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- This Week's Free Computer Tip -

182 - Printing Pictures On Your Home Computer

Those of you who have talked with me about printing photos at home know that I usually recommend that you think hard about whether it makes sense to do that. To begin with, the supplies you will use are very expensive. In many printers, it is a hassle to manage the different size papers. The biggest point though is that the photo processing stores will do it so inexpensively, will fix the images that don't print correctly, and just generally make your life easier. I might add that when a blind comparison was done in this area last year, the store that beat them all for picture quality was Wal-Mart. They beat several of the big-name specialty photo stores. Who'd 'a thunk it?

Still, there are times when you might want to give it a try at home. This bulletin will tell you about a feature built into Windows XP that solves some of the setup issues for you.

The built in feature -
In Windows XP, if you double-click on a picture file, the default program used to open and display the picture is called Windows Picture and Fax Viewer. Even if the picture is large enough to fill the entire screen, this program opens it with a border on all four sides. In the bottom border area you will find several icons. The fourth icon from the right is a printer icon. Click on it and a printing "wizard" opens. It is this wizard that I want to tell you about.

The first window just welcomes you. Click next to go past it. The second window lets you pick the picture or pictures you want to print. The third window lets you set up the printer for Draft, Normal, or Best print quality. Change what you need to on that one and click next. So far, nothing special here, but here is where it gets interesting. The next window is called "Layout Selection" and gives you a number of choices.

At first you see the very first image you selected as it would be printed filling a full page. Notice that the software rotated it for you, as needed to best fit the paper. As you scroll down through the choices, the various common sizes are offered. If two images will fit on the page, the software rotates and positions them properly. As the printed sizes get smaller, the software rotates and lays out a "best fit", all automatically. At "wallet size", up to nine images are positioned on a single letter-size page. If you want them to be nine copies of the same photo, it does that too. There is also the option to print a "contact sheet" where up to thirty-five photos are printed on a single page. ("Contact Sheet" is actually a photography term. Professional photographers often just lay their strips of negatives directly on (in contact with - hence the term "contact sheet") the printing paper to get a preview of what the finished picture might look like.)

In short, this program takes a lot of the setup hassle out of printing your pictures. You can see all of this without having to print anything. Find a picture on your computer and double-click on it. You can go all the way through the wizard and just close it out before the actual printing step. Give it a look.

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