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Software for exploring and presenting photos and video

It all started so innocently. All I wanted was a bit of software to put in an old laptop that I have so that I would have the equivalent of one of those "digital photo frames" that are all the rage.

I'll never learn. Four days later, I came up for air, after a fascinating tour through a lot of good programs. Then I was sucked back into the computer to write this webpage and the accompanying spreadsheet of features. The four days excludes the time to put this webpage together, although I banged out its basic text as I explored the applications.

This text is complemented by a worksheet tabulating many features. That is available as an Open Office version 2 worksheet, or as a .pdf document. Sorry, MS vassals... you'll just have to install the FREE Open Office if you want the data in a machine readable form.

I am indebted to Tucows... I searched their archives because I know that the editors at Tucows review (eventually) any software there, and weed out stuff that is unworthy. Those archives gave me a wide choice of packages. To the Tucows results I have added some other packages, either because they are "old friends" of mine, or because they have gained some exposure through magazines such as the UK "Computer Shopper".

Disclaimer: While in many cases I have run the software on my own machine and verified aspects of what I have seen said on the web about the programs, I have frequently relied on those claims, or my sense of what is likely in a given instance. In particular (duh) I have not tested every program on every platform! My tests were mostly on a Win98SE box. Do, please, get in touch to alert me to any inaccuracies!

P.S. After this file was at 150k, and the spreadsheet had gone through two editions, I discovered that the software *I* needed, for my first goal, was already on my system! The splendid, free Exifier can do basic slideshows! Now... don't get as excited as I am... you may want more that it offers, but for a nice, simple slideshow that will run in a "restored" (i.e. not minimized, not maximized) window, Exifier is fine. It is one of the "fetch the photos from a folder" applications. Exifier's main focus is, not surprisingly, working with EXiF (and IPTC) data... and Boy! What it can't do with that isn't worth doing. But that's another story. When delivering a slideshow, it can be set to show a new slide every "n" seconds (you can set the interval). It can be made to go forward or backward by button clicks. It resumes the timed slide changes... in the last direction you went... after a button click. It sizes images sensibly, keeping aspect ratios intact (stretching and shrinking are separate options. There is no "stretch, but no more than..." option.)






Contents:

General discussion of the sort of software in the survey

Details of the specifications examined in the worksheet- What the columns tell you.

Application- by- application notes




General discussion of the sort of software in the survey

As I said, I was looking for some software to turn a laptop into a "photo frame". In my quest, I came across applications from three broad categories. A given application often has aspects of each of these categories, but it usually leans towards one or another focus. I have, for the most part, excluded another whole category of application: photo editing packages, such as PhotoShop and Serif's PhotoPlus. They, too, have aspects of the applications I have included, and many of the included applications have photo editing capabilities.

You "pays your money" (or not, as many are freeware), and "takes your choice" as to the balance of features in the software you adopt.

The application categories are as follows. The abbreviation is the code used in the relevant column of the worksheet.

Let me explain what I mean, and what you typically get form each. Remember... any application can include features typical of any of the others.

ITFH: Indexing, tagging, filing software/ HTML Galleries: The packages that solve these needs are enhanced "Windows Explorer" type programs, with search tools thrown in. They allow you to navigate around your PC, seeing images in various places. (Sometimes allowing previews of formats that Windows Explorer cannot preview.) They allow you to tag photos with keywords and descriptions. They allow you to copy, more, rename files. They allow you to assemble "albums" (a word used in many different ways across the universe of this review). By "album", here, I mean a folder with, essentially, shortcuts to images of your choice. A way to "virtually" assemble "sort of" copies of a bunch of photos in one place. (This is fine until you move or rename one of the files the album shortcut refers to... although some packages are clever enough to cope with some things... but if you move an image to a CD, and take that disc out of the drive, don't expect to see the image in the "album"! See why I don't invest a lot of time in that sort of album?)

The HTML Galleries start where Windows Explorer for XP and up leaves off with its "filmstrip" display. They generally show you one image in a large format, and have a strip of thumbnails along one edge (not necessarily the bottom) of the screen. You click through them to see different photos in the large format. These can be very fancy with templates, captions, etc, etc, or as simple as the Windows Explorer filmstrip... but in "view in your browser" form, or have lots of frills. Remember that you don't need to upload such galleries to a web server to view them. You can store them on a CD or your hard drive, and view them from there. (I.e. offline.)

ScSh: Screensaver and slideshow creators: What these are is, I hope pretty clear from the category description? When I say "slideshow", I'm talking about a virtual version projecting images from individual transparencies held in small card mounts (do you remember them?). Of course, a modern, virtual, slideshow has lots of extra possibilities... automatic "next slide" schemes, transitions, etc.

Slideshows, and some of the solutions in the final category, allow you to run the photo show in something less than the full desktop. Screensavers can be previewed in less than a full screen. While this isn't aesthetically pleasing, it is useful if your machine, say, automatically polls for email, and you want to be able to see a "You Have Mail" notification should it pop up. My free FarWatch system can be extended with not-free add ons to set up a "FarWatchWatcher". I have a second premise where pipes could freeze if a boiler died. And with FarWatchWatcher I can be quite relaxed: If the temperature in the remote, watched, premise falls below 45 degrees, a red flashing box appears on my screen where I am.

Remember that a screensaver is just a special sort of .exe. You can launch a screensaver with a button if you don't want the system to use it for the default "no key has been pressed for a while" response. And exiting the screensaver is the same, however you launch it. A nice feature some of them have is a way to select which events cause the screensaver to terminate. I turn off the "mouse movement" event when I can, and then the display of images continues even if I accidentally bump the mouse.

FVPC: Flash, and "Video" presentation creators: Imagine you want to do a presentation based on 5 still images. Imagine sticking them on a wall. You can write some captions on them. Now take a video camera, and film them one after the other.

What I've described above pretty well tells you the sort of product the presentation creators generate. Of course, the results will be much, much better that those from my analogy.

Some of the Flash and "video" presentation creators allow you to incorporate video in the final presentation. Animated captions are sometimes possible. Some of them allow you to zoom into or pan across still images, creating the effect of "video" from a still image. (I've seen this described as a "Ken Loach" effect... is this an "industry standard" term for the trick?) (The Wikipedia entry on him should encourage anyone who feels their creative efforts are under-appreciated... he worked hard, against frustrating circumstances, in the 60s!)

These presentation creators typically produce a CD or DVD, sometimes playable in a "domestic" (i.e. not computer) DVD player, on an ordinary TV. Other times, especially with those producing Flash files, the output is to something that you "play" within a web browser, e.g. Firefox.

For a "set it up, let it play" presentation, these are fine. You can usually pause, fast forward, rewind. What you can't (as far as I've seen) do is....

(By that last, I mean that you can't use a mouse or remote to go "next", "next", "next" at YOUR pace, as you might want to, if, say, showing friends your holiday snaps. The output of the presenters is like a video tape.)

Even though these packages are designed to produce standalone, full screen presentations, many can preview what the show will look like, if you want to see the show on part of your screen, but still leave parts visible. Some of the previews are full screen only, though, and friends wouldn't have that option, unless they also happened to have the package on their machine. Flash presentations can be viewed less- than- full screen

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Details of the specifications examined in the worksheet

As the project progressed, I found that not all of my column headings were perfectly conceived, but I hope that the worksheet is still of some use to you. Some of the questions are only really appropriate with certain classes of presentation software.

A "+" with any entry means "also see the notes here in this text file".

A hyphen typically means "I'm not sure what the entry should be here." As opposed to a blank cell which probably means "I forgot to look at this." A question mark is similar, but usually means that I found an "answer" that I didn't understand.

Spreadsheet Columns' headings key:

Cat: The package's broad category:

Note: Many packages have elements of more than one category.

Note: The term "video" in the "FVPC" category abbreviation refers to the character of the finished product. There are packages in each of the categories which can, and others which cannot, include video clips in the product of the package. The same is true of the sort of file the packages can use as source material.

D/L: Size of the file you have to download to try the package, in megabytes.

Trial: What are the terms of the allowed trial for non- free packages? An entry with a d, e.g. "30d" says how many days you are allowed to evaluate the package.

98/XP/Vista: Does the supplier of the software claim that it runs under 98, XP or Vista?

A question mark means that the OS wasn't listed anywhere I noticed. Don't be too downhearted if your OS isn't listed for an app you like. Even if 98 or Vista isn't listed as an OS the application runs on, it can be because....

a) Some suppliers don't talk about 98 because it is "old fashioned.

b) Some suppliers haven't TESTED their product with Vista yet, even though the application will run under it.

Most software houses probably assume you have Win98SE if you are using 98. At least one mentioned that the "old 98" isn't enough, their product needs SE. (That was DigiBook, for DigiBookShelf) It is probably also true for other applications.

If the 98 entry says "95", it means that the program should run on Windows 95 and 98.

Pop: Tucows popularity rating: Don't take this too seriously... sometimes it is more a reflection of the marketing skills of whoever wrote the Tucows description than a measure of the package's worth.

CD: tuCows Data collection date: "a": Early October 07

TM: Tried this Myself... on a Windows 98 machine. An s after a y means that I've done a full system virus scan since installing the software. (Norton). "wu" means I didn't try it (yet!), but that I've done a Write Up discussing some of what I saw on the website.

If the entry starts "CS" it means that I saw the application in the "December 2007" issue of UK magazine "Computer Shopper" in a comparative review of "Photo Management Software" (their title). After "CS" you'll see n or y to say no or yes to the question "Has it be tried by me?"

TCP: Go to http://tucowns.com/preview/<number>tu for the Tucows page for the program.

Src: Source (of photos)- "usf" stands for "user specified folder". This is another column that needs reworking. A very few programs can ONLY display the contents of a single folder. With some programs, if you change what's in the folder, what you see in the show changes. Other presenters "compile" the presentation, meaning that changing the photos is more work.

JP: Jpeg okay? y(yes) m ("many": jpeg and other fmts) n ("not Jpeg". Obviously, it supports SOME format, but not jpeg.) And yes, I realize that this column isn't very useful.

RAW: Can it work with "RAW" files, i.e. the proprietary formats used with some digital cameras to give users the maximum data, at the cost of large files.

Vid: Can it display video? (avi, etc.). This addresses whether video clips can be part of what goes into the project. See "DVD" if you want to know if the result can be output to a DVD for a "domestic" DVD player. I added this column late in the day... the absence of an entry here means I haven't checked. There are probably some without a "y" which can produce output for DVD players.

SAlone: N.B.: A "n" here does not mean that it can't create a standalone presentation of the "video" sort. This is to indicate whether it can create stand alone slide shows and/or Screensavers (sh/sc, respectively.) By "stand alone slide show" ** I ** mean something that you can put in a PC and run, to see the pictures. Probably an .exe file. Perhaps some local web pages. Some of the sites explaining the features of screensaver applications may mean that they produce an .exe file which will install the screensaver, as a screensaver on another machine. Of course, if the pictures are there as a screensaver, you can view them by using the standard screensaver "preview" option... but not quite what I would call a standalone slideshow! I don't think the sites are trying to deceive... it's just so easy to mean different things by the same words. Remember: If something is freeware, it doesn't matter if it can produce standalone shows because anyone you want to see your show can have a copy of the show-displaying program along with the show.

XMM: For eXcludes Mouse Movement. A "y" in this column says that the package can produce screensavers which allow you to "turn off" having the screensaver exit if the mouse is moved. (In which case, a keypress or mouse click will be how the screensaver is exited.)

DVD: I added this column late in the day. It is to indicate whether the application can produce DVDs to be played on -domestic DVD players... not merely can you save the slideshow/ screensaver on a DVD for playback in a computer. Of course, some domestic DVD players are more capable than others. A "Y" here should mean that it will play the slideshow on any DVD player.

Cap: Can photos be captioned? You can assume that if there's a "y" in this column, it means that a different caption can be assigned to each photo. I'll try to put "n+" on suites that allow a fixed caption across all the photos. (The "+", as usual, will indicate that there's note in the write up for you to read.)

ExIF: Can the package extract ExIF data? It may also be able to work with IPTC data, but my energy didn't stretch to asking that too. If it can extract ExIT data, it may be able to use that in captions and/ or in batch file renaming operations. Beware packages (from this review, or specialist photo manipulation packages) which destroy your ExIF data. If you want to know more about ExIF data, the entry at Wikipedia may be useful to you.

