One of the biggest differences between film and digital images is this: Traditional prints are each their own island, remote and isolated, while digital images are, by definition, easy to share and enjoy with others. In the old days, if you wanted to show off your photos around the holidays, your only choice was to congregate around the slide projector. These days, you can simply and quickly make your own slide shows that play from anyone’s hard drive or a CD or DVD.
So this year, surprise your friends and family with your own personalized digital photo slide shows. They’re fun and easy to make, and they avoid the expense and hassle of ordering multiple sets of prints.
As Easy as 1, 2, XP
If you’re running Windows XP, you’re in luck: Making a slide show is virtually effortless. Windows XP has a slide show feature built into every folder that contains images. Try this:
- In either Windows XP Home Edition or Windows XP Professional, open My Pictures (click Start, All Programs, My Pictures or go to a subfolder within My Documents), and then open any folder inside My Pictures that is stocked with digital images.
- On the left side of the folder, you should see a Task Pane filled with common activities (as long as Windows Explorer is in its default configuration). The very first section is labeled Picture Tasks, and headlining that box is a command called “View as a slide show.” Just click it, and your pictures will appear as a slide show on your PC screen. If you just sit back and watch, the slide show will automatically advance, one image every few seconds. If you don’t see the Picture Tasks option, click View, Filmstrip and you can manually go from one image to the next. You can also right-click on any one of the images for additional options (print, edit, and so on).
- You can also click on the forward, back, and pause controls at the top right of the screen to take charge of the slide show.
- Keep in mind that Windows XP can only play the images in a single folder as a slide show. So if you want to combine the contents of two folders into a single slide show, you’ll have to copy or move some of the pictures so they’re all in one place.
If you’re having a hard time finding the pictures you want, check out our advice in “Take Control of Your Digital Photos.”
While you’re at it, don’t forget to take a look at XP’s Picture Slideshow screensaver.
- Right-click your Windows desktop.
- Select Properties, and in the Display Properties dialog box, click the Screen Saver tab.
- Choose My Picture Slideshow from the list of screensavers, and be sure to click the Settings box to choose the folder that Windows should use for setting up your slide show. You can also adjust the timing of the slides (in seconds).
Learn more about making XP slide shows with “Digital Focus: Make a CD Slide Show.”
Share Your Slide Shows
All that’s great, but what if you want to send your slide show to friends? As long as they also have Windows XP, you’re in business. (If you’re sending slide shows to folks without XP–or you’re not sure what they have–you might just want to use slide show software. See “Try Your Hand at PhotonShow” for details.)
Nonetheless, the easiest XP solution is to simply copy images to a CD; when your friends put the CD in their PC, the same slide show option appears in the task pane of the CD window. Your recipients will see a dialog box as soon as they insert the CD–one of the options is to “View a slide show of the images.”
But how, you might be wondering, do you make a CD? It’s easy. Assuming your Windows XP PC has a CD-RW drive, just do this:
- Place a blank CD-R disc into your computer’s CD-RW drive. If you see a helpful Windows dialog box asking what you’d like to do with this disc, just click Cancel.
- Open a folder that includes pictures you want to copy.
- Select the pictures. Hold down the Ctrl key while you click to make multiple selections.
- When you’re done selecting images, click Copy to CD from the Picture Tasks on the left side of the folder.
- If you have more pictures to copy, open the next folder and repeat the selection process until you’ve put as many images on the CD as you want.
- You haven’t actually copied the pictures to the CD; you have just put them in a temporary holding bin. Double-click My Computer and then double-click the CD drive. You should see a folder with a list of all your pictures, waiting to be copied to CD.
- Finally, click Write these files to CD–it’s listed in the CD Writing Tasks on the left side of the folder. This process can take a while, especially if you’ve selected a lot of images. When Windows is done, you can remove the CD and give it away as a portable slide show.
- Note: Windows XP lets you copy images onto a CD without using third-party software, such as Roxio‘s Easy CD & DVD Creator 6. Your optical drive probably came bundled with one of many popular packages. However, during our informal tests, Windows wasn’t able to finish the job on an older XP system. We had no trouble copying the files to the temporary spot, but after several attempts we kept getting the same error message as we came close to the end of the copying phase; the resulting CD-R discs contained nothing. In this case, we had to use CD-burning software to handle the task. (See “How to Burn Without Getting Singed” for step-by-step instructions on how to burn successfully using Roxio‘s and Ahead Software‘s programs.
