowadays some cameras even embed GPS data, detailing where the picture was taken.

23/03/09

 

Fiddle and Fake Detector

The camera doesnít lie, well not often anyway, but image editing programs sure as hell do. It takes a very keen eye to be able to spot when a picture has been manipulated. In the hands of an expert itís almost impossible to tell, but whilst the picture may not give much away, the data does and this freeware program, called JPEGsnoop can identify the telltale signs of fiddling. It can even tell you which program was used, and itís database of image editors being constantly updated by users. It works by analysing the Exif data generated by the camera that took the photograph, this also contains information about the cameraís compression system and it compares that with its library of compression Ďsignaturesí. From that it can tell if the image has been edited, along with a lot more information hidden away inside the file Ė spooky stuff and a great tool for budding Sherlocks!

16/03/09

 

Meat Bšlls and WindŲws  

If you just canít get enough of sofas called BlŲrg, and kitchen units with names like Klššrten Ė actually I just made those up, but you get the idea -- then you are in for a treat. Your favourite Scandinavian furniture store Ė and if you havenít already guessed, itís Ikea Ė has a rather nifty freebie 3D design program just for you. Itís called, rather boringly, Ikea Planner, and for some odd reason theyíve the same program is downloadable under three different names (Kitchen Planner, Bedroom Planner and Office Planner). Anyway, itís actually rather good and very easy to use, the only drawback is that you are limited to Ikea products, but if thatís what you crave then this is the quickest way to envisage what it would be like to live in a furniture showroom.

09/03/09

 

Free Calender Creator

I know, my timing is awful, but if I had known about this rather neat program last year I promise you I would have told you all about it. As it is, you now have plenty of time to use Tkexe Kalender to prepare your 2010 calenders. By now youíve probably worked out that itís for making photo calenders, which is not that unusual, but this German application is really versatile. You can customise the start date, add national holidays from 10 countries, include up to 20 images per month and position, resize, rotate and add special effects with a click of the mouse, then save to file or print to paper.

19/02/09

 

Picture Perfect

Personally I enjoy fiddling around with picture files, altering settings and experimenting with various effects but not everyone has the time or inclination to grapple with image editing programs. Of course, thereís always the excellent Picasa, and the ĎIím feeling luckyí mode, but even that doesnít always get it right. Iím not saying that PhotoPerfect Express has all the answers, but itís definitely worth a try when faced with an obviously imperfect snap, suffering from over or under exposure, too many dark shadows and so on. Itís really simple to use, just open the image, choose your level of Ďoptimisationí and when you are happy with the results, save it. If you want to have a go at tweaking the image yourself it can help you with that too, with its fine tuning options. It canít work miracles but itís definitely worth a try if you have a few piccys that youíd like to rescue and would otherwise be destined for the Recycle Bin.

09/02/09

 

Prints Charming, InstantlyÖ

Remember Polaroid Instant cameras? Twenty years ago they were all the rage and the only way to take, ah-hem, pictures of a Ďprivateí nature, without embarrassing your local chemist. Anyhoo, Polaroidís instant camera range finally fizzled out a few years ago but theyíre still popular with arts students (so my art student daughter tells me), and you can still buy film for some models. But hereís another way to relive those memories, without costing you an arm and a leg. Itís called Polardroid and once installed a Polaroid camera appears on your desktop, inviting you to ĎDrag and drop your picture hereí. Do so and youíll hear the familiar Polaroid camera whirrings and a blank print appears next to the camera, slowly developing over the next minute or so before your very eyes. Okay, itís completely useless but anyone who, like me, remembers using a Polaroid camera might find it amusing.  Be warned that this is beta software, so take the usual precautions as there may still be a few bugs that need fixing.