SEf: Can you add sound effects to go with show (s) or individual photos (p). The ones offering effects for individual photos allow you to record a spoken narration. ("Here you see us standing in front of....") ("y" means "Yes, captions allowed", without disclosing how clever they can be.)

sBkC/ sBkI: Set background color/ image. If an application allows you to set an image as the background, if you want a simple gradient of color, you can achieve that with an image, can't you? (At least one package lets you set the background color to a solid, or to a gradient provided by the application... but you don't need that frill.. although it is nice to have... as long as you can specify an image for the background.... any basic graphics program will let you create a screen with a gradient of colors. (I would use Serif's PhotoPlus, of which a free version is available.) The fanciest packages allow you to select whether background images are left original size, stretched to fill the window, or tiled. I.e. they have the same options as Windows desktop backgrounds. If the column "sBkI" holds x, it means that the job of checking what this program offers hasn't been done yet.

FuSc: Full Screen? "y"- only operates in full screen mode. "b"- offers both a full screen (reduced menu bar, etc, stuff) and "normal" viewing options. (Windows' maximized, "restored" and minimized.) Another "confused" column. This is most relevant to the slideshow programs. Besides the obvious and basic question here, when you are examining software, look to see if there are variations on the "full screen" mode. You may be able to switch the window border and navigation menu on and off to suit your needs, etc. A flash movie or HTLM gallery will be shown from in a browser which can of course be "restored" or maximized. Most browsers can be make less obvious by pressing F11. Even slimmer slimline browsing can be obtained by turning off various things (use the "View" menu item) before pressing F11.

Nav: For "navigation bar". Some of the packages offer a display which is mostly picture. In a perfect world, this will have a "navigation" bar for going forward, backward, etc. It it can be Switched on and off, the entry in this column is "s", if there is a bar, the entry is "y", and "n" means "no bar". The criterion isn't relevant to some packages.

PL: Playlists: Can you set up "shows", i.e. a scripted selection of photos. A "n" here probably means that the program just shows you what's in a folder, and/or any sub-folders of that. In the case of the "FVPC" type packages, the "PL" criterion is irrelevant. They, by their nature, are all "Playlist" based. "Playlist", here, is not talking about setting the background music that users hear.

Th: Thumbdrive: Can it play photos or shows from a thumbdrive? (May or may NOT reduce thrash of hard disk... Maybe setting up a RAMdisk would be the answer for shows you want to run for a long time). I'm not sure there's any package that CAN'T both work with images from a thumbdrive, and play finished presentations from one. But I'm leaving the column in, in case one turns up!

Mult: Multiple photos per page allowed? If you "must" have this, and the package you like doesn't support it, you can create images consisting of multiple images, can't you?

Rand: Can photos be shown in a random sequence? (op= Yes, it is an option.... you can have random or in sequence.)

Trans: Are inter-image transition effects available?

TSp: Transition speed. Sorry- added late, hence the absence of information for many. "n+" will probably take you to an entry that says "No... transition (between slides) speed cannot be changed at all." I think that most of the applications here at least allow you to change the length of time a given image is on the screen. "m" will mean that you can specify multiple "speeds"... i.e. you can set things up so that one image stays on the screen for, say, 5 seconds, but the next displays for 10. Note that some applications let you control how long each image displays, and, separately, lets you control the speed of the transition between two slides. And it must be admitted that I got confused at stages and sometimes this column reports on one, and sometimes on the other!

Resz: Resize- y/n/kac/kas ("y" implies dumb "fill window, wrecking aspect ratio". kac/kas: keeping aspect ratio and centre / keep aspect ratio and align to side & top)) Sorry: I'd written this up for lots of the programs in the table... and it is an important differentiator... and then lost the column. Sigh. And I've also realised that this is a complex issue that ought to be handled by more than one column. Generally speaking, all programs offer this. One or two may ONLY do crude resizing... but I can't see which from my current notes. Most are able to stretch or shrink an image to fit the window, with background being shown above and below a "too wide" photo, or at the sides of a "too narrow" photo. Some of the "clever" options offered by some packages: A choice about how much small images are enlarged. (A thumbnail blown up to full screen looks silly.) Where to place the image? Always in the center, as large a possible without distortion? Or more subtly, less rigidly displayed?

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Application- by- application notes

Index to applications in review... the current scrambled order is temporary

Don't infer anything from the order these are presented in... it is mostly accidental.

1: (ABS) Able Photo Slide Show
2: (MDW) Picture Viewer
3: (Irf) Irfan
4: (Ama) Amaze
31: (WGW) Web Gallery Wizard Pro
42: (PiFi) PixFiler
5: (ScP) Screen Paver
7: (Cam) "Slideshow" from Camilloferraris
6: (PGo) Picture Go!
15: (PSG) ProShowGold
16: (gPP) gPhotoShow Show Pro
17: (gPfree) gPhotoShow Free
18: (PSM) Photo Screensaver Maker
19: (IM) Image Walker
20: (DPSS) Digital Photo Slide Show
21: (ESSC) Easy Slide Show Creator
22: (SSM)Screensaver Maker, 2D + 3D
23: (PSSD) Power ScreenSaver Builder
24: (Coff) CoffeeCup Flash Photo Gallery
25: (MyS) My SlideShow
26: (MM) 1-More MiniShow
27: (AEF) Album Express from Fookes Software
8: (DBS) DigiBookShelf
11: (PRV) PhotosReViewer
13: (EPC) Express Photo Collage
12: (YOS) Your Own Screensaver
10: (PSoSh) Picture and Sound Show
30: (PP) Picture Player
31: (WGW) Web Gallery Wizard Pro
32: (SMPE) StillMotion Personal Edition PLUS
33: (Mak) Makaha
34: (IAD) InAlbum Deluxe
35: (PDM) Photo DVD Maker
36: (MoW) MemoriesOnWTV
37: (MoW) MemoriesOnWeb
38: (APSA) Adobe Photoshop Album Starter Edition
39: (Pic) Picasa from Google
43: (PSL) Photoshop Lightroom (Adobe)
40: & 41: (ACD9 / ACDP) ACDSee Photomanager.. "Version 10" and "Pro"
9:(WGM) Web Gallery Mate
44: (FEI) Fookes Easy Imager
45: (Xar) Xara 3D ScreenMaker


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Individual applications....


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2: (MDW) Picture Viewer

I liked this as it was FREE, and it was focused: It does what it does, even if not a lot more. It also has a nice simple, interface, with well "announced" keyboard shortcuts to allow you to do whatever you want.

This didn't seem to have any bugs, but it didn't have a lot of polish, either. I'd probably stick to Irfan if I didn't want to spend ANY money. Irfan takes a bit more learning... but it has a lot more features.

--

Supplied as a self extracting .exe. There was no chance to change the folder it installed in.

First attempt to install on a Win98 machine failed. This may have been a legacy of something else that was messed up in my machine before I went to install MDW, or not. Error message was: "Unable to register C:\Windows\System\ComCtl32.ocx... failed code 8... not enough storage avail"... and 3 more similar messages, which I chose the "Ignore" response to."

When I rebooted my machine, and tried the program, it seemed to work. Bear in mind that some of the complaints below may not apply if you have a successful install.

It does seem to work! With a few rough edges, nothing "critical", and do remember that the author of this program is GIVING it to you.

Rough edges (as seen on a Win98 system):

a) The tree view of folders doesn't include the "+" usually present to indicate that a folder contains sub-folders.

b) When you elect to display photos NOT stretched to fill the display, they are stretched vertically and horizontally to fit the screen... what you asked for, actually! A more useful "stretch to fit" method for viewing photos is to stretch the photo until either the horizontal or the vertical just fills the screen, and then put borders on the photo in the other dimensions thus maintaining the aspect ratio. When you decline stretching, the photos are shoved into the upper left of the screen instead of being centred.

Visiting "MDW's" site via the link they have up at Tucows tries to open a pop up, and does open a new advertising window. The site the link takes you tells you their site is now at www.mdwsoftware.co.uk, which opens without the nuisances.

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3: (Irf) Irfan

www.irfanview.com

Irfan started as an "explorer" for graphics images. Over the years it has grown to have many capabilities, without getting confused or showing feature bloat. Among other things, it has gained a significant repertoire of image manipulation tools. With a plug in, it can even use Photoshop filters.

True to its roots as an image explorer, the program has extensive image format capabilities, although I don't think it handles RAW files (yet!). It will do lossless rotations on jpeg files, not a feature common to all programs. It can also do many file manipulation and management tasks... including, for an advanced example, batch renaming photos from "Img001", "Img002", etc to "2007-01-12_17-34", "2007-01-12_17-48", etc, those "names" being derived from the date/time the photo was taken, as extracted (by Irfan) from the ExIF data in the photos. This is a very capable program! (You can also, as another example, resize a batch of photos... useful for emailing high res photos to friends at a more sensible resolution.)

The slideshow/ screensaver "captions" are limited to the optional presence of the filename, in one font/ color/ place.

Slideshows and screensavers can be set up to advance on mouse/ keyboard input, OR at set intervals, but you can't switch between those options once the show is running. Slideshows do not run in normal Windows windows. They can either be full screen, or fill a number of pixels (chosen by you) in the center of the screen. You close the slideshow by pressing the escape key. They can either play once and close, or loop continuously.

The multiple images option isn't allowed for slideshows, but you can produce sheets of thumbnails up (number and size determined by you, which I particularly like) when you are using Irfan as an "Image Explorer".

The program is available in English, German, French, Korean, Dutch, Czech, Spanish, Turkish... and no doubt others are in preparation! Does that give you an idea of the size of the community of users? There is a significant collection of plug-ins.

Because of its many features, Irfan is a program that you might install for just one or two of its capabilities (contact sheets? Batch renaming?) and then come back to again and again, to avail yourself of other things, as you encounter other needs. Go though one bout of installation and initial familiarization pain and enjoy using one program for many jobs. On the other hand, people who aren't comfortable with computers might prefer something that is more "idiot proof", offers fewer choices and decisions.

Today's trivia for you: The package's name comes from the author's first name. (Pronounced "ear-fan"). He was born in Jajce, Bosnia.

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1: (ABS) Able Photo Slide Show

www.graphicregion.com

I liked this application, worth more than they charge. User friendly. Well considered options. Many options. Stylish design in interface.

$20 for personal use after trial period, $30 for business use.

Came as a zip file with a few "Readme"s and a setup.exe. It ran smoothly, and allowed me to put program in a folder of MY choice. No re-boot required.

Good options for photos source. Can be a folder, or from a "playlist", drawing photos from more than one folder. Rotation and transition effects can be set for each photo. (Supposedly, Windows Explorer's right-click menu gains a "play as slideshow" option when you install the program, but I didn't see this on my Win98 testbed.)

Resizing: You elect, separately, to shrink big images and/or stretch small ones.

SBk: Set Background color: You can set two colors, and the background is a gradient between the two you've set. You can also set a background image, which can be tiled stretched or centered. (Like Windows wallpaper.) (Of course, you can specify the same color for each of the background colors, to get a solid color, and any package that allows you to use an image for the background can have a simple gradient for the background... but Able Photo Slideshow makes it so easy to have a nice gradient.

As an example of just how sophisticated this easy to use program is... IF you WANT to, you can have the photo's EXiF datestamp information displayed on the photo, in the place of your choice, in the font (and color, of course!) and size of your choice, in the FORMAT (21st Jan 07? 21/20/2007?, etc) of your choice.... :-)

163 transitions available and you can choose a subset for showing on your menu. Sadly, "random" uses selections from the whole menu, not just your subset of transition effects. HOWEVER: If you want to set up a "show", you can set the transition after each slide to the transition of your choice. And the transitions menu gives instant previews.

There are "sounds" options I didn't explore, including "record" and "sync to slides" options. Allows recording narration?

There is a "panorama" option. When it is turned on, wide photos are displayed filling the height of the screen, and jumping (a smooth scroll would be nicer) across the width of the image in a number of... you guessed it... user-spec'able steps

Changes to files: If you give a picture a description, it is saved in the picture's file... but the program makes this clear. :-)

Offers "navigation: previous slide, next-slide-now, etc.

Can produce web galleries.

The documentation mentioned that the program was capable of "folder monitoring", but I didn't manage to figure out what this was.

The program supports command line parameters, which will cause most gentle readers' eyes to glaze.... but they are wonderful things that we should all be using. They are useful for setting up shortcuts which each do different things. They are useful when using something like the Windows Scheduler to launch a program. The program designers are to be commended for helping to keep this neglected tool alive!

