Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Keyboard shortcuts - learn them!

These are the basics that you should use all the time:
  • CTRL+C: Copy
  • CTRL+X: Cut
  • CTRL+V: Paste
  • CTRL+Z: Undo
You hold down the control key (command if you use a mac) and the letter key at the same time.

Copy - picks up whatever you highlighted and stores it on a clipboard so you can paste it in a different place or program. For example, you could copy some text from a website and paste it into a Word document (think C=copy)

Paste - of course, puts whatever is on your clipboard into the location you select (think V=points down to where you want to put stuff).

Cut - Copies AND REMOVES whatever you select and puts it on a clipboard so you can paste it (think X=scissors).

Undo - undoes the last thing you did (think Z=zzzzzz oops, I fell asleep). You can Undo multiple times to keep stepping backwards through the actions you want to remove. This even works when writing emails - helpful because there's no obvious undo command.

I can't tell you how many times I use CTRL+Z!

Of course there are many more keyboard shortcuts. Here are official lists of shortcuts for Windows and Macs.

Why don't you try learning one per month?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Blogger pictures - my way

I've had a number of people ask me how I get nice big pictures like these in my blogs.

I will show you.

In order for a picture to show up on your blog it must be hosted somewhere on the web. So that's the first step. Once it's on the web, you need to get it into your blog in the size and position that you prefer. So it's really a two step process. I will explain both.

Uploading a picture to the web

Blogger Button

Blogger has an upload button (see below) that actually takes care of both steps. It lets you upload a photo from your computer and place it right into your blog - but I don't like it. It just doesn't give me enough options.

The only picture sizes available using this method are:

small (200 px)

medium (320 px)

or large (400 px)

Picture sizes are limited and you can see how they end up in random places making it hard to allign text with photos.

Picasa Web Albums

I like to have more control so I use a different method. I upload my photos to a Picasa Web Album and paste links from there into my blogs. It's funny because the Blogger button actually puts photos into their own special Picasa web album created just for your blog.

Creating a Picasa Web Album

In order to use create a Picasa Web Album you first need to sign up. Go to the Picasa Web Album website and sign in using your gmail address and password. If you don't have one, shame shame, it is my favorite email service. You can always sign up free for a gmail account.

Once you have signed in, you will be taken to a screen like this:

There are two ways to get photos into your online albums:

The "Launch Picasa" button will take you to the Picasa application on your computer, assuming you have it installed and are using it. It's a great program for organizing photos and you can download it for free. With that program installed, you can upload your photos directly from Picasa on your computer to Picasa Web Albums. I don't use Picasa on my computer so I'm afraid I'm not an expert on this method.

The second option is the "Upload" button. That will take you to a screen like this:

Your window may be empty but, as you can see, I have quite a few albums already created. I like to organize them by month or special collection. You have the option to upload photos to an existing album (click on the album you want to use and then 'select album') or you can create a new album by clicking on that phrase at the top of these screen.

Once your album is selected or created, you will be taken to this screen.

You can upload up to 5 photos at once by clicking on the 'browse' button and navigating to the picture on your computer (nicely organized into folders I hope). When you have selected your photos, click 'start upload' and they will appear in your album.

If you use a mac computer, there is still an easier way to upload photos that I prefer. Download the Picasa Web Album Uploader for Mac. With this application, you can upload many pictures at once by dragging them into the uploader window. It looks like this:

You can select an album or create a new one. You can designate upload size. I use the "Faster upload (1000px) option" because that is plenty big for blogging.

So those are a few options for getting pictures hosted on the web. Next we need to get them into our blogs.

Adding a Picture to Blogger

Open up your Picasa Web Album and you will see all of your photo albums

I guess I have quite a few (131!). Picasa gives you a little over 1 GB of photo storage free. If you limit your uploads to the 1000px version - that ought to last quite a while. Picasa offers an upgrade for a fee that gives 20 GB of storage.

Select the album you want and you will see your photos

Now select the photo you want and you will see this screen

Selecting the code

The important information is off to the right - click on the phrase 'link to this photo' and a few windows will open up just below that say 'link' and 'embed image'.

We are interested in embedding. Right below 'embed image' is the code that you need to paste into your blog. But first we need to make a few selections.

Select size by clicking on the little arrow to the right of the pull down window. You can choose thumbnail (144px), small (288px), medium (400px), or large (800px). You may ask why the jump from 400 to 600? I wonder that too - especially since 600px is the size I prefer to use in blogging! Standard Blogger templates are about 800 pixels wide. I use a 'stretch' template that stretches to the width of the computer window. That's nice for bigger pictures. If you use a standard blogger template, medium (400px) images will be about right. If you use a stretch template 600 px is perfect but you will need to customize the embedded code to get it. I'll show you how to do that later (don't worry - it's not too difficult!). Meanwhile - here is what the four size options look like.

thumbnail (144px)

small (288 px)

medium (400px)

large (800px)

and here's my customized 600 px size - perfect, isn't it?