15/01/09

 

Picasa 3 Beta Unleashed

I know from the countless emails I receive that most of you really like Picasa, the free photo manager and editor from Google. Well, stand by for Picasa 3. The beta version is now available and it has some really useful  new features. These include basic movie editing, improved web album syncing, photo retouch tools, a new Ďquick viewí facility, five new collage styles, a new text in photo Ďwatermarkí utility, updated import from memory card facility, a screen new capture option, and thereís a newly designed toolbar. As usual you install beta software at your own risk, and you should back up any essential data beforehand, but it seems very stable and well worth a test run.

13/10/08

 

Versatile Viewer

You can never have too many picture viewer programs on your PC. If you are into digital imaging then you have to stay ahead of the game and have up to date software that can handle new and old file formats, as well as all the variations in between; then there are the apparently intact image files that stubbornly refuse to open in normal file viewers. You also need to be able to convert from one format to another, singly or in batches, read hidden EXIF data and fiddle around with the image. If your image viewer can do all that then fine, if not you should definitely have a look at XnView, and if the name sounds familiar, it comes from the people who brought us the handy XnView Shell Extension that we featured a few weeks ago.

 

XnView can read around 400 graphic file formats and export in 50, thereís a good range of tools, it reads EXIF data, it has a slideshow facility, many printing options, including contact sheet, thereís TWAIN support, and I could go on, but donít just take my word for it, check out the feature list for yourself.

09/10/08

 

Make YouTube YourTube

YouTube is great, well, some of it anyway, and even occasional visitors will see a video that they would like to download to watch again or send to someone else. There are lots of recording utilities on the web but this one, called Better YouTube has to be one of the easiest to use. Itís a Firefox add-on and it only takes a few seconds to install. Thereafter, if you see something you fancy simply click the Ďdownload this videoí link that appears just below the player screen and the download of the chosen video, as an .flv file, starts automatically. Incidentally, if you havenít got a .flv player on your PC then I can thoroughly recommend the subject of a previous Top Tip, called VLC, which plays just about anything. Thereís a link to the download on the PCTopTIps Software page.

01/09/08

 

Picture This, Easily!

As you may know you can make icons manually out of ordinary JPEG and bitmap images, by fiddling around with the size and format. Itís easy enough, just a bit time-consuming but why bother? Hereís a simple one-click solution, called Easy PictureIcon. Just select your image and it is automatically converted to the three commonest sizes (16 x 16, 32 x 32 and 48 x 48 pixels). All you have to do is decide if you want to compress trim or fit, select background transparency, and where to save it. Go on, give your desktop a makeover, and donít forget, you can change the icons in most applications simply by replacing them with one of your choosing, providing itís the same size and has the same filename.

21/08/08

 

Right-Click Photo Utilities

Hereís an ingenious little program, or more correctly, a Shell Extension, called appropriately enough XnView Shell Extension that adds extra functionality to your right-click menus. Simply download and install the program and when you next open Windows Explorer, or My Computer, navigate your way to a folder containing image files. Right click on one of them and youíll see a whole load of new options appear, including info about the file, the option to convert the file into .gif, .bmp, .jpeg, .pcx, .png. .tiff or .tga format, set as wallpaper, view as a variable sized thumbnail, and much more. Give it a whirl, I think you will be impressed!

14/08/08

 

Jingís The ThingÖ

You probably canít see it in the photograph but at the top of the screen thereís a yellow dot. Thatís Jing, an ingenious Ďalways-oní capture program that does just that. Click the dot and Jing starts to record anything you can see on the screen, be it a still image or a video, and if there is any sound that goes with it, itíll capture that as well. Itís optimised for uploading to the web but you decide where your capture files go and the options include a local folder on your hard drive, a network folder, the clipboard or sharing sites such as Screencast.com and Flikr. Images are stored in .png format whilst videos are .swf files. Needless to say itís free, but the authors clearly have their eyes on turning it into a commercial product, and if this introductory version is anything to go by that may not be too far off, so get it while you can.