This is just one of many programs produced by the same company, all in the graphics arena. There's a package dedicated to working with RAW files, for instance. There is also a "Lite" version of this program ($10 for personal use, $20 for business.)

The program was written using tools which will allow it to be re-released in other languages. Translations are being developed, and translators are being sought.

You can, interactively, zoom in on parts of an image if you wish to, but there are no "Ken Loach" effects. The zoom feature wasn't quite a clever as that in..... {other}... but it was still useable.

The show can be launched in a "loop continually" mode.

There is considerable thumbnail functionality, including contact sheet printing.

You can convert images between formats, using a "Save As"

Integrated support for TWAIN scanners, wheel mice.

Integrated "send photos as email"

The "project" files are simple text files... opening up the possibility of editing them with tools beyond those integral to Able Photo Slide Show.

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4: (Ama) Amaze

Similar in many ways to Able Photo Slideshow. I would guess that they might have a common ancestor, but both have been developed since then. I think I prefer "Able"... a little slicker, a few more options. Amaze had a "Pile of Photos" option, and a "Memory Wall" option. Both were fun, and neither is in Able. Amaze can play video as well as presenting still images; I don't think Able offers this. I didn't see anything else in Amaze which would draw me to it over Able.... but I didn't spend very long looking at it. If you know of important features it has that Able lacks, do write and tell me!

Amaze functions ONLY as a screensaver driver... you can't save standalone slideshows or savers from it.

While it is capable of being told a "playlist" (they call it a favorites list, and allow you to have more than one), I found the populating of those lists a little tedious... but one might get used to the tools provided. Also, you can simple assemble the photos and videos you want played into a specific folder, using whatever tools you like, and "point" the software at that folder.

I couldn't find a "random" setting for which photos you would see, but I did find "play forward"/"play backwards" options.

Amaze installed something in my system tray, and I feared it would remain until I uninstalled the whole application. Don't worry... you can turn it off... and then it will be gone the next time you boot, unless you choose to turn it back on from Start | Programs. (I think I've got that right... I think the "switch on/ off" is as easy as that. In any case... there IS a way!)

---

While this may ONLY be a program for creating screensavers, I'm sure I've hard good things about it... maybe worth further investigation for some readers. Let me know what you find!

Don't be alarmed if you go to their website from their Tucows entry, as I did, and arrive at a page with nothing about Amaze on it. Click on the "Products" tab (upper right) and you can get to the Amaze page from there.

I was also puzzled at their site as to whether Amaze was available for "try-before-you-buy". It turned out that you CAN download the program and run it. There are "UNREGISTERED VERSION" banners in appropriate places, and your are encouraged to buy it once you've had a chance to evaluate it's features.

Supplied as a self extracting .exe. Allowed user choice of where it installed. (Tested on Win98 machine)

Once installed, in my Programs list, there was an Amaze entry... with 7 things in the list... but I wasn't sure which was the "Make a screensaver" program! Turned out to be the "Configure Amaze" option.

This is a little quirky... but it has some fun ideas which are not present in other programs I've seen. If none of the limitations are serious problems for you, it is worth considering.

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31: (WGW) Web Gallery Wizard Pro

www.tucows.com/preview/404023

Looked promising... but I didn't try it myself... yet!

Shareware: $40 to register.

Win 98/XP. Vista?

7.5MB

This program enables you to create webpages displaying your pictures without knowing HTML or Flash.

I have little doubt that you couldn't create Photo Frame pages with this, and then run them locally... i.e. you don't need to have a website to see the results. Any decent web browser has a full screen mode (Press F11. For a really clean Firefox screen, first go to "View" and turn off toolbars, status bar, etc. Then press F11).

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42: (PiFi) PixFiler

www.PixFiler.com

(aka "BR's PhotoArchiver")

At first, I though this wasn't quite shareware... you buy the program for $40, but they promise you a 30 day money back guarantee.. but on another part of their site I discovered that you CAN try it for 30 days, with full functionality.

This was one of the packages selected for the Computer Shopper Review

This is primarily a program for cataloguing your images. As such it seems from its website to be well thought out, and have lots of features. Contact sheets, etc, appear to be possible. Beyond that, it also seems to have tools for copying, converting, resizing.

The program can produce CD photo albums which can be played on any PC with Windows, via the read-only version of PixFiler which is put on the CD with the photos. (You can distribute such CDs.) Put the CD in any Windows PC, and the pictures will pop up. ixGPS9- ACDSee 9 Photo Manager9- ACDSee 9 Photo Manager.

Handles RAW files. Can access the image's ExIF and IPTC data.

The reviewers at Computer Shopper were not very impressed.

(The nice people at BR also have a $20 program (free trial allowed) for putting GPS info into your photos' ExIT fields from a GPS unit's track log.)


======================

5: (ScP) Screen Paver

www.screenpaver.com

Very reasonable cost! And it would seem that unfair people COULD use it for free indefinitely... but Tucows entry says you don't get to use it for a screensaver until you pay up, whereas the install splash screen says that there are "Please Register" banners"... but then when you run the program, it looks like it is a 30 day trial... not sure as to the REAL situation. Certainly it will run as a trial!

This seems to be a good SCREENSAVER photo display program. You access it via the "Settings" tab.

I didn't see any way to save multiple settings. It was great as screensaver... lots of options available via the ordinary screensaver settings button... but I couldn't find any way to save sets of option selections. Nor was I entirely clear about "playlists"... although you could specify one or more folders as the source of the images to display, and I suspect that by moving sets of images in and out of a dedicated folder, you could, essentially, achieve "playlists". There was also provision to specify different favorites lists, which seems a lot like a "playlist" provision.

Transitions: There is a good selection, and you can set the program to use a subset of the available transitions. The speed of the transitions could be set, one speed for all frames.

Supplied as a zip, with a Setup.exe embedded.

The caption options weren't extensive, but a fixed message could be applied to all screens, and filenames could also be added.

You can ONLY use it as a screensaver.. there is no "slideshow" mode.

There's a good range of options in respect of the resizing of images.

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7: (Cam) "Slideshow" from Camilloferraris

www.camilloferraris.com

The site offers MANY neat, free, little odds and ends.

Tucows hadn't rated this at 8Oct07, but showed it 84% popular.

Running the .exe that downloaded gave you no options, it just "did it's thing"... but it did provide (if you click the "details" button) a report of what it had done, which is says is to put a .scr file (like a special .exe) in your system folder, create an uninstaller, create a folder and put a shortcut in it.

I liked this, but mainly for not trying to do too much. What it did, it did well. It reminded me of the also- good gPhotoshow, which also comes in a free version. (I'm afraid that I can't think of something that the Camilloferraris program does that gPhotoShow doesn't, though... and gPhotoShow, even the free version, does a lot.)

After you have installed the program, you may be puzzled as to how to start it. All you have to do is to go into your usual screensaver manager (right click on desktop, right-click, select "properties") and select "Slideshow". Once you've done that, you can configure it through the "Settings" button. (A pity, I think, that a more distinctive name wasn't chosen. I hope someone else isn't producing something with this generic name.)

That install process (and the website) is a good introduction to SlideShow: It doesn't pretend to LOOK fancy. However, I can commend it as a polished product. A BMW doesn't LOOK fancy, but there's a lot of careful engineering under the hood.

Captions: I put "no" in the worksheet, however, the program can display ONE caption, shared across all the images in the screensaver.

The time each slide is displayed can be altered... but it is the same for every slide, you can't specify slide- by- slide.

I don't think you can specify that the photos be shown in a random order.... but, nice touch, you CAN tell SlideShow to remember where it got to in the sequence when stopped, and re-start with the next photo when it next starts. (I wish my audio CD player did that!) A neat "BMW" touch. Don't underestimate the difficulties overcome by the programmers in order to deliver to you a polished package which "plays nicely" with the system software already on your machine. The "fancier" packages sometimes have ignored what is already there.

If you want something with endless options, you'll have to look elsewhere. If you just want to put some pictures on your screen in a self running slideshow, you could do a lot worse. And it is free, remember!

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6: (PGo) Picture Go!

PictureGo! 5.1

This is worth MUCH more than you have to pay for it!

The worst "bad news"... there are no inter-slide transitions. :-( (There is a mention of a "fade in / fade out" option... but that applies only to your soundtrack)

Win 98 is not listed in the Tucows info, but it does run under 98, I promise you. It is supplied as a self extracting .exe, which allows you to decide what folder to install it in, if you don't like the default.

You can't create a screensaver, or a stand alone .exe, but you can create autostart CD... but this will need a little tech-savvy on your part, and Read The Help File First!!! DO NOT pester the author of the software (which you've had for free) for hand holding!!! (My command, not stated by him anywhere in his documentation!) (The CD option is to create a data CD to play on a PC, by the way, NOT a DVD to play on a DVD player for a TV.)

Show-files-in-folder mode defaults to "Include subfolders". That can be turned off in Options>Options>Include ("Include folders", lower right.)

Has "bundle pictures up to email".. including a "Reduce Size" option.

This program treats "Playlist" as a term reserved for the audio background music. It DOES allow you to set up a "playlist" of images, too.

It is well worth reading the help file's "Getting Started- Quick Reference Guide" to align yourself with the program's underlying philosophy. You also need to realize the program incorporates two parallel "worlds"... one concentrating on browsing your images, and the other concentrating on creating a slideshow. As you can do a slideshow of what you are browsing, it is easy to misunderstand things if you don't pay attention. That's not to say the program is not user friendly, or that it is complicated. Just don't get "lost".

Resizing: It "only" offers intelligent resizing: I.e. "Fill to first dimension hit, maintaining aspect ratio", but it also has a brilliant little touch: a "Maximum enlarge" setting which you can use to keep thumbnails from being ridiculously stretched.

There's an interesting little feature in connection with the "recent slideshows" list... you can edit it, thus it is possible to keep good old ideas, and weed bad or trivial ideas. This is typical of the program... lots of nice touches refining old ideas. I wish my wordprocessor would let me selectively prune the "recent documents" list.

The help file has a few rough edges... but there IS a help file, and it (tries to be) extensive. Hey! When this becomes a You-Have-To-Pay-For-It product, you can complain. Until then, it is worth MUCH more than you pay for it... even WITHOUT a help file!

Captions: Extensive options for this. Up to 5 messages can be displayed over an image, and they can be introduced one after the other according to time delays specified by the user. Sadly, the program cannot harvest information from your images' ExIF data.

"Full screen": In the options window, there is a "Full Screen" tab.. this is to set the options for what you see when program runs in full screen. There's ALSO a "start in full screen" tickbox hidden away on the "My Show" tab, ticked by default.... BUT! Even if you untick it, you can't run the screenshow except as a maximized application... what CHANGES is the presence/absence of the application's menu bar. While devising a show, you can work in the usual Windows display modes.

It has an unusual feature in that it can put multiple images on the screen in something like a slideshow... but I think this is just for browsing a folder along the path of creating a slideshow.

Slightly annoyingly, multi-select is not possible while adding photos to a presentation from an explorer-like list of names. But it isn't terribly difficult to use the program's solution, and a little innovation is healthy. As soon as you hover over the name of a file, you get a preview of the image.

Very user friendly, intuitive interface for showing some photos to a friend, or reviewing a show, or using the photos for a presentation. Probably the best I've seen in doing this comparative review, but because it is a little unusual, the interface may annoy some users as much as it delights others. I especially liked (and found rare) the fact that you can have the show progress at the rate you set up when you designed it (Sadly, the time- per- slide can only be 1, 2, 3, 5 or 10 seconds... and that's a global, one size fits all, setting for each slideshow you create) AND interrupt the "automatic" advancement of the slides, AND revert to automatic when you wish to.

Coming back to the time- per- slide issue: If you set up an audio file for a slide, you can have the slide display for however long the audio file takes to play. The program's handling of the linkage between image files and sound files is interesting, and, in my opinion, a solid, robust, workable design.

The mention of online albums you may come across is only in relation to PictureGo's ability to help you move things to sites like Flickr and Photobucket.

Rather neatly, and a sign of Irfan's significance, PictureGo allows you so jump straight into Irfan, with whatever picture was selected in PictureGo's right hand panel loaded into Irfan. Perfect for editing something. In a similar way, PictureGo's file browser also allows you to define your video playing software of choice, and to launch your video player, but PictureGo won't do anything else with video clips.