Try Your Hand at PhotonShow
Of course, there are lots of options out there besides the one built into Windows XP. You might want to explore some of these options if you are interested in more flexible, elaborate slide shows than the ones offered by Windows XP, or if you’re simply not a Windows XP user.
One great way to make a slide show is with a $49 program called PhotonShow. (There’s a free trial if you want to try it out, although it doesn’t have the full set of features you’ll find in the paid version.)
slide show can be played on the desktop, copied to CD, uploaded to the Web, or even shared via your Pocket PC-based handheld device. PhotonShow includes a broad array of themes that you can use to dress up your images. These themes range from cute family motifs (like baby frames and romantic backgrounds) to holiday designs and interactive puzzles. You can embed your images in an on-screen jigsaw puzzle, for instance, which makes playing back your slide show a lot of fun. Here’s how you would create a slide show in PhotonShow:
- When the program begins, click the first icon–the one marked Create a PhotonShow.
- Since we’ll eventually want to copy this to CD, let’s choose Desktop PC on the next screen instead of making a Pocket PC version.
- Next, name the slide show. Call it anything you like: Christmas Slides or Our Thanksgiving Adventure, for instance. Click Next.
- Now it’s time to pick a theme. Pick Through the Looking Glass, perhaps (this theme is also available in the trial version, and is categorized as a General Purpose Theme in the full version). Note, though, that in the full version, the interactive themes are in the Games category. Click Next.
- We’re finally ready to add pictures. Use the folder tree to locate your pictures. Then simply drag the pictures you want to include down to the filmstrip at the bottom of the screen. You can drag and drop the images in the filmstrip to rearrange them. When you’re happy with the results, click Next.
- Want captions? This next screen is where you can add short text blurbs to each image. Or, if you prefer, you can let the pictures speak for themselves. Click Next.
- The full version of PhotonShow comes with some simple editing tools. On the Touch Up page (which appears automatically after you go through the captions screen), you can remove red eye, crop images, adjust color, and more. Click an image in the filmstrip and tweak the photo using any of the commands on the right side of the screen. Click Next when you’re done.
- You’re almost done! You can pick a digital music file (either MP3 or WAV) from your hard drive to serve as the soundtrack, add extra goodies like your name as the slide show author and even list optional credits that will scroll at the end of the slide show–here’s where you can list names of people that appear in the pictures, for instance. Then click Next.
- After you preview your slide show, you can click the Share button to upload the slide show to the Web or burn it to a CD on the Share your PhotonShow page.
DVD and More
That’s not all. For the ultimate in slide show processing, you can’t beat making a DVD. Most video-editing packages include a way to make a slide show out of still images, but our favorite is $50 MyDVD 5 from Sonic. MyDVD is a very simple video-editing program that has a complete slide show wizard built in. Just start the wizard, and it steps you through the process of picking photos, adding a soundtrack, and saving your project to DVD. (You’ll need a DVD writer installed on your PC, of course.)
Or try Ulead‘s superb DVD PictureShow 2. It’s a dedicated tool for copying pictures onto CD or DVD, complete with professional-looking titles, captions, transitions, and soundtracks. You don’t need to know anything about video editing with either program to make very sharp-looking DVD slide shows.
Once you make a slide show on DVD, you might want to make copies for friends and family. You can read about copying DVDs in “Digital Focus: Making and Copying Your Own DVD Videos.”
Don’t want to put your slide shows on DVD? Well, there are simpler solutions. The $50 ACDSee 6 is a popular photo organizer and image editor, and it has its own slide show generator built in. The great thing about ACDSee, though, is its power: Unlike the basic slide show generator in Windows XP, ACDSee lets you add text, a soundtrack, and even transitions between the images.
You could also try Photodex‘s ProShow Gold, a $60 program that lets you make slide shows that you can distribute through CD or e-mail, or play on television.
And finally, Microsoft Plus Digital Media Edition is an inexpensive add-on for Windows XP that comes with a program called Photo Story 2. The $20 program uses the same sort of filmstrip system for adding images as PhotonShow, lets you add a musical soundtrack, and even has a tool for adding narration to your slide show (you’ll need to connect a microphone to the PC). But the coolest feature is the way it lets you zoom in and pan around your images as you narrate–just the way professional documentaries animate still images to emphasize certain elements while a narrator speaks.
ACDSEE 6.0 DELUXE (ACD Systems-ACDD60USR)
DVD PictureShow 2.0 (U-Lead-A614201110A0000)
Windows XP Home Edition w/Service Pack 1 (Full Product) (Microsoft-N0900558N1)
WINDOWS XP PROFESSIONAL .