11/08/08

 

Fast Batch Resize Crop and Watermark

Hereís a solution looking for a problem. Letís suppose you have a quantity of images that you want to crop and resize in a hurry, and at the same time, convert them from one image file format to another (jpeg, png, gif or tiff), and while you are at it, you also want to add a time/date stamp and a copyright watermark.

 

Weíve all been there and usually the only way to do it is one at a time, using an image editing program, well not any more! All you need is iKnow Batch Crop, and thatís really all you need to know. Itís incredibly easy; there are just three simple steps. Step One asks you to create a folder to store your modified pix in. In Step Two you select the picture you want to process and in Step Three you decide the shape, picture format, time/date and watermark, click OK and itís done!

16/06/08

 

Free Tourist Terminator

Weíve all been thereÖ You find yourself at some exotic location, trying to take a once in a lifetime picture of a famous landmark or some picturesque scenery when a gormless tourist, car or bus wanders into the frame. Thereís nothing like an articulated lorry or daft-looking stranger to spoil a classic, potentially award-winning photograph, but what can you do?

 

The answer is simple, keep still and shooting. Take as many pictures as you can then when you get home run the images through a piece of software called Tourist Remover. Itís ingenious, it checks the images, finds all of the bits without moving objects, tourists and so on, then stitches them together and hey presto, a clean photo with no hideous holidaymakers spoiling the view.

13/12/07

 

 

No More Hiding Behind Pixels?

You may recall the recent case where a paedophile was identified from pictures he had posted on the web, even though his image had been scrambled, so how was it done? That particular case wasnít terribly difficult because he had chosen to Ďswirlí his picture, which left most of the detail intact, albeit twisted around in circles. Several readily available programs can undo swirls but even if he had used that old favourite Ė pixellation Ė it might still have been possible for the authorities to come up with a useable picture. You can try it for yourself, on the Vectormagic website. Just upload a pixellated image and let it get to work on the blocks and see what is revealed; anyone trying to hide behind pixellated pictures consider yourself duly warned!

03/12/07

 

Screen Capture is a Snap

If you ever need to take a snapshot of what you are seeing on the screen then youíll know Windows has a couple of features that puts an image of what youíre looking at into the Clipboard (PrtScn for the whole screen and Alt + PrtScn for the Active Windows or dialogue box) but itís not very convenient. Hereís a much better way, itís called MWSnap and this excellent little freeware program lets you take a Ďsnapí of any part of the screen. You get to see instantly what youíve captured, thereís a resizable ruler (horizontal or vertical) so you can accurately measure your image area, you can save the captured image in any of the popular file formats, set up hot keys and much more besides.

15/10/07

 

DVD to Just About Anything Converter

Itís all very well having one of those multimedia gizmos, PSP, iPod and so on, that play videos, but if you canít convert your DVD to the format it requires you are stuck. Worse still, you could be corralled into paying for a download, quite possibly for movies that you already own on DVD or tape.  What you need is a DVD ripper, and there are a few to choose from, but this one, called Handbrake, has something for everyone. To begin with itís a multi-platform, freeware open source program, which basically means that in addition to the Windows versions, there are variants for Mac and Linux users as well, and itís versatile. It will convert almost any DVD, be it PAL or NTSC, into an MP4, MKV, AVI or OGM file, which covers most of the popular players. It supports Chapter selection and thereís basic subtitling (theyíre burned into the picture if required).

05/10/07

 

Build Your Own Camcorder for £15!

I know the holidays have begun, so I hope Iím not too late, but if you, or anyone you know is visiting the USA this summer ask them to pop into their nearest CVS Pharmacy and buy up a couple of ĎOne Time Useí camcorders. They cost around $30 ($25 if you can find one with a discount tag) and the idea is you can shoot around 20 minutes of video, then you return it to CVS for processing and you get back a DVD of your movies.