While viewing slides, you can pause the show and drag across an area of the slide to zoom in on some feature you want to examine. This was brilliant, and not so well executed in the few other slideshows that even attempted it.

There are a lot of features in this free package; it is well worth a try.

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======================

15: (PSG) ProShowGold

Cost: $70

Tucows download button wouldn't work.

Tucows page didn't indicate download size.

Link from Tucows took me to a bad link, admittedly within the ProShow site.

Category: It would appear that it is fully qualified either as a screensaver/ slideshow creator and as a Flash/"video" creator.

Something else I didn't like: They use the "download and install trial version, and if you like it then pay for and download something different." approach.

Their Tucows entry says...

"Powered by the fastest, highest quality presentation technology available, ProShow Gold brings to life any show. With over 280 transition effects, caption effects, and slide motion, you can create high-quality slide shows with digital images, video, and sounds. Output to DVD, VCD, EXE, Autorun CD, Video, Streaming web show, and screen saver."

It may be a good program... Tucows doesn't give five cow ratings lightly... but I'm unlikely to explore it further.

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======================

16: (gPP) gPhotoShow Pro, and 17: (gPfree) gPhotoShow Free

www.gphotoshow.com

This excellent screensaver or slideshow creator, besides the basics, offers multiple monitor support. Captions can draw information from ExIF data. Can display web pages. Display randomly or in sorted sequence. Can create autostart CD

There is a freeware "little brother" to gPhotoShow Pro. For features see this page of their website, which is a pretty good list of "what should be in a slideshow/ screensaver creator" anyway! This program has a wealth of good ideas not found in many others.

(And remember that the "big brother" is hardly expensive!($20 at 10/07) You can use it for 30 days, after which it continues to run, but with a limited feature set... something like the free version, I would guess.)

Some of the "essentials" (to me!) still in the free version: transitions.

Some of the things NOT in the free version: video support, panorama support, soundtrack support, creation of standalone slideshows/ screensavers.

I tried the free version, and liked it. It reminded me of "SlideShow" from Camilloferraris... Once again, you use the ordinary Windows screensaver control applet to make your settings. (Source folder, transitions speeds, etc.) gPhotoShow goes one better, and adds a shortcut to the control applet from your ordinary Start | Programs menu.)

A neat feature: You can set the screensaver so that ONLY a keypress or mouse click (not merely a mouse move) turns off the screensaver. I often accidentally move a mouse and cancel a screensaver that I was enjoying (or wanted, to "cover" "papers" on my "desk")

Even though I was able to put the software in the folder of my choice, it ALSO added a folder to my Program Files folder. It also put two entries in the Start | All Programs list... one for the screensaver itself, and a second to "Uninstall the toolbar". Another niggle: It supplies ONE demo photo, so if you run the program with the default settings, you don't see the slideshow progressing... it just shows the one photo, and then the screen goes dark. (If you change the "restart at beginning" option, you get the one photo continuously.) No big deal... but confusing. (Just add some more photos to the default folder, or point the software at a different folder.) Hey! Remember what you're paying for this!

The "Resize" options go beyond the ordinary "basic" ones. If you haven't elected for small images to be enlarged to fill the screen, then you can have them always centered, or put on the screen in random locations. The latter is nice... takes away some of the sterility that computers suffer from.

A minor idea for the authors' attention: The range of transitions is great, and it is great to be able to "turn off" selected transitions that are not to an individual user's taste... and the "turn on all" button is nice. Could we also have a "turn off all" button which we can press as a start towards having just a few transitions enabled?

When you install it, you get a new entry in your available screensavers list. You also get a shortcut on your desktop that allows you to launch the program when it suits YOU, if you want to leave your old screensaver in place, but want to have a photoshow from time to time. (You can set up a shortcut to any installed screensaver, but gPhotoShow does it for you.)

This is a great program, and if I wanted the extra features in its "big brother", the chance to see this would help me decide to spend the money... which, after all, isn't very much money!

Along with gPhotoShow Free comes a gPhotoShow toolbar, which installs itself into MS Internet Explorer. It didn't install itself in my Firefox or Opera... and I didn't explore whether that would be possible.

Transitions: There are 30 available, and you can switch all or none or some on, easily.

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18: (PSM) Photo Screensaver Maker

www.screxpert.com

This offers standard Windows screensaver files (.scr files) or self extracting .exe's to set up an .scr file. I don't think it creates stand alone .exe's for simply displaying a slideshow, though of course you can always set up the screensaver and use it in "preview" mode.

The screensaver can be password protected.

Their website invites you to download and try their products for free, but the terms are not evident.

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19: (IM) Image Walker

www.ImageWalker.com

I liked this... I would have liked it at a modest price. As "free for home use" software, it is very likeable.

It does quite a lot, but don't expect every feature to come with endless frills.... but what it does it mostly DOES... there weren't endless annoying crashes, etc. But there were some rough edges. If you want "plain vanilla", look elsewhere. If you're interested in having something with some good ideas, at the price of those rough edges, read on. (Hmmm... P.S.... some time after having written that, and using the advanced version of the program on my poor old Windows 98 machine, and doing some other things along the way, I reached the point where I had to do a re-boot because my Quicklaunch icons were all blank, and my Windows Explorer windows were all weird... no program icons appearing. Not NECESSARILY ImageWalker to blame, but it is high on the suspects list. But let me stress: I think on an XP machine, it would run fine. All was well after an OS restart... and I couldn't recreate the problem. I may just have had too many web-pages open, etc, etc. )

It doesn't fit neatly in either of my broad categories. It allows tagging of images, it will make HTML galleries, but it is also quite capable on the screensaver and slideshow fronts.

I downloaded the setup file (an .exe file), saved to disc, and ran the setup from that copy. It allowed me to put the program in the folder of my choice. On my Win98SE machine, during install, I got the following error message: "Can not run Unicode version of ATL80.DLL on Win95, Win 98, or WinMe. Please install the Ansi version."

I clicked "okay", and the install proceeded and I launched the application. It immediately started scanning C:\MyDocuments,

At first I was considerably confused by what I was looking at... but after just a few minutes it was beginning to make sense. The "quirks" of the program seem well thought out. It is NOT Yet Another Image browser... it does things DIFFERENTLY... but for reasons. It also sports quite a stylish interface, simply in terms of its appearance.

I then tried loading the "older (unsupported!)" version from the website, version 2.2 This installed without complaint, and I found it more immediately accessible.... but I'd certainly use the more advanced version on an XP or higher machine. The two programs co-existed on one machine without problem.

This program seems to work in folders. If you want a slideshow or a web gallery, first put the images for either in a folder of their own.

There are extensive tools for altering images.

It will do screen captures, or acquire images from scanners.

It will do lots of other things, too! This isn't a "perfect" package... but it is very impressive for a free package!

One thing that bothered me, and I couldn't seem to fix: When I created webpages, if an image was too big for its window, I couldn't get the system to do anything about it... but in slideshow mode, all was well... I could have whatever I wanted, easily. Good, though: The created pages use CSS.

Another niggle: On my Win98 machine, using the most advanced version of the program, subordinate folders don't seem to appear when you are trying to navigate your folder structures. This unusual behaviour was totally absent when I was running the older version (2.2).

In the slideshow, you can have a basic fade between images, or no fade. Those are your "transition" options.

Tucows lists this as shareware, at $20. The application's site says it is free for home use!

The Image Walker Tucows entry says...

"With this tool, comprehensive image viewing, organization and editing functions are complemented by integrated Web page creation, batch conversion, printing, slideshow creation, screen capture and screen saver features."

It can index your photo collection, including auto-scan of ExIF data.

At the Image Walker site, you learn that it does a lot... more a general image manager than a slideshow program, but it will "generate HTML web galleries for displaying on your own site." It can show all of the images in a single folder, as an option while the application is running.

Can produce sheets of thumbnails. (As can Irfan (and others)!)

From their website:

"Features:

    * See your images in their full glory: Edit, view and slideshow images
          in full screen mode.
    * Automatically scan metadata information (e.g., size, date taken,
          exposure or aperture) or add your own keywords and descriptions to
          keep track of your photos.
    * Work the way you want: ImageWalker will index images for speed in any
          folder and does not force you to keep images in an enforced folder
          structure.
    * Save time: manipulate and print multiple images at a time using batch
          functions.
    * Preserve photo quality by using Non destructive (lossless) JPEG
          rotation and crop.
    * Upload images to Flickr: preserving description and keyword information
          while registering the images flicker ID in local image metadata.
    * Generate HTML web galleries for displaying images on your web own site.
    * Preview and view RAW image formats with full colour management support
          for ICC and ICM profiles.
    * Runs great on slower computers and Unicode compliant
    * And best of all...its FREE for home use"
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20: (DPSS) Digital Photo Slide Show

www.digitalphotoslideshow.com

This seems to be a suite of packages... which I like. Different applications for different tasks, instead of a monster that tries to be all things to all uses. To quote from their site.... (edited)...

"Looking for photo sharing slideshow software to share your pictures with family and friends? Your photo sharing can be done as a stand alone slide show, screen saver slide show or web slide show on the Internet. The software includes a utility that will help you create a slide show that starts automatically when your CD-ROM is inserted into the computer. You can create a single file installation program that will install your slide show automatically.

"You can create slide shows with over 120 transition effects. Configuration is easy.

"You can create slideshow software of your favorite photos that can be shared with friends. You can distribute your slideshow software royalty free. Digital Photo Slide Show is more than slide show software. It includes a slide show screen saver, wallpaper slide show, CD-ROM slide show producer, software slide show installation producer and an HTML slide show producer that can create a JavaScript slide show of your favorite photos or simply a page of thumbnails that link to the full image.

"Includes:

   1. Control Center
   2. Slide Show
   3. Screen Saver
   4. Wallpaper Slide Show
   5. CD-ROM Autorun Slide Show Producer
   6. Installation Program Producer
   7. Digital Photo Resizer
   8. Web Slide Show"
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21: (ESSC) Easy Slide Show Creator

www.programmingart.com

This seems to use the "two versions" approach: There's a trial program (60 days), and if you like that, you download a different program. Alternatively, you can buy the full program, with a 30 day option of a refund if you don't like it.

It allows you to attach narration to the slideshow, if you wish, with individual photos having individual audio comments or music. Each photo can have its own caption, as well.

There was no mention of transitions on the application's web page.

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22: (SSM) Screensaver Maker, 2D + 3D

www.iwantsoftware.com

At 10 October 2007, there was a special offer: $15.

From the web page, I wasn't entirely sure about what was meant by a 3D screensaver. One of the screenshots showed something that might have involved cubes with photos on them moving around the screen, and a customer comment praised the number of 3D effects that are available.

Until you register, not unreasonably, there are nag messages on your screensavers, and some limits on things like the number of photos which can be in a show.

It appears to offer a full "menu" of options for routine screensaver work, PLUS the 3D element, PLUS you can produce screensavers held as Shockwave Flash files.

It will "package" your work so that you can pass it to others.

You can protect your work with passwords. Users can even view such a file, but with a nag message... so you can release screensavers as shareware.

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23: (PSSD) Power ScreenSaver Builder

www.efiresoft.com

This comes in two versions. At Oct '07: $30 and $40, and you can upgrade for $10 if you buy the "little" one first, and decide later you want the extra features.

An unusual feature in the "big" one that some will value is that you can use it to create screensavers and slideshows which will only run for an evaluation period, after which your customers have to enter a registration code if they want to continue using the screensaver. (The "big" version offers a number of features that will make your distributed shareware screensavers "professional".)

Allows you to create "normal" and flash and movie screensavers.

You can have gradient or image backgrounds on the screen.

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24: (Coff) CoffeeCup Flash Photo Gallery

www.coffeecup.com/photo-gallery/

The focus here is on making image galleries for websites. Users do not need to know HTML or Flash.

With one batch of settings, it produces a result quite like the Windows XP "Flimstrip" view... but remember that CoffeeCup is building web pages to display the images that way.

I hope there's a way to hide the progress bar that shows while images load. (I found it obtrusive... but I suppose you need to have something to reassure the user.)

Within one set of pages, you can have several "albums"... and each has a way to look at the table of contents for the whole set of pages. In one of the online examples, a car dealer's site is simulated. You can choose to look at separate albums of photos for each of 9 types of car.

To quote from their Tucows description...

# Add descriptions to each album to explain what they contain
# Add background music
# Convenient FTP tool to upload your files
# Keeps the aspect ratio of your images so they do not distort
# Edit the design to match the look and feel of your site

Captions: There's mention of the fact you can add descriptions to the ALBUM buttons. Drop down descriptions can be included for each image.

