Organizing, sharing, and managing digital pictures

“Susan, what’s the best way for me to store, manage, and share personal photos I get by email, CD, or one of those little stick thingies?

Picasa!

Picasa is another free tool by Google and a really great option for hobby photo enthusiasts.  For those of you who know me, I’m all about finding solutions that work, that are practical, inexpensive, and easy to use. Picasa fits those criteria in a heartbeat!

I’ve been using Picasa now since it debuted in 2004, on both PCs and Macs, and I have used it with Sony, Canon, and Kodak digital cameras.  And even though I’ve tried many other digital imaging programs – you know, the ones that come with each digital camera and seem to gobble up hard drive space and computer memory? – I keep coming back to Picasa.  iPhoto ranks a close second in my book but I still prefer Picasa.

Why? Picasa is simple and intuitive to learn (even for a novice computer user). The footprint is small, and the software works reliably on both PC and Mac computers. I like it because Picasa does what I need it to do and Picasa doesn’t introduce unnecessary functionality that adds more work to my already busy life. Picasa recognizes when my digital camera (or a friend’s) is connected to my computer, it imports photos quickly, and I have many quick options for sharing the photos with others.

Picasa’s feature that ranks near the top for me is its free private, secure web storage space for photos. Currently Picasa offers 1 GB of free online photo storage. Currently I have 63 photo albums online (private to me until I decide when and how to share), with an average of 10 photos per album, and still I am only at 34% of my 1 GB (free) allowance….since 2004!

To upload a photo, all I need to do is tell Picasa which photos are my favourites, select them, and then click on the upload button. Is that a total of 3 steps?! Very user friendly! Couple that online web storage functionality with your own monthly photo backup to an external hard drive and you will have all your favourite photos securely backed up in two places. Built-in redundancy – smart!

There’s so much that I can do with Picasa quickly and easily that organizing my photos is no longer the multi hour chore that it seemed when I used other programs. Picasa offers decent photo retouching tools – cropping, fixing red eye, straightening the photo, or adjusting the lighting. When you improve the photo, Picasa even asks you whether you want to save your original. Cool!

Other easy to use features that I love include adding captions, emailing photos in one step that are properly resized for optimal email transfer, exporting videos, linking to my online web albums via email or a link on a web site, or even posting to Facebook! Try Picasa out and let me know what you think.

Screen Capturing Tips

“Susan, help! I know how to copy and paste but I don’t know how to transfer an entire page or share that page with others. As soon as I scroll down, what I have highlighted goes back to white. Ugg! Can you tell me how to transfer a page onto an email without having to send the web address?”

I get this question often from my clients.  Perhaps they have purchased something online and need proof of purchase. Or they want to keep their own copy of online content. Be proactive –get what you need by capturing what you see on your screen. *

To capture content from your computer screen, you have a few choices. My recommendation is to go with option 2 listed below.

1. Use key commands (aka shortcuts) built into your computer’s operating system:

a. On a PC:

When you want to take a picture of your screen, press the Print Screen key (The label may read “PrtScr”. If your keyboard has a number pad, look for the Print Screen key at the top left of the number pad).  After pressing Print Screen, you won’t hear anything. Trust that the software has copied a picture of the screen onto the clipboard. Now you need to paste the clipboard image onto something to see what you have captured. Go to graphics software on your computer. You could launch MS Paint (found under Accessories, comes with every PC) or open a program that reads graphics (like PowerPoint), then save that image as a file. Once the file is saved, you can email it to others.

Just remember that each program on your computer stores files in their own way so one file type may be bigger in size than another even when you just thought you had the same image to save (i.e. your PowerPoint file will be bigger in size typically than a graphics file). To save the screen shot as a graphics file, the easiest solution is to open MS Paint, paste, and save the image as a JPEG (extension is .jpg).

Here’s a quick list of the steps for taking a screen shot in Windows 7: http://www.wikihow.com/Take-a-Screenshot-in-Microsoft-Windows. These steps should also work with Vista if that’s what you have as your operating system on a PC.

b. On a Mac:

The screen capturing steps on a Mac are conceptually the same as on the PC but the process is simpler.