 

Hereís a clever bit, the camcorders were designed for single use, but thereís a way of hacking them, to make them re-useable, and it really works Ė hereís one I made earlier. The first thing to do is add a USB cable, itís not too difficult but it helps to have some soldering skills. After that you all you have to do is download a piece of free software called Saturn, and you can copy your movies from the camcorder to your PC, wipe the memory and use it again. You can even change settings, like resolution and frame rate.. The actual camcorder is small, very easy to use and although not as sophisticated as proper digicams, I have to say the picture quality isnít half bad. Thereís an easy to follow guide, showing how to dismantle the camcorder and fit the cable, plus links to the software download at: Bigfatgeek.net

06/08/07

 

Perk Up Those Pix

If, like me, you have been playing around with digital photography for a while you probably have some old pix taken back in the day before megapixel image sensors. I actually have some files taken on prototype and first generation digicams from the mid eighties with a then show-stopping 640 x 480 pixel resolution, and at the time few ever thought it would catch on, but I digressÖ

 

If you have some old whiskery jpegs lurking on your drive then you might like to try running them through a freeware program called JPEG Enhancer.  It really works, as these shots of my daughter, taken in 1998, just about show. In actuality the improvements are much more impressive. You can adjust the degree of enhancement and you can easily judge the effect in the before and after windows.

04/07/07

 

Picture This -- ASCI Art Returns

Iím afraid showing my age again and I well remember, back in the sixties, seeing computer generated images of well-known personalities made up of alphanumeric characters. It seemed pretty impressive back then but as computers got smarter and better able to display real images the technique virtually disappeared. Now itís back, and if you pop along to Photo2Text.com you can have all sorts of fun uploading your own images and converting them into text. Watch out, there is a 200kb size limit, but you can easily resize your pix using a freeware editor like Photofiltre.

13/06/07

 

Itís Raining On Your JPEGS

If you have a digital camera you have got to try this one! Sqirlz is an ingenious little freeware program that lets you add pools of water, oceans, lakes or ponds even rain or snow to your pictures. It automatically creates realistic looking reflections but hereís the good bit, you can animate it, with ripples or wave effects and add perspective. Afterwards you can save the file as an animated GIF, Macromedia Flash file or AVI, or you can save it as a JPEG or TIFF. Itís brilliant, and great fun to play around with!

0806

 

Wipe Out Those Obstructions

Hereís a clever little freeware photo editing tool, called PhotoWipe, that lets you erase obstructions and remove things in your pictures that you would rather not be there, the bars in front of this goat, for example. It could just as easily be used to remove objects and people and all you have to do is Ďpaintí the item black, with a selection of brushes and tools. The program looks at the surrounding unpainted area then takes a stab at guessing what should be there and fills in the gap. Itís not perfect and the results can be a bit variable, but on images where there isnít too much obscured detail or the background where the erased object would be are plain or textured it can do a pretty good job.

18/05/07

 

Protect Your Pix With Branding

If you upload your photographs to websites, or ebay, for example, whatís to stop someone pinching them? The short answer is not a lot, but if they are marked with a copyright symbol or some other trademark that you will be able to positively identify them if they turn up elsewhere. The process of visibly tagging an image with a symbol or logo is called watermarking and you can do it with most image editing programs but it can be a palaver, especially if you want to watermark more than a handful of pictures. The solution is a simple little freeware utility called Image Brander. Itís really easy to use and lets you add your own copyright mark, custom logo or indeed anything you like to your photographs, either singly or in batches.

11/05/07

 

Colour me Moody

The colours in a photograph can have as much, if not more impact on the mood than the actual detail. So what happens when you take the colours or palette from a cold, sunny or vibrant picture and use them in a graphic?

 

Itís an interesting exercise for designers and normally you would need some fancy image editing software to do this sort of thing, but now you can do it online, by visiting the Pic2Color website. It couldnít be simpler, just enter in the URL of the photo whoís colour you want to use (right click on the picture in your web browser and select Properties and copy link, or in Firefox just right-click and select Copy Image Location). Do the same with your graphic then click the pic2color it now button in the third window and your graphic is automatically recoloured using the photographís colour palette.