Images are resampled (I hope the amount is under user control) to keep the file sizes reasonable for web delivery.

Steps can be taken to make it hard for viewers to copy your images.

Layout can be vertical or horizontal.

The publisher of this has many web development tools, and a bunch of free tools... see Coffee Cup Free Stuff Their site is stylish and what is there is easy to find. It tends towards the "awesome and easy to use" school, without giving specifics, for instance whether you can put captions on the pages. (I would imagine you can... but it would be nice to know.) If it can extract ExIF data, it is a shame that the fact isn't mentioned.

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25: (MyS) My SlideShow

www.anixsoft.co

To quote from their Tucows page...

"Groups of images with corresponding sound files can be viewed sequentially on your monitor. You can view your photos as a filmstrip or as thumbnails.

"Several slideshows can be combined into an album. The program allows you to add captions and background music, and set transition effects. When you are satisfied with the structure, you can create a stand-alone executable slideshow or an MPEG video file; then create an auto-run PC CD or Video CD using your burning software."

(I presume that you can also write to DVDs from that description.... I'm not very knowledgeable on the intricacies of DVD players and formats... just enough to know that the whole thing is a headache, and things that "should" work sometimes don't.)

The product now has a plug in which allows it to create Flash based web albums.

It can extract information from your photos' ExIF and IPTC data.

Captioning at individual image level is available, as is the attaching of audio, so, for instance, you can add a narration synchronized to the slides.

An unusual feature in this that some will value is that you can use it to create slideshows which will only run for an evaluation period, after which your customers have to enter a registration code if they want to continue using the screensaver. (This is a feature of the "big" version only.)

From their website:

"Registered users can distribute MySlideShow presentations (slide shows, albums, web galleries or video files) for free. No royalty fee is required. The Business License is required if you want to create and distribute MySlideShow presentations for commercial purposes."

Also...

"Shows slides as thumbnails, which makes it easier to change their sequence or sort them."

And...

"Allows you to allocate slides in your own transition points on the timeline of the background playlist using the Timeline Editor (only in Gold version)."

And...

"Supports Motion (Pan and Zoom) Effects for output video files (only in Gold version)."

And...

"# Creates output slide shows as video files and burns video CDs and DVDs.

# Generates HTML pages with thumbnails (web galleries) for publishing on the web."

MySlideShow Gold $34/$39 (personal/business) MySlideShow (Std) $24/$29 (personal/business)

I've only read the website for this product, but it impressed me. It looks like this might be a very polished product, with a sensible collection of well developed features.

The people who produced MySlideShow ALSO offer "PicViewer" (an image browser with various tools, including slideshow and full screen.) AND they offer MyWebGallery, which produces HTML pages with thumbnails and full sized images... a bit like a web based XP style "filmstrip" viewer. Captions possible.

Both products... PicViewer and MyWebGallery... probably deserve full reviews here, and their own lines in the table. I'll try to come back to them. I couldn't find a price for PicView... maybe it's free?! :-) MyWebGallery costs $25/$35 for personal/business. Both can be downloaded, tried, before you have to cough up cash. Although the Tucows listing shows MySlideShow as shareware, the "trial period" entry was blank, I could find nothing on the package's website (unlike the others) suggesting you could try it before buying, and I saw no mention of any "money back if you aren't delighted" terms.

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26: (MM) 1-More MiniShow

www.1-moreminishow.com

This free program compresses all of the images to 320x240 pixels, which is great for emailing, but excluded it from a more comprehensive investigation for this review.

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44: (FEI) Fookes Easy Imager

http://www.fookes.com/ezimager/

This has lots of tools for managing images, including batch processing tools for renaming, resizing, and the like.

It can produce web galleries, and has a feature that makes images scale to the user's browser window.

See also the write up about Album Express for some information on Fookes Software, the company behind both packages. Return to list of reviewed applications
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27: (AEF) Album Express from Fookes Software

http://www.fookes.com/album/index.php

I haven't characterized this as falling into one of my categories because it isn't typical of any of them, and has elements of all of them.

Besides producing albums, this can create a searchable database of the text associated with the images in each album. This could be especially useful in some kind of reference manual, for example photos of different sorts of birds.

In respect of layout, there's considerable scope for your creativity, but if you want an album that looks like a traditional, off computer, album, that is one of the possibilities.

It doesn't do screensavers, but will generate albums and web galleries, i.e. pages similar to the Windows XP "filmstrip" view, with thumbnails across bottom or along side.

It also creates what its website calls a slideshow, but, while the term is certainly valid, it is used differently there than I have used it elsewhere in this review. An Album Express slideshow is a page (or more?) of HTML which periodically, without user intervention, changes what is on the screen.

The website tells us "If you're a computer novice, you'll love this program's ease of use." and "{It} is also the ideal tool for power users."

The website is customer friendly, laid out with a consistent style, and programs can be downloaded as exe or zip packages, and, in addition to the help files in them, there's a .pdf version of the manual which you can download separately.

Unfortunately, it was somewhat wide of what I was looking for, so I haven't investigated further at this time.

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8: (DBS) DigiBookShelf

www.digibook.com

Free.. but....

The terms of use say you may install the software on one and only one PC, and not share it between machines.

Also: Requires online registration to gain access to all features.

Tested on a Win98 machine, which the Tucows entry doesn't list as a supported OS, but the Digibook website does list Win98SE. Asked me to upgrade a newer version of Windows media player. I didn't... but then I didn't try to exercise the video and audio features.

The installer ran well, allowing me to put the application in the folder of my choice.

While I like any free application, this one's web-page description so reminded me of the also- free Picasa... from a MUCH bigger organisation (Google)... that although I gave it a try, I'd be inclined to go with Picasa if I wanted this sort of program.

I explored it a little bit.. and was impressed... * IF ** you want something that simulates on the PC an old fashioned "album" with pages, etc, it might be what you want. I suspect you could tweak settings to get more of a "slideshow" experience. It did seem to have extensive features, and to be quite user friendly... all of which are also true of Picasa.

I had trouble with the download links from www.digibook.com, where they declare that they do not offer support. (Fair enough for a free package!).

It downloaded okay from http://tucows.com/preview/340570, weird filename: D110TRENG.EXE, but ran okay!

It offers direct import of images from digital cameras... but perhaps only those that attach to the PC as an external storage device.... which some high end Canons do not. For all, and for the "awkward ones", you can simply put the memory card in a reader that makes the card contents available to the filesystem.

It has integrated support for TWAIN scanners.

vvvv Copy out to general preface (start)

There's provision to "relocate data". This worries me. Picasa has similar issues. Be sure to master the difference, in Picasa- speak, between "folders" and "albums". In some photo display software, and I suspect this is one of them, you need to realize that sometimes you are talking about a file containing all of a photo's basic information, i.e. a file that you could copy elsewhere with generic Windows file manipulation software.... and sometimes, icons, etc, on the screen about an image represent only the equivalent of a shortcut... a reference to the full file, held somewhere else.

Continuing with the above issue: The "shortcuts" idea is fine in some circumstances... suppose you want the same photo to be in several albums. It is a pity to have 3 meg or so duplicated in different places on your hard drive. However, what happens if you "copy" an album to a CD (for backup, say, or to send to a friend), only to discover that you have only copied the shortcuts. If your system crashes... no images. When your friend looks at the CD... no images. Be careful!

STILL continuing... Similar issues arise when your software offers to "do things" to images... i.e. rotate, crop, change brightness, etc. Are you making edits to the underlying file? If so, what happens if you get something wrong, want to go back to the pre-edit state. Or re-use the original photo in a different way, elsewhere, elsewhen. Be careful about losing your ExIF data. Picasa is really clever (too clever?) in its approach to these problems....

My basic rule: Outside of everything except Windows' built- in file handling operations I keep "negative" copies of all my images. Typically I have a copy on my hard drive, and a copy on a CD. For photo display packages, etc, I always work with "print" copies of the "negative" copies. I obsess about the "negatives", and keeping tabs of them and keeping them backed up. That allows me to be a little relaxed about the other copies. Using my camera's "Do not start numbering sequence at 1 with each new memory card" option is a big help, although I still have to be careful to distinguish "Photo 316" taken with my Eos from "Photo 316" taken with my Powershot... and of course the day will come when a momentary mistake with changing the system data battery (separate from the camera operations battery) will send the counter back to zero. Computers... bah.

^^^^ Copy out to general preface (end)

You can password protect albums. You can put bookmarks in albums, assign text.. possibly to individual photos. There's a "search" function. The application makes a creditable attempt to create a "virtual bookshelf" on your screen, to hold your "albums".

The only "Help" feature I could find was a link to an online site, which I didn't explore.

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11: (PRV) PhotosReViewer

www.digicamsoft.com

Free!

Category: This is a very capable "explorer" replacement, with extensive album creation features. It supports a range of image tagging features. It would appear that it can create slideshows and movies, although I haven't investigated exactly how they are using those terms. It will let you email a selection of images. I would guess that its primary strengths are in file management, indexing and photo manipulation, with "show" creation competent but not very fancy.

If you have broadband, have a look at their Flash demo to get a taste of what working with the application is like.

Unless I miss my guess, this is similar to Picasa, which I would try first, if that's the sort of thing you want, because Picasa comes from an 800 pound gorilla, will have a large community of users, and years of support. All of which is a pity, unless PhotosReViewer was the basis of Picasa, because it looks like a great product into which a lot of work has gone.

Both PhotosReViewer, if I don't miss my guess, and Picasa let you have your cake and eat it to... up to a point, and at a price you may or may not find acceptable. It's like this....

Photo presentation application writers have to satisfy users' wishes on two fronts. The users want to be able to "do things" (e.g. crop) to photos, AND they want their "originals" to still be available later... for re- editing, other uses, etc.

What Picasa and PhotosReViewer SEEM (I stress that I don't KNOW this) to do is....

a) Maintain a copy of your original someplace, unchanged (good, in my view... but I can do it by hand for myself!)

b) Build albums which, when they come to display a picture, following a script which the application maintains, blend the original with "things" you have requested, e.g. a crop.

This is all well and good... but comes at the price of complexity. And we all know what happens when there's an extra way for something to go wrong.

Now, if you like (or need) that sort of thing, it CAN work. Just be particularly careful about one thing: When you have made an album with, say, "Photo316", the picture of your best ever sunset, if you want to show that album in the future, you must be sure that Photo316 remains available to the display program.

vvv quotes from the PhotosReViewer website... whose style I really like, hence the fact I didn't feel I needed to re-write what they posted. (I have snipped it a bit)....

# Nondestructive image processing,
# Apply effects on read only source like CDROM,
# Tag pictures with keywords,
# Create slideshows,
# Create Web photos gallery,
# Resize photos,
# Crop part of an image with constraints

# Runs on Windows 95/98/2000/XP (.net not required),
# Lightweight (less than 1 megabyte),
# Drag'n drop thumbnails,
# Adjust thumbnails' size,
# Easy to use assistants (wizards) to convert photos,
# Select, Cut, Copy, Paste thumbnails,
# Rotate, Flip, Crop,
# Sharpen, Blur, Brighten, Contrast,
# Grayscale, Emboss,
# Integrated FTP uploader,
# Integrated WEB server (broadcast from your home PC),
# Integrated file browser (load sub-folders),
# Multiple instances interoperable,
# Fast start up,
# Pleasant user interface (Aqua look'n feel),
# Cost zero!

^^^ End quotes from http://www.digicamsoft.com/softreviewer.html

I haven't tried this one yet... but I am seriously tempted!

Note the file size: Less than a megabyte. Unless they are promising FAR more than they deliver, this is a nice example of the fact that our "modern" software is desperately obese. While hard drives are now vast, a bloated application may be indicative of sloppy programming.

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13: and 46: (EPCd / EPCp) Express Photo Collage Lite and Full

(The abbreviated name derive from "free" and "pro")

www.expresspartners.com

I'm annoyed with myself for misunderstanding this application the first time I looked at it. Don't be fooled by the name. This is not just for creating single image collages. I should have, and plan to, give it a try. But for now, here's a slightly edited version of what the Tucows description says about it....

"Beginners may use the wizard or features in the project pane, both featuring pre-designed templates. For more advanced users, almost every detail of their project can be customized, from the placement and size of images, to the canvas background size and color, to the sounds and navigation links which may be associated with any image.

