All Gain, No Pain

Illustration: Hal Mayforth
The common wisdom is that PCs, like your finances, require a lot of time-hogging good habits. That lengthy list of "shoulds" might make you weary enough to want to lie down. In sympathy, we've simplified six PC tasks, skipping all the complications and taking all the shortcuts. We also chose the recommended products for their no-hassle quotient.

There are many ways to approach any task, and these guides aren't definitive--just the best way to get the job done.

Organize and Fix Up Your Photos in a Flash

Time to complete: 5 minutes to install, 10 minutes to organize

Required product: Jasc Paint Shop Photo Album 5, $49, www.jascsoftware.com

There's a better way to store your digital photos than dumping them onto your hard drive. With a little effort and the right program, your pictures can be cleaned up, oriented right side up, and meaningfully named.

  1. Connect your camera to your PC and launch Photo Album 5. In the pop-up window, choose Organize.
  2. On the toolbar menu, click Camera, Get All Images. Rename the folder to something descriptive, such as 2004 Tahiti Vacation.
  3. If some of the images aren't oriented correctly, you can rotate them all simultaneously. Hold down the Ctrl key and select the photos that you want to rotate. Then right-click a highlighted photo, select Rotate, and choose Left or Right.
  4. Before you edit your photos, we recommend making copies of your images. Certain operations (such as the Quick Fix) cannot be undone, so it's good to keep a copy in case you don't like the results of your edit.
  5. Want to perk up a few dull shots? With a single click, the Quick Fix tool adjusts a photo's brightness, contrast, and color balance. To modify several photos at once, select the images, click Batch on the toolbar, and choose Quick Fix.
  6. If you want to e-mail photos or post them to the Web, reduce their size for quicker uploads. Select the images to resize, click Batch on the toolbar, and select Resize.
  7. Loaded straight from your camera, your images have cryptic file names (like "IMG_0001"). If you rename them, they'll be easier to locate later. To rename them all at once, select the photos, click Batch on the toolbar, and choose Rename. A Batch Rename window pops up. In the 'New filename' field, type your desired title--for example, 2004_Tahiti_Vacation.

Grace Aquino

Make Backups in the Background

Time to complete: 10 minutes to install, 5 minutes to set up

Required products: Iomega HDD 160GB USB 2.0 External Desktop Hard Drive with Iomega Automatic Backup software, $190, www.iomega.com; Windows 2000 or XP

Yes, backing up all your data is critical, but you probably never do it because getting started seems too hard. This method is dead simple to set up and ensures that you always have an up-to-date version of your data.

  1. Set up your backup media. We recommend an external hard drive because all you have to do is plug it in, and Iomega's models come with the company's Automatic Backup software.
  2. In Windows Explorer, select Tools, Folder Options. Click the View tab. Select Show hidden files and folders. Click OK.
  3. Install Iomega Automatic Backup. After the installation completes, it will bring you to the program's Setup Wizard.
  4. On the wizard's first page, look at the selections listed under Easy Setup Default Source Folders. If you keep files in the My Documents, Desktop, and Favorites folders, leave all the check boxes selected. Next, click the Select Target button. Select the hard drive you just installed, then click OK and Customize.
  5. On the next page, locate the rest of your data by completing the following steps for each of the folders listed below: Click the Add Folder button, select a folder, and click OK. Here are the folders:
    • Shared Documents
    • C:\Documents and Settings\your_name\Application Data
    • C:\Documents and Settings\your_name\Local Settings\Application Data
  6. Using the same procedure, select any other folders that you want backed up. When you've finished, click Next.
  7. Complete the setup using the wizard. We recommend that you stick with the program's defaults, which will automatically back up your documents every time that a change occurs.

Lincoln Spector

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