04/04/07

 

Print Anywhere, From Anywhere

Has your printer ever packed up or run out of ink at an unfortunate moment? Maybe youíve been on the road and needed to print out something important but have no printer to hand. A freeware utility called PrinterAnywhere could get you out of a tight spot. It lets you use a printer on any XP or 2k PC that has a network or Internet connection, in exactly the same way as you would if the printer was connected to your own PC and the printer in question could be in the next room, or on the other side of the world. All you need to do is download PrinterAnywhere on your PC and the computer with the Printer, set up a simple password and away you go. It works with any Windows application that uses a printer, including of course Word, Outlook Express and so on, and best of all itís really easy to set up and use.

26/03/07

 

What Microsoft Left Out of Vista

Whatever else you may think about Windows Vista youíll have to agree that many of the included wallpaper images are stunning and several of them were shot by 24 year old Kuwait-based photographer Hamad Darwish. Hamad had only been snapping for 2 years when he was Ďdiscoveredí by Microsoft, after his work had been published on the photo sharing website Flickr. But whatís really interesting are the pictures that didnít make it into Vista, and some of them are truly breathtaking. You can read the full story here  and if you would like to see more of his image in all of their glory you can download 1820 x 1200 resolution copies from Hamadís personal website.

14/03/07

 

Print Pixel Calculator

Confused by digital camera specs? Just how many megapixels do you need to take decent photographs? The pixel count baffles a lot of people newcomers to digital photography, and when asked most experts glibly answer, Ďthe more the merrierí but if all you want is to take some decent looking holiday snaps that you can print out or view on a PC screen then you could be hustled into paying over the odds for a camera with features youíll never use.

 

Thatís where the design215  Megapixel and Maximum Print Size Charts come in. They show, at a glance, how many pixels you need for a given size of print or resolution. For example, you can get good looking 8 x 10-inch prints from a 6 or 8 megapixel camera, but if you want to go large, up to 16 x 20 inches, and achieve true photo quality, then you need to be thinking in terms of a 24 megapixel model.

12/03/07

 

Ultra Simple Free PDF Creator

PDFs or Portable Document Format files, in case you didnít know, are the most convenient way to send illustrated documents, instruction manuals and so on by email or over the Internet. Itís the closest thing we have to a universal format and PDFs can be read on just about any PC (Windows, Mac, Linux etc), all you need is the free Adobe Reader program to display the file.

 

Making your own PDFs is another matter, though. Until fairly recently the only way to do it properly was to buy a copy of Adobe Acrobat but there are alternatives, and this one, called doPDF is one of the best Iíve seen. Itís free and very simple to install and use. In fact all you have to do is download the file and it installs itself as a Ďvirtualí printer.

 

You can create a PDF from any Windows program with a print facility. Simply open the document, image or file you want to convert to a PDF then go Print on the File menu, select doPDF from the printer selection drop-down menu (unless you have chosen to install it as the default printer). Click OK and it creates a PDF file in the location of you choice, and thatís all there is to it!

07/03/07

 

Poster Printing Made Easy

Fancy yourself as a bit of a snapper? Got any pictures that you think deserve to be blown up to fill a wall? Well, hereís the easy way to do it. Upload your image to website called Blockposters (max file size 1Mb), tell it how big you want it to be, in terms of A4 sheets, click a button and moments later a PDF file, containing all of the components of your poster is ready for you to download from the website (no email addresses are needed) and itís ready for you to print. No fuss, no mess.