"When complete, a Collage presentation is easy to share. Publish the file as a stand-alone presentation; no Collage software is required to view it.

"The eXPress Collage Lite download includes pre-designed templates, Help Topics, a tutorial and a demo."

I'm not sure which features of the full package are absent from the lite version. Their site offers large demo and tutorial downloads, if you want to explore the products either of those ways. Their website does tell us that the Lite version is fully functional with no expiration date. (It isn't on the products page, but is at the top of the downloads page.)

This is one of the products which entails downloading, installing something different if you want to upgrade from the free demo version (Express Photo Collage Lite) to the full version ($40 Express Photo Collage 4.0)

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12: (YOS) Your Own Screensaver

(http://www.yoico.com/indexyoss.html)

Pictures can be from anywhere, not just a single folder.

I haven't tried this yet. Their website seems pretty clear on what the application does:

You specify the images you want used.

You specify the interval to show each image.

... and the screensaver does what you've asked for.

Nothing fancy, very little to go wrong. Maybe just what you need!

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10: (PSoSh) Picture and Sound Show

www.joeltechnologies.com

Even though free and only 0.4Meg, it seems to be quite capable...

When I wrote what follows, I'd been working on these reviews for a number of days now, and it was beginning to take a lot to spark my interest, but the advertising for this DID spark my interest.

vvv Copied (and edited) from their website...

The Picture and Sound Show is a 32-bit screen saver for Windows that enables you to create your own slide shows from pictures and sounds on your computer. Each slide show has many customisation options that control picture and sound order, picture position, transition effects, picture captions, and background patterns.

There is no limit to the number of different slide shows that can be created, and the screen saver can automatically switch between slide shows at fixed intervals, or when the current slide show has been used a certain number of times.

The Picture and Sound Show can also create customized screen savers for you to either use on your computer, or send to family or friends.

^^ end of copied and edited

The author also provides a separate application that lets you examine or tweak the scripts that run the slideshows... useful for discovering what images are being used.

(Under Windows 98) The program installs directly to your C:\Windows\System.. you have no choice. You then access it via the desktop properties, i.e. the integral Windows screensaver management system.

This has, like {other one} the very welcome chance to select what will end the screensaver... any or all of the following...

Mouse movement, mouse button press, keyboard keypress or program activation (presumably activated with the Windows scheduler or across a network?)

For the background, you can have all the options of the Windows desktop.

Picture change can be "every x seconds" or "at random intervals between x and y seconds" or "synchronized with the next sound change" (useful if you've recorded captions for the images), or you can control transitions manually, with various options available for how you say "next", "previous", "go to start"... but you can't have both. A screensaver has to be put on manual control or on one of the other, you can't, say, have it proceed randomly until you press a key.... but building a manually advanced "screensaver" essentially, if not exactly, gives you a slideshow option. (You can't show it in less than fullscreen mode. Etc.)

Copying the images into the screensaver file is optional. Skip it for small files, include it for things you'll send to others, or if you may move the source image files off the machine. The point is: You can have whatever you want. You choose.

The file can be password protected... I THINK this is the script file behind the screensaver.

I spent some time exploring this program... it has a great feature set. Let me ask you: If you sat down on a tricycle, how long before you mastered it? Compared to mastering a jet fighter, if you got to sit in it? My point is that while not everything worked exactly as I expected on the first try, and I had to draw on some of my knowledge of the inner workings of Windows... but this screensaver creator has some great features.

One the machine you have the full application set up, you can have multiple albums, and switch between them programmatically, or by hand when you're ready for a change. All this without creating separate screensavers. You can ALSO create stand alone screensavers from any of your "albums".

Two little mysteries not yet solved:

Some images I tried to use didn't work well.. they seemed just to display black screens. I'm not sure what was "wrong" with them, or the way I incorporated them... but from the rest of my experiences with the application, I doubt it was a fault with the program. I didn't look into the problem very far... it may have been the size of the files... under 100k worked; at least some of the ones that didn't were more than 100k.

I didn't see a way to remove unwanted screensavers apart from finding and deleting their .pss and .scr files. Not beginner friendly... but not impossible. Be sure to use good names for your screensavers, to make things easy to find. Another little niggle: the .scr file was given a date of 7/7/03.

Formats: I certainly put jpegs into screensavers, and at least a .bmp. I'm not sure what other formats are allowed.

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30: (PP) Picture Player

www.picture-player.com

Create CD slideshows and HTML pages with photos.

Comes with integrated image browser with sundry tools.

Have a close look at the licenses page of their website if you want to use the program for anything other than personal use. Personal use is restricted to use on one computer by one person.

This seems to be a good package. I would have investigated further, but I think that one of the free, or lower cost, packages will suit my needs.

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31: (WGW) Web Gallery Wizard Pro

www.webgallerywizard.com

Their website stresses that the wizard will do the work for you. This is very user friendly, but it sometimes restricts exercising creative control in a project difficult.

Integrated FTP uploading tool.

Slideshow mode exists.

There was lots of marketing hyperbole on their website ("Our software generates the best-looking Web galleries, period").. but I didn't get a great deal of insight into what using the application would be like, and had to infer information about features.

This seemed to be a good package. I would have investigated further, but I think that one of the free, or lower cost, packages will suit my needs. And also, I noticed, wondered about a comment about something being available in the "pro" version. That opened my eyes to the "starting at" before the $35... and when I clicked on the "buy" link, I was presented with a page that said Web Gallery Wizard and the Pro version of the same have been replaced by "Shozam", "starting at" $25, and I was invited to start my research again at another site. Well. Sorry.

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32: (SMPE) StillMotion Personal Edition PLUS

www.imagematics.com

(Note the "Plus" part... you may wonder if it is there if you visit the application's website. If you don't want to publish to standalone video, i.e. to create discs for "domestic" DVD players, you might prefer the "plain" StillMotion Personal Edition, "PE" vs "PE+". (And PE+ may be aka (Purchase Page) PE-II) And then there are the WD versions! (See the products' website's FAQs!) (WD certainly can produce screensavers... I'm not sure that PE can.) The Purchase Page gives concise features comparisons and prices. Happily, you can start "small" and upgrade. Confused by the editions? Yes... so was I... but i like to see a product that is growing. The website and marketing will catch up!

www.imagematics.com

(Before I go into the details of StillMotion, I'd like to mention that ImageMatics also do a fancier product ("StillMotion CREATOR", on offer at $60 in Oct 07) which lets you make "movies" from stills... you've seen the effect on TV in documentaries about historical events. The "camera" moves around different parts of a still image, creating a more interesting image. "Simulates all the functionality of a camera animation stand."... but these features may now be in other products/ versions, too.)

Although the website frequently speaks of the packages producing "slideshows", I came to wonder if they mean the same thing I do by that term. I'm not sure that the packages produce something that a user can step through with "buttons" saying "next slide" or "previous slide", etc. I began to wonder if the program only produces "videos" which play back a recording of a set of images.

The following comes from their Tucows listing. At the time I started this text, I hadn't seen many other Tucows descriptions which were as informative. Happily, as the project wore on, I found that such descriptions aren't rare, but I'll leave my original comment: Why can't all promotions be as clear and informative?

"This is a tool for creating multimedia slideshows and dynamic content from digital images.

"You can create animated photo albums and presentations for viewing, publishing and sharing.

"Insert a slide, group of slides or entire folder, and in a single click you can have a complete slideshow with transitions in SWF, video, Web page, screen saver, auto-play CD-ROM or EXE format. Players with VCR controls are automatically added to CD and auto-play shows.

"Complete control over slide duration and transition speeds is provided. The program includes extensive multi-track sound capabilities with automatic narration timing, playlist management, and blend and fade controls. Other features include selection of transition effects, full screen or user defined modes, pan and zoom, framing, matting, background selection, panorama management and image editing. A visually oriented drag-and-drop slide sorter lets you manage and compose shows. Styles and templates can be created, saved and applied to new shows. You have access to all Flash and video properties at the beginner and expert level.

"Note: A special offer to Tucows downloaders offers PE+ at $35 (50%) off the regular price." There's a little ($5) confusion on that page, it would seem to me, as in another corner of that screen it says, in effect, "normally $70, but yours for only $40, save $35"... umm I make that saving $30? Ah, the "joys" of trying to provide a product to the public!

(end quote from Tucows.)

From their website... more nice clear, informative text:

With PE and PE+ a you can create:

    * Slide Show on your PC
    * Web page
    * Flash (SWF) file
    * Auto play CD
    * Auto run .exe
    * Screen saver
    * Video for DVD and VCD with PE+



Features include:

    * Multi-tracked synchronized sound
    * Transitions and effects
    * Pan and Zoom
    * Titles and text
    * Visual interface
    * ..and much more

Our PE+ product adds video output to create DVD and VCDs."

Tucows lists the software as shareware... and it does seem to be shareware... it's pages are just not as clear that you may try before you buy than is typical. There is mention of watermarks on slideshows produced by unregistered users.

On their features comparison table don't make the mistake I did. An "X" means, I think, that a feature is PRESENT, not that it is lacking. Some of the features present in other packages in this review are present in more advanced solutions from Imagematics, and at not- stratospheric prices... but in the table, I've listed what there Personal Edition PLUS can do. Also remember the "WD" program (aka "Pro"?), which you might consider a "super" PE. The features table doesn't (yet?) show the WD features, but you can study them at the Purchase Page

I believe that this is one of the applications which CAN produce a DVD of photos for playing in an ordinary DVD player. It the feature is important to you, double check.

Note that it can do the fun "pan and zoom", which isn't a common feature. Note also that it can pan panoramas, which is a nice effect.

Creating shows to play on a standalone DVD player may require some technical competence on your part. There is help on the website, and it may "just work". And I suspect that some of the packages which claim to "just work" may not work seamlessly on every system. All of this is because of the nature of DVD production, not because I doubt the quality of this package. At least one other package is forthright about the complexities entailed.

The product's website is full of technical detail that some users will appreciate. Having said that, it also seems capable of serving those people who "just want to use it".

This seems to be a good package. I would have investigated further, but I think that one of the free, or lower cost, packages will suit my needs.

As a shareware vendor myself, I can sympathise with the creators' concerns for their revenue stream. However, things said on their site worry me slightly. If I invest money and time in mastering this product, and in a few years time am looking at moving to a third computer, it would seem that if ImageMatics is no longer around, that I will be stuck. The license allows me to install the program on two machines, but reinstalls or migrations appear to be blocked.

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33: (Mak) Makaha

www.brandyware.com

Tucows (Oct 07) is citing a price of $50, but at the package's site, we're told that it is now (Oct 07) $20.

I couldn't resist a "bargain" like that... and if you enjoy puzzles, you might want to "fall" for it too. It SEEMS to be able to do lots of things... but the interface confused me quite thoroughly. The package is a bit dated. In the end, the "petty" annoyances of the dated elements, and the bits I couldn't figure out wore me out. I couldn't see any features which were important to me to make me want to put up with the problems I was having. (It didn't have an "uninstall" menu entry. My Win98 control panel's "add/ remove" SAID it removed all... but didn't. There were scraps to clean up by hand.)

To quote the useful Tucows descriptions (edited)...

"This graphic video viewer can view the most popular graphic formats; creates thumbnails; has a 100-option slideshow with videos and MP3 music; creates GIF animations of any size; converts to over 40 formats; and lets you view videos, graphics, and listen to music all at once."

And to quote from their site...

"With Makaha, you get a graphic viewer, editor, graphic compressor, GIF and AVI animation creator, video viewer, slide show, thumbnail viewer , graphic converter, all in one professional package.

"Also can do clickable maps for web sites, or thumb nailed web pages. OR scan and e-mail your photos to friends, and add special effects using plugins or filters. Also Batch rename, convert, resize, thumbnail, copy, move and erase files."

Buy Makaha, and you can have EZV Video Capture free with it. I tried EZV, too.. and had better luck with it. Of course, it wasn't trying to do as much as Makaha. (But I don't need it... I have other tools which can do the job.)

"Take the best frames from your videos, and turn them into treasured photographs.

"EZV Video Capture. Just load the video, and capture any frame to a 24 bit graphic.

"Videos supported : MPEG-MPG-MPA, MOV, WMV, AVI, DivX. Capture frames to files or print captured frames. "

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34: (IAD) InAlbum Deluxe

www.inalbum.com

Their Tucows listing says...

"Use this software to turn your digital photos into a slideshow for TV, PC and Web sites.