To take a screen shot, press and hold these keys in succession: Command+Shift+3. You’ll hear a camera shutter sound, which means that the screen shot has been taken, AND a graphics file has been saved on your desktop (without you needing to do anything else!). Go to your desktop and look for a newly created file. The screen shot will automatically be saved as a graphics file – perhaps as a PNG or JPG.  The file name will reflect the day and time of the screen capture.

In the Mac OS system, there are a number of useful screen capturing options – for example if you want to capture just a portion of the screen or just one window. Here’s a useful list (made from a screen capture):

Mac OS keyboard shortcuts for taking screen captures
Mac OS keyboard shortcuts for taking screen captures

Here’s the source for the screen capture shortcuts listed above: http://guides.macrumors.com/Taking_Screenshots_in_Mac_OS_X

2. Use screen capturing software.

My personal favourite screen capturing software is SnagIt (available for both PC and Mac computers). I’ve used this product since it released in 1998. While it was free for the first couple of years, it now costs approximately $50 USD (one time fee). You can try it for free for 30 days to see how good it is: http://www.techsmith.com/download/snagit/default.asp

I prefer using SnagIt instead of the built in screen capturing keyboard shortcuts on my computer because SnagIt is so much more than a screen capturing tool. It has a wonderful editor that lets me easily annotate my screen shots. For example I can quickly add an arrow or text to my screen shot to assist others. Another BIG advantage with SnagIt is its ability to capture an entire web page in one click, regardless of how many screens of scrolling there are in that web page.

I must use SnagIt multiple times a day – to obtain computer illustrations for training manuals; to capture proof of purchase when the place that I’m buying from doesn’t send a confirmation email or if I don’t trust that I will get an electronic order confirmation from that specific vendor; to take a picture of what’s wrong on my computer for my techie to solve; or I use it to grab useful information that I don’t want to bookmark and for information that I want to access offline (i.e. I want that information at my fingertips on MY computer).

SnagIt really is amazing software and everyone who got this tip from me said that SnagIt has improved the way they use the computer. So even though you don’t need SnagIt to take a picture of what’s on your screen, you’ll find that SnagIt does so much more than just screen capturing.

*One final and important tip: if you do start capturing content from online places, please reference the original source for that information. Someone has gone to a lot of trouble to make that information available or there may be copyright issues in place. When I’ve come across useful information in the past and I knew I was going to use it elsewhere, I would jot down the URL, or web address. Sometimes I’ve gone so far as contacting the original author to ask permission to use his or her information. Once the author finds out that I am prepared to source their original content online, they typically grant consent.

In SnagIt, this task of referencing the source is even easier if I just copy and paste the URL, or web address, into a text box at the top of the captured image in the editor when I capture the content. I typically add the URL into a text box that I place over top the captured image, in SnagIt’s editor, for quick reference later.

Looking forward to hearing how your screen capturing activities are going. You’ll be amazed how you ever lived without it! And if you need any help, just ask.

Create a personal map when you need it (for free)

My friend contacted me the other day for some help. He needed to create his own map to share important business information with clients to help his clients find key project locations. He needed a map he could print or a map that he could share with others and one that he could update easily. He didn’t have any budget approval to buy software nor was there corporate willingness to incur additional costs.

The solution? Topo.ly – a free tool based on Google maps.  The tip to using this tool easily is the following: create a list of locations in a spreadsheet and maintain the information in the spreadsheet. Then, when you need a personal map, upload that spreadsheet to your Topo.ly account and the tool automatically creates a map for you in just a few seconds.

To share your map with others, you have a few options:

1) take a screenshot of your map and email that screenshot to others

2) create a PDF from your map (print to PDF) and then email that PDF to others

3) invite others by email to see your map

My friend was excited with this solution – he could generate maps on an as-needed basis and he could also create a simple spreadsheet to share with his coworkers and clients for those who didn’t want a map. He was also able to overlay maps. For example, my friend could show the head office location and colour code all the satellite offices. For him, spreadsheets are easily shared, archived, and maintained in his IT environment. No extra costs! No steep learning curve! No long term commitment to technology requiring any other investment.

Outside of my friend’s needs, think of the amazing business solutions that this tool can help you with – map out a sales territory to help new sales employees quickly learn the location of their businesses clients and vendors; help family members “see” where you went on a recent trip; co-plan a vacation of your dreams with your friends who live elsewhere.  The practical uses are endless. Enjoy!