05/03/07

 

DIY 3D Laser Scanner

If you enjoy experimenting with your PC hereís something a bit out of the ordinary. Itís called DAVID. Basically itís a freeware program, developed y two German computer scientists at the Institute for Robotics and Process Control at the University of Braunschweig, and it lets you scan objects in 3D, using an ordinary webcam and a simple hand-held laser pointer. The idea is you place the object to be scanned in the corner of a room, or between two flat surfaces at right angles to one another, point the webcam at it then Ďbrushí the surfaces with your laser pointer. As you do so the PC calculates the 3D coordinates and builds up a 3D model; software to create a complete 360 degree image is now being developed, however, the lively forum on the site has several suggestions as to how this could be accomplished using a ĎLazy Susaní turntable. Itís all very cutting edge and perfect for dabblers, who enjoy finding interesting new applications for their PCs.

02/03/07

 

Compact Multi Format Media Player

Media players have got completely out of hand. There are so many different audio and video formats these days it sometimes seems you need at least half a dozen different programs to play them all. Windows Media Player does a fair job but itís pretty intrusive, WinAmp is worth having too, if you have good eyesight and donít mind fiddling around but what you really want is a media player thatís small, easy to use and plays just about everything, including popular streaming formats.

 

Say hello to VLC Media Player, a free Open Source player. The list of compatible formats and codecs it supports is a long one but it includes most flavours of MPEG (1, 2, DVD, VCD, SVCD etc.)  Audio CD, AVI, ASF, WMV, WMA, MP3, MP4, MOV, 3GP, OGG, WAV, FLAC, FLV, DivX, XviD, Cinepac, MJPEG, Indeo, Real Audio (partial), and so on. Itís not much to look at but it does the job, and at only 9Mb or thereabouts itís small enough to fit on a pen drive or memory-strapped laptop. Itís multi platform with versions available for Windows, Mac and many types of Linux

12/02/07

 

Snippy Snatcher Web Page Catcher

Letís suppose that you see something on a web page that you just know a friend/relative/colleague will be interested in, so what do you do. You have several choices; you can email the page address or a link, or how about this, with just a single mouse click Ďgrabí the item and send it to the Windows Clipboard. All you have to do now is open an email message window, paste the item and send the message. Itís that easy with a little freeware utility called Snippy. It waits patiently in your System Tray until needed and when you see something you want just click on the icon and make your selection.

05/01/07

 

Video DVD Maker Free

Creating a DVD from your home movies normally involves several some fairly expensive software and a lot of faffing around but hereís a freebie application that does it all for you, in just three clicks. Whatís more Video DVD Maker Free can handle video and clips in most popular formats, including AVI, DIVX, XVID, MP4, MPG, WMV, ASF and MOV and it will burn to just about any recordable media : CD R/RW, DVD+R/RW, DVD-R/RW, DVD DL, Video CD, Super Video CD. Itís fairly basic, there are no editing facilities as such so what you record is what you get but if all you want is to see your video on the big screen then it really doesnít get any easier and quicker than this.

01/12/06

 

Photobie Freebie PhotoShop Clone

Okay so itís not really a Photoshop clone but Photobie has to be one of the most well-specified image editing programs you can get your mitts on, without flashing the plastic! Itís Open Source freeware and users are encouraged to help improve the program, and they have! It can do just about everything its over-the-counter-cousins can do, including using a Layer manager for advanced editing. Thereís a very useful assortment of painting tools and it supports PhotoShop filter plugins. For more mundane day to day use it has a handy screen capture tool, gif animation utility, photo framing options, image directory browser, plus lots of useful extras like batch resize and rotate and slide show. Definitely worth a try! 

17/11/06

 

Smarter Paint

Windows Paint is usually the first and sometimes the only graphics program many PC owners ever use and to be fair it does the job, but it is incredibly basic and really not much use for anything other than very simple editing. Well if you like Paint but you hanker after something a bit more sophisticated then have a look at a free Open Source picture editor called Paint.net. All of the familiar elements from Paint are there but it adds a whole load of new features, including a very good assortment of special effects, it supports layers, and if you get it wrong thereís an unlimited undo facility. It could be the only picture editor youíll ever need.