"It includes customizable templates that let you mix and match background animations, buttons, photo frames and transition effects. You can decorate your work with animated clip art, speech bubbles, sounds, MP3 music and your own voice. You can create video CDs that play on TVs using a standard VCD or DVD player. You can share your work via e-mail and host your shows online for free."

The website mentions that all trial versions are fully functional. I didn't find detailed confirmation that the product comes as typical shareware, but I suspect that it is, from the Tucows listing.

It says "You can also build screen savers, make self-contained executable slideshows and make autorun CDs." I didn't see anything to reassure me that those slideshows and screensavers were more than the "video" packaged to be triggered differently.

Their website is also full of "links" that don't take you anywhere but to the page you are already looking at. It may be that in some cases the "link" was used just to get emphasis for a word, but "Click here to see some examples" should take you to a new page, don't you think?"

The company that sells the package also offers free online hosting of albums. Always with such offers check that you do not give the hosting organization copyright waivers or licenses you don't want to give. Some of the free services fund themselves by selling your pictures. (Flickr doesn't, but it doesn't allow you albums with transitions, etc, the way some of the packages in this review do.)

This seems to be a good package. I would have investigated further, but I think that one of the free, or lower cost, packages will suit my needs.

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35: (PDM) Photo DVD Maker

www.anvsoft.com

Their Tucows listing (edited) says...

"Helps you create photo albums on DVD disc playable on TV, website, mobile devices such as Apple iPod, Sony PSP, cellular phone."

"Creates photo slide shows with background music, Pan&Zoom and transition effects. Photo DVD Maker supports DVD, SVCD and VCD 2.0, MPEG, MPEG-4, FLV (Flash for Video) as the output format, Pan & Zoom, anti-flickering filter, supports adding background music directly from music CD and adding text Macro such as photo album name, photo file name, date, etc. It supports sub-title and art clips for each photo slide. It also supports voice recording, annotation, audio music trimming and timeline control for easier audio/photo synchronization."

Note the pan and zoom... not something you find in many packages, and could be a lot of fun, if you have the dedication to you art to use it well.

In any research you do on the following issue, be sure to keep your eye on the VERTICAL dimension of the image. (I've left horizontal data out of the what follows.) The web site speaks of "High Resolution for TV", and then goes on to define that as 576 pixels high which... while good... not, I think, to be confused with what HDTV, "High Definition TV", means in 2007 in the UK. However, UK readers need to be aware that ordinary US TV displays consist of only 486 lines (vertically) vs the 576 normal on UK (and other PAL) screens, so 576 is a significant improvement for a US viewer. (The 525/625 figures you might have expected include "lines" that don't get included in the visible image. (These technical details from Wikipedia, thank you.) Quite a bit of further research only left me more confused! One of the biggest suppliers of HDTV programmes in the UK has a web site which is remarkably lacking in technical specs, preferring to show us side by side "comparisons" in which there's a huge difference in the contrast and saturation of the images, besides the different resolutions. Maybe their target customer is dumb enough not to see that the company thinks they're stupid. Anyway! Back to the HDTV issue... from what I found, I GUESS that HDTV can mean either 720 or 1080 pixels (lines) high. (Apparently some broadcasts will use one, some the other.) Of course you need a TV with that much resolution to benefit from the data.

Note that when you select the "as high as 704x576" mode that any transitions you have specified do not appear.

Incorporates integral DVD menu authoring and CD/DVD burning, and the web-site is quite honest: You can change the font, text and background images of menus, using the provided templates, but more extensive editing, while it can be done "requires patience". They are working on making this aspect of the program more powerful.

The trial version is fully functional except that you can only put 35 images in a presentation. This is one of the packages that require you to endure the nuisance and risks of installing a different version when you register.

This seems to be a good package. I would have investigated further, but I wasn't looking for something to create DVDs, and I think that one of the free, or lower cost, packages will suit my needs.

The company offers a range of products, which is something which encourages me to try a product.

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36: (MoTV) Memories on TV

www.codejam.com

(They also produce the free MemoriesOnWeb, which has its own write up, reference number 37)

In a moment, I'll give you edited text from their Tucows description. Before I do, a note on terms. What they are calling a "slideshow", I prefer to call a "show", as this is one of the packages that produce a "like a video" presentations. It does not let you step though a slide at a time, like a virtual slide projector.

"This tool lets you create slideshows with transition effects and music on VCDs, SVCDs and DVDs.

"You can watch your created discs on standard DVD or VCD players, or on computers using separate DVD or VCD player software.

"CD and DVD burning are integrated, and the program's framework allows new transition effects and menu templates to be installed later. "

When you are assembling a presentation, you will be working with shortcuts to images/ video clips. An Explorer- like tree will show the "folders" you have set up. You might, for instance, have a mega project with several of your holidays in it. So you would create, say, a folder for "Italy 05" and other for "Spain 06". Within each, you can have sub folders, e.g. "Florence", "Rome", "People". If you organise the material thus, when you create a DVD, you will find a menu set up for you (you can tweak it, yes) with main entries for the countries, and sub- links for the sub- folders. This will "only" work to the depth described in my example. You can move around through the DVD with your player's remote; the menus are perfectly "normal" DVD menus.

You can archive the whole project- timeline, transitions, constituent files- with a simple menu item. You can save the project minus the constituent files, too, if you're sure you can find them again later should the need arise.

In the Pro version you can store your original pictures together with the "video show" on the same disc. I.e. you can distribute, say, jpegs of your images alongside the "show". This is a feature that I would have much appreciated when a friend gave me a "video slideshow" with some images that I wanted to work with. Inside the "video slideshow" they were pretty inaccessible except as part of the "show". Shows have their place... as do discrete image files! Memories On TV addresses both needs. Yes: the disc would play differently in a PC and in a "home movie" DVD player... the former would allow access either to the "video slideshow", as a video, AND the discrete images. The latter would be "blind" to the discrete images on a "basic" player. And no, you don't have to give away the jpegs with the show.

From their website (which was elegant, professional)...

"Our Ken Burns-styled panning and zooming effects have been refined over the years since we first introduced it to the consumer slideshow market."

Also derived their website, EDITED... The "*"'d items are present in the "Pro" version only. ($80 at 10/07, vs $50 for the Home version)

"Choose your output: DVD, Web*, AVI* or MPG

"You can burn your slideshow onto a video disc (VCD, SVCD or DVD) for play back on ordinary DVD players. The slideshow can be enjoyed on a big screen in the comfort of the living room.

"Share your slideshow online via Web Export*. The web slideshows are created in Flash format, which is playable out of the box on most web browsers (PCs & Linux & Macs), without having to install plug-ins.

"You can also generate standalone video files of your slideshow in AVI* or MPG format. These are playable on any computer with the appropriate codec. (Yes: PCs & Linux & Macs again)"

The website's features page is superb... If you have a question about what this package can do, go there for a clear answer.

The "multiple images on a single page" feature is one of the "Pro" extras.

The "Pro" version allows you to add subtitles to the presentation which can be turned on or off at will during playback. Good when an audience may include hearing impaired people, or for having an easy, and hideable, way to see what the filename is for a particular image.

Can burn for PAL or NTSC.

You can install language packs, which I presume change all of the text seen while using the program to create a show. (Your captions can be in any language, of course.) Eight languages are listed in a section I suspect is for what I just explained. The help file is available in English, Spanish, Italian and French. (The 8 include those, plus Dutch, German, Hungarian, Brazilian Portuguese and Russian.) I go into all that detail to stress again that this is a well polished package.

There are generous trial terms, which convinced me to try it in spite to the price to buy: Download the program. There's something in the website saying that during installation, you choose "Home" or "Pro" during the installation. I don't remember answering that question, and I have the "Pro" version on trial. (The same download is used to install either). There is no time limit to the fully functional demo.... but the shows created with it will bear a watermark advertising the product. A pretty sensible scheme, if you ask me. After I've put a couple of hours into producing some slideshows, am I going to "change horses", and go through all the installing and learning associated with a different package? And the "no time limit" makes sense... I can continue "investing" (my time) into the package for as long as it takes to save up to buy it. And it demonstrates the company's faith in their product. They don't NEED to impose major limitations, because they think that the package will speak for itself.

You can....

-Start with the free trail, installed in the "Pro" version.

-Then buy the license to take away the watermark... if you buy the less expensive "Home" version, you will lose some features.

-Then, if you want more, just pay a mere $5 extra (transaction fee- fair enough) over the difference between the prices of the two packages, select "Help -> Upgrade to PRO" from the MemoriesOnTV HOME edition menu. Key in your new serial number and you're done. All your previous work setting up shows will still be there, ready for re-exporting, but now without the watermark!

Ironically, I came to review this package very nearly at the end of my project to create a comparative review of what's available. Maybe that's lucky, as a) I could appreciate it's strength, and b) I didn't have the chance of saying "I don't need to look at the others; this is what I want."!

This seems to be a very good package. The producers of MemoriesOnTV are also to be commended (and maybe even $upported!) for GIVING us (free) "MemoriesOnWeb", which I've also written up (Ref. number 37). Give that a try, if you are wanting to send shows to YouTube (easy) or other video hosts (may be possible, with a bit more work). You'll get a taste of the quality of the team behind the bigger, not free, package. Project files written for one of the programs is accepted by the other.

---

Further notes arising from using the program....

It is dedicated to producing DVD-type shows... BUT! You can preview the show.

The provision for adding captions to slides is superb... You can drag the caption to exactly where you want it. (One suggestion for the programmers' "to do" list: It would be nice if the listbox of fonts gave a preview of the font, as OpenOffice does, rather than just the font's name. "Oliver"? Moi?)

Still regarding captions- you can have many lines of text assigned to a given slide. They can pop up (or fade on, or arrive via any of about 20 transition effects) at any time, any place you select. They can disappear similarly. You can preview the captions for a single slide until you have them just right. The captions can include the image's filename, file date (the date the file was last written to the medium it is on, regrettably, not the date taken embedded in the file's ExIF field), information from the file's ExIF "Description" field. (I couldn't see a way to access ExIF data at all. Neither could I find a way to superimpose multi-line frames on the images. This is probably because such blocks of text would not integrate properly with all of the excellent transition effects.... or maybe I just missed how to do it!)

There are tick boxes to select NTSC vs PAL video. There may not be a PAL option in all DVD authoring packages... if that is important to you, look for it.

The program addresses the issue of the "TV safe" part of the screen... a good thing to worry about.

There's a good "timeline view" which I think would be near essential when doing the final edit of a project. Not that by the nature of this program's objectives, you cannot have the photos pop up in a random sequence. There is a button you can press to "randomize slides" But that merely shuffles them in your DVD editor... the disc burned will always show the slices in the same "random" order.

You can preview your project, and when the preview is active, you can drag the thumb tab on the progress bar to "jump" around, forwards and backwards. Really nice for double checking a segment of the show without having to sit through the whole thing.

The general design of the overall "work bench" is excellent. Clear, usable, responsive.

A detail... but could be important to some... the DVD show you create can be set up so that it loops indefinitely. If set up that way, you do not have to restart it each time the final slide is reached. I would hope that this is present in all show creators, but it may not be. If you discover one that is lacking the feature, please write me with the package's name?

HTML output: This created a simple web page which played a flash movie.... it was much like watching a YouTube clip. (But when you generate the page, you can specify the resolution you want.) You could edit the web page, or "lift" the relevant code to imbed your flash movie into a different page. The web page "did things" using the Macromedia site... I would guess fixing things to download the player if your machine needs it. MemeoriesToTV had created, along with the web page, a file with a .flv extension ("FLash Video, I presume), using the name I chose. A 3kb file called "player.swf" also appeared in the directory with the other two files. You can pause the video, or use the progress bar to move to any part of it.

The help file is a comprehensive reference and tutorial.

You can have multiple images on a single "slide" of the presentation. And they can move around independently, fade in/ fade out, etc, etc!

Once you have burned a DVD, and are playing it on your TV, you can pause, rewind, fast forward, etc. What you can't do is jump through the slides at your own pace, as if you were working with a slide projector. This, I suspect, is true for any product of any "burn to DVD" presentation creator.

Some words on your options at "burn time"....

a) I don't know if it is my TV or my DVD player, but, even though I live in the UK, where PAL is the TV standard, I can get away with recording MemoriesOnDVD discs for NTSC... they still play on my UK equipment, and should play okay for US friends, too.

b) I selected the wide screen format... without ruining pictures that were not 16:9... the program just generated background to fill the space to left and to right of narrower pictures.

c) Setting "Shrink to TV safe region", with that set at the defaultTKB1st2007a15 90% worked well for me.