You also have some choices to make about links. The choices are right below your 'embed image' code. I always click the box 'hide album link'. This just avoids extra text in the blog and makes it easier to customize photo size. The other box 'image only, no links' gives you a choice about what will happen when someone clicks on the picture in your blog. I leave it blank. Here is what my choices look like:

Now that you have everything selected, let's get the code. This is quite easy. Just click anywhere inside the box under 'embed image'. The code will all turn blue meaning it's been selected. If that doesn't work, just drag and highlight all the code. Now copy it - control 'C' or go to 'edit' at the top of the screen and then 'copy'.

The code is now on your 'clipboard' and we are ready to paste it into your blog. I'll show you how to do that step by step in a sample blog post.

Pasting the code

Here's some text

To add a photo, put your cursor where you want it and paste - Control 'V' or 'Edit' 'Paste'. Here's the code.

But wait - that doesn't look like a picture!

That's OK - you just need to toggle back and forth between the two tabs at the top of your blogger window. They say 'Edit Html' or 'Compose'. In Blogger, it doesn't matter which you use to paste the code. But to see the picture you must click on the 'Compose tab' or, if you are already in Compose, click 'Edit Html' and then back to 'Compose'.

And Ta Dah! Your picture appears

Isn't that easy?

Here's what's really nice. If you want to move your picture, you can go into 'Edit Html' mode, copy the code and paste it anywhere in your blogger window.

Customizing picture size

Now - here is the slightly tricky part - customizing the size. I almost always want to use a width of 600px. So here's what I do. I paste in the large size picture (800px) and then modify the code to make it slightly smaller. Make sure you can see the embeded code. You may need to click on the 'Edit Html' tab.

Let's take a closer look at the code

The arrow is pointing to a spot right after .jpg"

That's where you need to do a little editing. Type in width=600 (or whatever size you want) so it looks like this. I like to put a space on either side of my typing just so everything is easy to see.

Now, when you click the 'Compose' tab to see your picture - it will be the perfect size! That's not too difficult, right? I use this all the time. I like 'width=600' for horizontal pictures and 'width=400' for vertical. That keeps things nice and uniform.

That's what I just did for this blog - went into all my code and changed the widths to 600.

I hope this somewhat lengthy blog post helps. If you have questions or suggestions on this topic, please add a comment and I will address them.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Backing up photos

I am sitting at my computer trying to back up photos (1999 to 2006) off an old external hard drive.

It is a messy process.

If you want to keep memories alive, it is extremely important to back up photos.

Here is my current system (I wish I had done it all along!)

First - every time you are ready to empty a digital camera card first BURN A COPY OF THE FILES! This is just like those old packets of negatives we (meaning older folks like me who remember negatives) used to keep in drawers. It will give you a pristine copy of each photo file just in case you do something terrible to mess up the copy on your computer. DVDs are not that expensive and this is worth the effort. It is what professional photographers do. My 4 GB card works perfectly since it fits on one DVD. If I have a smaller card, I burn on a CD or stockpile the files in a carefully labeled folder on my computer until there are enough to justify burning on a DVD.

Second - I assume you transfer all of your photos and store them somewhere on your computer for editing and sharing. This can be done in various programs (Picasa, iPhoto, Adobe bridge). Since you have a nice back up copy of every photo burned on DVD, you don't need to keep all 12 shots of grandma body surfing. Just pick the best and delete the rest (remember, you have them safely backed up). This slims down the folders of photos stored on your computer.

- Occasionally back up the photo files stored on your computer. Hopefully they will be the best of the best nicely labeled, dated, and organized. You can burn them unto a DVD or copy to an external hard drive. Yes I know - you already burned the photos right off the memory card. But the ones on your computer are organized and edited. It is worth making this second copy. There are huge capacity affordable USB hard drives available now that are tiny and portable. I actually do both - burn to DVD and transfer to an external hard drive (I love my photos so much). After this is done, you can delete the files off your computer when it fills up.

Of course, you need to carefully label and safely store those DVDs so you can access them when needed.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Gmail is getting full - what to do?

I just filled up my 3rd (that's right 3rd!) Gmail account.

Gmail has plenty of storage - for most people. And they keep adding it every day. As of April 19, 2009 they offer 7.86 GB of storage. Picasa (which I have almost filled up as well) has 1 GB.

I don't know why, but that is not enough Gmail storage for me. I send and receive loads of photos and pdf files so maybe that is why I tend to fill up accounts.

One solution is to pay for more storage. Check here for more information.

If you don't want to do that, here are a couple of free solutions:

In the past I have just created a new Gmail account and had mail forwarded. But that option had some challenges - the biggest being exporting my contact list. I can get all the addresses in the new account, but so far (as of April 19,2009) Gmail doesn't have a way to export contact groups. I use groups all the time and it is a royal hassle to recreate them.