27/10/06

 

Desktop Snapper

Hereís an interesting little utility. Itís called TimeSnapper and it takes a snapshot of your desktop at preset intervals, from once a second to every few minutes or hours.

 

The obvious question is why would you want to do such a thing? Well, how about creating an animated graphic tutorial? You can set the snap interval down to once a second, so you can show all of  the steps in a given procedure simply by recording your actions. Maybe you are suspicious that someone is using your PC without your permission? TimeSnapper will gather the evidence for you.

 

How about keeping an eye on what junior is up to? You shouldnít use it to spy on people but if you are concerned about the web sites your kids may be visiting then TimeSnapper, set at 60-second intervals, will keep an eye on what they are doing. Better yet, tell them youíve installed it on their PC and hopefully they wonít go looking for trouble. It comes with a built-in browser for replaying images, which are time-stamped and thereís a simple to use timeline navigation bar, so you can quickly find what you are looking for.

18/10/06

 

Headers and Footers on Printed Web Pages

If you print web pages then you may be irritated by all the extra guff that appears at the top and bottom of the page -- web page address, page number, time and date and so on. Thereís so much of it you can end up with your printer spitting out extra sheets if the web page wonít fit on the paper.

 

If you are using Firefox itís easy to put a stop to this wasteful practice, just go to File > Page Setup, select the Margins & Header/Footer tab and under Headers & Footers at the bottom use the drop-downs to add or remove information. In other words if you want nothing set them all to ĎBlankí.

 

In Internet Explorer go to File > Page Setup and in the Header and Footer boxes youíll see a couple of lines of gobbledegook. These are codes that determine what IE prints, so if you want blank space at the top and bottom of the page zap the lot. For the record, or if you want to retain or modify the information hereís what the codes mean: &u (URL, web page address), &d (short format date), &D (long date format), &t (time 12hr format) &T (time 24hr format), &w (window title), &p (page number) &P (total number of pages) &b(centre text), &b&b (right justify text).

17/10/06

 

Photo Retouching Freeware

Youíve probably got at least one photo editing program on your PC but hereís one you should definitely try. Itís called PhotoFiltre and from that you may rightly assume itís French in origin, but donít let that put you off, an English language version is available. What makes PhotoFiltre different is the superb range of adjustments, filters, touch-ups and effects, which are all instantly accessible from the desktop -- no messing around with menus -- and how easy it is to use. Give it a whirl, you will be impressed!

12/10/06

 

SECOND PRINTER INSTALL FOR WEB PAGES

This tip is actually an extension of one we published a while back, namely installing your printer twice, to trick Windows into thinking you have two separate printers. The Ďsecondí printer can then be configured for a specific job, in this case black and white printing web pages. The reason you would want to do that is simple, colour printing costs between 10 and 20 times as much as black and white, and when all you want is the text content of a web page, why pay, and wait, for all of the fancy graphics and backgrounds?

 

To add a second printer in XP go to Start > Control Panel > Printers & Faxes, click the Add a Printer link or right click into the right hand pane and select Add A Printer then follow the prompts, giving your second printer installation a suitably recognisable name. Now you can go into the second printerís Properties, by right-clicking on the icon, and on the Preferences menu set it up to print only in Black and White. When you want to print a web page simply go to Print on the File menu and select your Black and White printer install from the drop-down menu.

12/06/06

 

STOP SCANNER CURL

If youíve got a scanner I'm willing to bet that you have had trouble keeping curly photos and documents with a fold or crease flat on the glass and aligned with the edges. When you make the scan the image is usually off-bonk so you have to waste time smoothing it out and lining it up again. Hereís a quick and simple tip to keep your material flat and square and thatís to keep it in place with a thin sheet of glass from a photo frame. Keep it by your scanner; youíll wonder how you ever got on without it.