With MemOnTV, once an image was part of a project, I couldn't, from MemOnTV, figure out where the image had come from. If I KNEW (by other means) where it came from, and, say, renamed it... then MemOnTV was flummoxed... and just displayed background with no image when it should have shown the now-"missing" image.

For all sorts of reasons... it would probably be best to assemble a folder of (perhaps downsized) copies of images to go into a given project.

The MemOnTV "archive project" option takes copies of the images used in the project and stores them with everything else related to it. Beware the proliferation of extra copies of things... especially as you may later edit them... but it may be the "way to go". This is part of the much bigger issue of backup and version tracking.

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37: (MoW) MemoriesOnWeb

www.codejam.com

From the same people who produce MemoriesOnTV (see own entry, ref. 36)

Using the same "engine" that powers MemoriesOnTV, MemoriesOnWeb allows you to create, for free, slideshows that you can send up to YouTube and such for all the world (or your invited audience- you can restrict the access) to enjoy.

It is possible to use MemoriesOnWeb create a standalone MPG file, but the resolution would be quite low, the same as YouTube's download- friendly default. Further, there is a time limit on the total length of the video, since YouTube doesn't allow video > 10 mins. This limitation remains regardless of whether you actually upload to YouTube or not. Unless you want to send things to YouTube (or similar), it would probably be better just to bite the bullet and use MemoriesOnTV, even if you have to endure the watermark until your budget allows you to buy the package. Note: there's no time limit on your use of the watermarked trial. And you can save your presentations, re- export them (watermark-less) after you buy.

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38: (APSA) Adobe Photoshop Album Starter Edition

free, but....

(This package was in the group chosen by Computer Shopper, see "Tried By Me" column details.)

I have a general dislike and distrust of "update" mechanisms, so I was REALLY annoyed when, in the course of updating Adobe Acrobat Reader, something I need and like, I found that, for overlooking a tick box which DEFAULTED TO "oh by the way, also install something completely unrelated to Reader (except for who supplies it) while you're at it."

But Computer Shopper (who said Album "sneaks" onto people's PCs, and "bugs" them) said it also has some positive attributes, so I'll give it this limited "promotion".

I haven't done much more research, drawing my table entries from the CS review. The "n" for Win98 stems from the fact that the CS review says it requires XP, and other reviews in the same collection report times when 98 is adequate.

It is said to be good for tagging photos to allow you to find them again via their tags.

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======================

39: (Pic) Picasa from Google

picasa.google.com

I am not exploring this in detail at this time. One random bit of information: It supports non-destructive edits, although you can also export a copy of an album with the edits applied to the copies in the export. Clever stuff, and just a taste of the rest. It also supports geo-tagging, so you can see a map with dots for photos taken in specific locations. It has good tagging features. Slideshows and HTML galleries are possible.

Category: This is a very capable "explorer" replacement, with extensive album creation features. It supports a range of image tagging features. It would appear that it can create slideshows and movies, although I haven't investigated exactly how Picasa is using those terms. It will let you email a selection of images.

Picasa has some powerful features that have complex mechanisms operating "beneath the surface". You can probably "just use them".... but it would be wise to try to grasp at least the fundamental differences between Picasa "folders" and "albums". (These matters are more fully discussed in my PhotosReViewer review.) The implications of non-destructive edits can be important also.

There are extensive photo manipulation tools.

Picasa can read ExIF data.

Their website speaks of creating movies of your slideshows, and of screensavers. I haven't investigated the details of these features.....

One feature you may find of interest: You can export your albums to free hosting services online, either Blogger's or Picasa's own.

Albums you have exported off of your computer can be password protected.

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43: (PSL) Photoshop Lightroom (Adobe)

www.adobe.com/products/photoshoplightroom

I've included this brief reference to Lightroom on the strength of the fact that Computer Shopper decided to include it in their photo management software review. At $299, it had better have EVERYTHING! :-)

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40: & 41: (ACD9 / ACDP) ACDSee Photomanager.. "Version 10" and "Pro"

www.acdsee.com

I've included these on the strength of the fact that Computer Shopper decided to include them in their photo management software review. (I subsequently found an earlier version at Tucows.) I've used the version numbers and prices I found on their website at 10/07. There are buttons I overlooked a few times, offering free 30-day trials for both programs . The specs say that MS Internet Explorer 5 is required, 6 recommended. (sic.. that's there way of putting it. Yes, I have figured out that they probably mean that you can use 5 or 6).

These are primarily programs for cataloguing your images. As such they seem from their websites to be well thought out, and have lots of features. The website even says that the program can "organize images stored on CDs, DVDs and external hard drives without copying them to your computer." Be careful what you wish for. I hope they've found a way to make something like that work well.. but I would be cautious with using it.

Even the "non Pro" version (which I'll call the "home" version) has a good set of editing tools.You can export photos and sets of photos to HTML, Flash, PDF and screensavers or slideshows, including standalone .exe galleries. You can prepare Powerpoint presentations from within the program.

So what is in the "Pro" that the "Home" lacks? Perhaps the most important is support for RAW images, including manipulation of the same. There are numerous more esoteric other enhancements, too. Sadly if their website offers the usual features comparison chart, I couldn't find it.

A word of warning: The jpeg editing is "destructive"... you may lose your ExIF data. (Irfan offers lossless jpeg editing, if you install the right plug-in.)

These seem to be good packages. I would have investigated further, but I think that one of the free, or lower cost, packages will suit my needs.

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9:(WGM) Web Gallery Mate

www.coolleosoft.com

Built in FTP uploader. Program will resize images for you. Aimed primarily at web galleries. "Gallery" here seems to mean an online show of pictures, a bit like the XP "Filmstrip" view for a folder of images.

I feel a bit mean for not saying more. This IS a free program, so it is well worth having a look at it, if you think it might answer your needs. There are some sample galleries you can check out online

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45: (Xar) Xara 3D ScreenMaker

http://www.xara.com/products/screenmaker3d?

This comes from Xara, which long ago was known as Computer Concepts which was the source of one of the first wordprocessors for home computers.

For a while, years back, a screensaver I made with an early version of their screensaver maker was the one I usually used. The modern version works well, too. It puts a rotating "cube" on the screen, with pictures from your collection on the faces of the cube. Admittedly, not *exactly* within the remit of this review, but I wanted to include it for old time's sake. It is nearly within the remit! There's a trial version, and it only costs $15 to buy the full version.

If you want to try it, you have to supply an email address and declare what country you are in.

It installed in the folder of my choice, without hassle.

It is just too cool, too much fun. It makes rotating cubes with your photos... or video clips!... on their faces.

Until you buy the product, you can't save your masterpieces... but you can have a lot of fun playing, tweaking settings, etc. That seems to be the only limitation of the trial.

It seems that you have to re-run the screensaver maker if you change any of the photos... it is not enough (not that it "should be") just to change the photos in a folder, as you could with some photoshow presenters.

You can also have the screensaver present moving, tumbling 3-D text, if that's what floats your boat. It doesn't, by the way, do much else... but who said it had to? "All singing, all dancing" applications are sometimes too complex.

There are four "tumbling" patterns available to you. Although you can have multiple cubes, each will "only" be a copy of all of the others. 2 cubes doesn't allow 12 photos. Oh heck. They tumble independently, though, so it isn't too obvious that the photos are the same on each.

Screensavers created with the package may be given away as you see fit. At the price, not, I hope, surprisingly they do not offer settings... the options you selected when you created the screensaver are the options your recipient will have to live with... until they buy their own copy of the screensaver generator!

Now... the following might seem ungrateful. If so, so be it. The demo of Xara 3D ScreenMaker, while good, and while the program is good, is quite limited... so I would expect the ensuing hassle to be limited. Give me a lot, and I'll put up with a lot. Obviously, the fee demo IS meant to generate sales... but whatever good the demo did, with me, was UNDONE by the following. (Another firm with a product which might have made this review didn't even get its product looked at because of stuff like this I encountered after installing something from them, Magix. It was some "free" audio tools.... which couldn't export to MP3 until you bought a plug in, plus post purchase unwanted emails.)

Not long after downloading the demo, I received an email from Xara. In it, it said "When you downloaded the trial version of Screenmaker 3D you gave us your email address and requested news. You can change this at xara.com/news.". Well. Maybe. If there was a "do pester me with emails" box, I overlooked it. And if a firm wants to pester me with emails, it would be REALLY NICE if the emails weren't full of complex, potentially dangerous, HTML that my email client software couldn't render very well. (Maybe if there were some essential graphics, which an ad for a graphics package might entail, of course, there might be a need... but I didn't see any useful graphics when I went to the trouble to open the email for HTML viewing... not my usual view of email.) And, no, Xara, the fact that I can go to a page on your site with my browser to see the ad more successfully rendered does not interest me. Sorry. Furthermore....

The comment in that HTML that... "Don't forget that when you purchase ScreenMaker 3D you will be able to download a fully working version immediately." leads me to suspect that Xara are one of the few firms that I've encountered that have two VERSIONS of something that you can download in a trial version, only to have all of the overhead and risk of downloading something new and different if you like what you see in the trial. I much prefer what I usually encounter (and sell myself): Applications which users download and install once, and if they want the must- be- paid- for features, they buy a registration code, type that into their already- installed application, and the features become available. Grumpy? Moi? All that said.... 3D ScreenMaker IS a good program, and is a lot of fun!





Final odds and ends

At the time I write this, I am 1800 lines of HTML into this project. I've spent DAYS looking at sites and software, and the end STILL seems a long way off. I'm not sure how the following seven (at this point) packages fell into this "second class citizen" pool. I will try to promote them when I can. They may well be as good, or better than, packages written up more fully elsewhere. Their presence here is more likely to reflect accident than contempt.



===
(Not in spreadsheet... not tried...)
ULead Pocket Slideshow,

http://tucows.com/preview/419624
Seems to be 2K and XP only... perhaps plus Vista.
Their site says: "automatically produces a DVD with
your photos and unique transition and pan & zoom
effects. You can also add your own music and choose a DVD menu."
I've seen a ULead photo manipulation application that
is user friendly.

There doesn't seem to be a free trial downloadable
at the ULead site.... $20 to buy... and hope you like!
But there is a download button at the Tucows
site, and what you get from there (Oct 07) will run
five times to let you see what the program can do.

30MB download.
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===
(Not in spreadsheet... not tried...)
#1 Flash Slideshow
goldflashtool.com
Site annoyed me.
s/w $20 and $40
Make Flash presentation. Unrated by Tucows
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===
(Not in spreadsheet... not tried...)
Photo Slideshow- ShowMe
Win 98/XP
Shareware $30
http://tucows.com/preview/360994
4cows, 20% pop 08 Oct 2007, 10:11

scnsvr & .exe. VCD, DVD, web gallery.
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===
(Not in spreadsheet... not tried...)
Slideshow Pro
Win 98/XP
Shareware $35
http://tucows.com/preview/356865
3 cows, 71% pop, 08 Oct 2007, 10:14
Slideshow from chosen directory
autostart CSD, DVD
screensaver
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===

Not quite within the purview of this review, but I think I'll mention www.webshots.com

You can build online slideshows there. First you upload you photos to their server. Then you assemble them into slideshows. Once that's done, people can access your slideshow online!

Webshots started... and remains... as a source of superbly populated screensavers of photos. Their screensavers have lots of neat features like an onscreen calendar.

Of course, www.flickr.com also allows you to view photos as slideshows... your favorites, or any set... but there are almost no options apart from WHICH photos to view, you have to be online (and using bandwidth to fetch and re-fetch the photos), and I think that when the photos in the set have played... in a non-random sequence... the display stops with the last photo and just sits there unless you restart the show. Not really what you want in a photo frame!

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===
(Not in spreadsheet... not tried...)
Wondershare Flash
Win 2k/XP (no mention of 98)
Shareware $40
5cows 95%pop, 08 Oct 2007, 10:17
Flash slideshows or photo albums
Screensaver, SWF Flash Movie, HTML



===
OpenOffice Impress:

The free alternative to Powerpoint. I'm a great fan of OpenOffice, in general, using the wordprocessor and spreadsheet for all my needs in those categories, and being happy with the database. I haven't used "Impress", but have little doubt that if you wanted to do a slide show a la Powerpoint, Impress would be up to the job.




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