Or - you can clean up your current account

So today I decided to do some Gmail 'spring cleaning' by getting rid of some messages. Since I have over 7,ooo inbox messages and who knows how many sent messages, I wasn't about to go through them one by one. What I really wanted was to delete messages with large attachments. I didn't want to do that for messages sent to me, because there are some precious photos in that group that are wonderfully searchable and difficult to recreat if lost. Keeping them in gmail is a great way to have a backup. But the messages I sent to others are not as important to save since I have them (somewhere) on my hard drive or in back ups.

Here is what to do to just find sent messages with attachments:

type this into the 'search mail' window at the top of your gmail screen:

has:attachment from:me label:sent

if you want to find all messages (sent and received) with attachments type:


Scan through these messages (if you want) to make sure you don't mind deleting them.

Just above your list of emails there is an option to 'select' 'all'.

Do that

Now a little message will appear that asks if you want to select all messages from that search. Click that and now everything is selected.

Now, get brave, and click 'delete'. You will get a chance to change your mind when Gmail asks if you are sure.

When I did that, my account went from 94% full to 61% full!

Emailing higher resolution pictures in Picasa

Don't you wish you could see the faces of these darling children from Guyana?

Do you want to avoid emailing photos that turn out like this?

I know - I exaggerated the problem by making this photo very very low resolution - but you can limit the impact and usability of photos by sending them in small sizes.

Photo size is most often measured by pixels - that is dots per inch. This is also known as resolution. Optimal resolution depends on the end use of the photo. Here is what I like:

For presentations, I like the largest dimension to be at least 1000 pixels.

For printing, full resolution is best.

If you are using Picasa to host and email your photos, here is how to adjust resolution (from the Picasa help website):

Sending multiple photos at once:

1. In Picasa, click Tools > Options (Windows) or Picasa > Preferences (Mac).
2. Select the Email tab.
3. Use the slider to set your desired pixel size when emailing multiple photos. Use the radio buttons to set the desired pixel size for emailing single photos.
4. Click OK.

Sending one photo at a time - the only way to get full resolution:

You can email a photo in its full resolution using Picasa, however you can only send one full resolution photo at a time. Please follow these steps to set your email options to send photos in their original size:

1. Click Tools > Options (Windows) or Picasa > Preferences (Mac).
2. Select the Email tab.
3. Under 'When sending single pictures, resize to:' (Windows) or 'Size for single pictures' (Mac), select the 'Original Size' option.
4. Click OK.

Once this option is selected, any single photo you send using Picasa will be in full resolution. It's not possible to send multiple photos at once in their original sizes.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Blogging - custom sized pictures

This is for Sister Bullock who writes a wonderful blog

I am going to assume you already know how to embed an image from Picasa

OK - just in case you don't know that - here is a quick 'how to' lesson

  • Upload your images to picasa (if you don't know about picasa, let me know and I'll add more information)
  • Click on the image you want (it will fill most of the screen)
  • Look for the words "link to this photo" at the right and click on them
  • This will open a menu of options - you want to copy the information (HTML code) below the words "embed image" (control 'C')
  • Paste that code into your blog as you are creating it. It will look like nonsense but when you publish, it will turn into your Picasa image.

Image Sizes

When you embed an image from picasa you have a choice of sizes and whether or not to include the album link (I never do). Unfortunately, the only sizes they allow are thumbnail (144 px), small (288 px) medium (400 px), and large (800 px).

Why the jump from 400 to 800???

I have no idea

Medium 400 px is fine for a normal blog layout. But if you want to emphasize photos rather the text, it's nice to use a stretched layout in Blogger so that nice big photos can be displayed. However, the large photos are just a bit too big at 800 px. The perfect size would be 600 px - but how do we get that?

It's not too difficult

All you have to do is type this:


and make sure it is in the correct place

When you past the HTML code into your blog from Picasa it looks something like this.

Look carefully and you will see a section in quotes - that is the address of the image. It finishes here with _MG_2235.jpg"

After the ending of the final quote, you can add extra information about image size

That is where you type those magic letters - width=600 - so your code will now look like this:

Be sure to type it with no spaces - after the final quote and before the forward slash. I always keep a space on either side of the text but I'm not sure that is necessary.

That's all!

When you publish the blog or click back and forth between 'Edit Html' and 'Compose' you will see your perfectly sized image in place of the code.

If you want to move the image, just cut and paste the code.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Sharing PowerPoint presentations online

I was asked recently how to share put a PowerPoint presentation on the web.

I have not been terribly successful doing that, so I will explore a few ways and post about them here, with more information coming in the future.

First and easiest, in my opinion, is to save the presentation as a movie ('file', 'save as movie'). I need to learn more about how to tweak the timing and other settings. There is an option to include music (go to 'movie options' in the 'save as movie menu). Then the powerpoint movie can be uploaded to google video or direct to blogger. This creates a self playing slideshow out of the slides.

Another option is Google docs. That fine service now supports PowerPoint files - but only in the .ppt format, not the new .pptx. So the files need to be saved as .ppt.

I don't yet know about all the options. The one I tested is manually advanced slide by slide.

Here is an embeddeded test slideshow I just uploaded through google docs.

Google Docs is a great service for hosting and sharing text, spreadsheet, and presentation documents.