This is the third year that I have put off buying a digital camera. I am getting pretty close, but my engineering inner-self says, "Maybe they will get better and cheaper next year." That inner-self is both a blessing and a curse - just ask my wife.

Are you procrastinating on that purchase too? If so, be assured that not having a digital camera will not prevent you from reaping many of the benefits that a digital camera can offer. Certainly, if you have a scanner (and can actually work it) you can convert a photograph into a computer file with very little effort. Once the picture is in file form, it can be shipped around as an attachment to your e-mail, or shared with your family and friends in a variety of ways.

The main problem with scanning photos is that it takes a lot of time. It can take several minutes per photo and then you must be there to load a new picture and start the process all over again. A roll of 24 photos can take 1 to 2 hours with the average home equipment. Not willing to spend that time, I am more likely to scan one or two and set the photos aside for the future when I have more time. That is another way of saying that they will forever disappear into a drawer that contains another 3,000 photos that I don't look at because I can never find what I am looking for. I keep planning to organize them better, but that never seems to happen.

If you are one of those organized people that nicely files all your photos, there is no reason to read further. But, if you resonate with some of my slovenly habits, you might consider a better approach.

Last month, I had my photos developed and put onto a CD. If you just get the CD and not the actual prints, the cost is comparable to a dual set of prints. The processor will still charge for the development of the film, but not for the printing. Often, the cover of the jewel case that holds the CD will have an index print that shows a small representation of everything that is on the CD.

The CD that came back to me had used up about 80 MB of the 700 MB disc capacity. That included a small program, but most of the storage was for the pictures themselves (about 3MB per picture). When you insert the CD, it will self-start on most systems and all photos will show up "tiled" on the screen.

My CD came from FujiFilm, but I suspect that most processors offer the same capabilities. On the left side of the picture index there were about 10 items that you can select. The first time you look at them, you will probably select the "slide show," in which case all the pictures will be presented sequentially until you tell it to stop.

After you get your fill of the slide show, you may be thinking of sharing all or some of the photos with friends or relatives. You can do that in several ways. If you have a decent printer and photo quality paper, you can choose to print the best pictures. More likely, you will want to save the picture to a file so that you can e-mail it to your friends. You merely select the picture and click the "save" icon on your screen. As usual, your computer will prompt you to name the new file and tell it where to put it. In Windows, the "My Pictures" folder within the "My Documents" folder is the most likely choice.

Once it is safely nestled on your hard drive, you can attach it to e-mail and send it to friends, or you can use one of the various photo software packages (Photoshop, Imaging for Windows, etc.) to adjust the photos to your liking or apply special effects. My son removed a fence from a photo of a Javalina. When he did that, it was missing two feet. He copied the feet from the back and put them on the front. It ended up being a rather bizarre creature, but it demonstrated what could be done.

Another thing that can be done with many e-mail systems is to "copy and paste" the picture right into the body of the e-mail. There is an icon on the left of the picture index display that will copy any picture to the clipboard. Once there, you can paste it into your e-mail or a document you might be working on with your word processor. In the case of AOL 8.0 (look for a review of this in the next few weeks), you will be asked if it should resize for your e-mail. If you enter yes, it will be made to fit neatly. With other ISPs, you may have to stick with attaching the photo to your e-mail.

In a word processing document, you will need to resize by right clicking on it and work your way through the format options. An easier way is to drag one of the corner "handles" of the picture to make it the right size.

If you have AOL 7.0 or 8.0, you also can send all or a subset of the pictures to friends as a slide show. This is done through a cooperative program with KODAK. It is a good way to share your photos because normally it takes a long time to download multiple pictures. If you want guidelines on how to create and send the slide show, just send me e-mail.

Just remember that when you upload photos (each one on the disc being about 3 MB), it will take quite a while. Even for people with high-speed Internet, upstream speeds are typically only 128 Mbps per second. While that is 3 to 6 times faster than dial-up, it is still not a fast as you might think. Downstream, is a different matter; that is when high-speed Internet "cooks."

When I decided to share my photos via a slide show, I started the upload and went to bed. Once saved on the ISP server, you can just e-mail the slide show to your cronies. It turns out they will not be downloading the high-resolution photo, just looking at them as they would on a web site. That means even people with slow dial-up service can see them without much delay. It really is pretty slick.

So the next time you get your photos developed, try a CD and start playing with it. I think you will love it. As a bonus, all your photos will nicely fit into thin CD cases with an index print on top. Now I just need to figure out how to file the CDs. Maybe I'll put them into that drawer with all those old photos…

In addition to writing this column, John Smith offers PC Tutoring under the name of "PC" Smith. He welcomes feedback on these articles, and may be reached on 575-9166 or

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