 

 

THINK PRINT

If your inkjet printer sits idle for more than a week or two at a time then you run a very real risk of the cartridge or print head drying out or clogging, particularly in warm weather or if itís used in an office with a dry atmosphere. When that happens the cartridge could become unusable, even after cleaning and on some models, with a separate print head, the printer could be permanently ruined. This is easily avoided, just remember to print at least one document every couple of weeks, a web page or the Test Document in your printerís Properties box (right click the printer icon) are as good as anything but make sure thereís some colour content to keep the colour inks flowing freely.

 

 

PRINTER TROUBLE SHOOTER

Having problems with your printer?  You may be surprised to know Windows 95 comes with a sophisticated printer troubleshooting program. It's on the CD-ROM, you can find it with Windows Explorer, click on the D: drive icon, then open the Other folder and inside you'll find a folder called Misc, open that and then the Epts (enhanced printer troubleshooter). Click on epts.exe and the program starts, first analysing your printer set-up, it then asks a series of questions and suggests remedies to help you solve the problem. The troubleshooter is built into Windows 98, just open Windows Help and type Troubleshooting into the Index Windows and select Printers from the list.

 

 

IN A JAM

If you have a paper jam do not force it. Always try to remove the blockage in the normal direction of travel, if it tears make sure all of the fragments are removed. If you can't clear the paper path refer to the manual. Store paper flat in the original packaging, always fan it before loading to free up the sheets and stop them sticking together. If the paper hopper is partially full always load it so the old paper is used first. Always check to make sure the paper you are using is within the printer's handling limits. Keep printers well away from radiators and out of strong sunlight -- especially laser printers -- as this can affect print quality.

 

 

TEST YOUR PRINTER

The settings on your printer can have a big effect on the quality of prints. Most printers have a paper selection option, for different finishes (gloss, matt, silk etc.) and Ďweightsí (the thickness of the paper), try them all on series of test prints and compare the results. Clean your printer regularly, a build up of gunge and dried ink on the rollers can leave streaks, lines or scratches on the surface of the print, refer to your printer manual for guidance.

 

 

SWITCH SETTING

If you regularly need to switch between two settings on your printer (i.e. portrait and landscape mode, etc.) when printing from different applications, you can avoid a lot of messing around by making Windows believe you have two or more printers. Open the Printers folder in My Computer and click on Add New Printer and follow through the installation procedure for your existing printer. At the point when Windows asks the printerís name, change to default, Printer 2 for example. When the setup is complete right-click on the new printer icon, select Properties and change the settings as required. Now all you have to do is select the new printer in your application's Printer Setup dialogue box, or simply drag and drop the file onto the Printer 2 icon.

 

 

PRINT FASTER

Here's a way to squeeze a little extra speed out of most printers. By default Windows is set to spool print jobs. That basically means the data to be printed is first written to a temporary file, which allows you and the PC to get on with other jobs, whilst the printer is working. If you turn off the Print Spooler you should find print jobs take less time to complete. The option can be found by right-clicking your printer icon from the Printers Folder in My Computer or Start > Settings. Select Properties, then the Details tab and click on the Spool Settings button. Click 'Print Directly To Printer' then OK. The only disadvantage is that on long print jobs you may see the busy icon in your application more often than usual. Be warned that it doesn't work on all systems and all printers so try it on a test document first Ė time a print job before and after switching off the spooler Ė if you encounter problems click the Restore Defaults button in the print spooler dialogue window.

 

 

CLEANING

If you have a partially filled cartridge that won't print, or the text/image is streaked or fading from top to bottom there's a good chance that the print head is partially or fully blocked by dried ink. If it won't respond to your printers cleaning routine here's something to try, you've got nothing to lose! Find a bowl or shallow container and fill it to a depth of a few centimetres with a 50/50 mixture of very hot water and bleach or ammonia. Immerse the print head Ė the part where ink comes out -- into the solution and leave it for a couple of minutes. If the dried ink dissolves you'll see it start to flow in the water. Dry it off carefully with a soft, lint-free cloth and try it out. 

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