Add a Second MonitorIncreasing the space available for editing digital photos is a good investment.
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Feature: Add a Second Monitor to Your PC
Just like real estate, screen estate--the amount of space available on your monitor for manipulating digital photos and other projects--is always a good investment.
For a long time, experts have advised you to buy the biggest monitor you could afford. Indeed, I've seen some folks with ludicrously large displays on their desks. But there's a practical limit to how useful a 21- or 22-inch monitor can be for working with digital photos--and if like me, you prefer CRT monitors for photo editing, you know that big CRTs take up a ton of space. In my opinion, it's far better to use a pair of 19-inch monitors. In fact, that's what I've done for years now.
Why Two Is Better Than One
A pair of monitors positioned side-by-side can be far superior than one much larger display. For example, you end up with a lot more usable viewable area. Windows is smart enough to be able to "snap" programs to each monitor; so you can run one program on the left display and a different program on the right.
If you've never tried using dual monitors, you simply can't appreciate how liberating it is to have two large desktops with which to work. I commonly run a photo organizer on my right screen (such as the one included with Adobe Photoshop Elements), and Corel Paint Shop Pro on the left. When I want to edit a photo, I just drag it from the right screen to the left, where it automatically opens in my image editor. Take a look at a screen shot of my desktop.
People frequently ask if the monitors need to be identical. Absolutely not: I often see people running dual monitors with different-size displays (such as one 17-inch and one 19-inch) or one LCD and one CRT. You'll get the best results with two monitors that are the same size and type, or at least that can comfortably run at the same resolution, but that's not a hard-and-fast requirement. The biggest problem with running two different-size monitors is that it can look strange when you move the mouse from one display to the next, since the resolution or screen height might vary.
What You Need
If you want to try some dual-monitor goodness, your PC needs a graphics card that can accommodate two displays. The good news is that the majority of graphics cards made today are up to the task. You'll need to take a look at the back of your PC to check on your situation.
If your computer has only a single VGA connection (that's the 15-pin port that your monitor is plugged into) then you need to upgrade your graphics card. Look for a card that has either two VGA connections or one VGA and one DVI connection. DVI is a video port that has both digital and analog functionality and allows you to connect to all-digital LCD monitors and high-definition televisions. To connect a VGA monitor to the DVI port, you'll need a DVI-to-VGA adapter. These inexpensive adapters almost always come in the box with video cards or are available from computer supply outlets.
Making the Connection
Once you have two monitors and a graphics card that can handle them, it's time to plug it all in. Connect the monitors to the graphics card and turn on the computer. By default, one monitor will probably be blank at startup. Right-click on the desktop of the working monitor and choose Properties. Click the Settings tab and you'll see two monitor icons marked 1 and 2. Right-click the icon that's not active and choose Attached. Click Apply and it should spring to life.
If the monitors are reversed--the right monitor is displaying the left desktop and vice-versa, then drag the number-two monitor icon to the left of the number-one monitor, like this.
Finally, you can adjust the resolution of each display independently. Click a monitor icon, then use the slider to set the screen resolution. Then click the other monitor and set its resolution. When you're happy with the results, click OK.
Now that you have a pair of monitors, you can enjoy all that extra screen estate for managing and editing your photos. After a while, you'll wonder how you ever got along with just one.
Dave's Favorites: ImageRecall 3 Versus Digital Photo Recovery 1.0
Last night, after taking my parents on a day trip to Washington's scenic Mount Baker, my wife lamented that one of the memory cards she'd used was corrupted: She could no longer read or write pictures.
I leapt into action--I stuck the card in a card reader, opened My Computer, and formatted the card. I handed her the card again, smug in the knowledge that I'd fixed her problem in seconds. "You can use it in your camera again," I told her.
"But where are today's pictures, Einstein? I still want those!" she replied.
Oops--but all was not lost. Even though the card had mysteriously become corrupted and was then formatted with the Quick Format option, I was confident I could retrieve her photos. I still had a pair of image recovery programs that I've previously written about, so I thought this was an excellent opportunity to see how they did in a real-world test.
First, I fired up FlashFixers ImageRecall 3. ImageRecall tried its Turbo Scan mode, which took a few seconds but found no pictures at all. When I switched it to Deep Scan, ImageRecall rooted around the memory card for about 15 seconds and uncovered 16 photos, which the program then copied to a folder on my computer.
"That looks like all of them," my wife agreed.
Next, I tried Digital Photo Recovery, from Art Plus. It has only one scan mode, so I just turned it loose on the memory card. The scan took eons--well over 5 minutes--and turned up 12 of the 16 photos that ImageRecall located.
Digital Photo Recovery has the advantage of being free, while ImageRecall costs $40 (though there is a free trial). If you only rarely need a program like this--and honestly, how often do you need to recover lost photos from your camera's memory card?--then you might be willing to put up with the slower and less-thorough scans offered by Digital Photo Recovery. But if you're willing to spend $40 on the equivalent of a digital photo insurance policy, then I heartily recommend ImageRecall.
Q&A: How Do You Print Panoramas?
In a recent feature on taking better travel photos, you suggested taking panoramas. I've taken a few, but I have not found a good way to print them. Are panoramas a digital novelty, or can they be printed? Are there "standard" panorama sizes, in pixels or inches, that I can use to make prints?
--Justin Gillespie, Saginaw, Michigan
While I'm not sure I'd call them novelties, panoramas are definitely more at home on the computer screen than on paper. One reason for that is that there is no standard size. You can make a panorama conform to pretty much any size because the stitching software you use can combine any number of individual pictures into a wide-screen creation.
For the most part, people view their panoramas on the computer screen. That doesn't mean they can't be printed, though. If your printer supports wide-format printing, such as on 13-by-19-inch paper, you can make some impressively large prints. You can also print panoramas on banner or roll paper if your printer has a continuous roll adapter. Finally, you might consider making a poster by tiling together several prints. A program like Digital Camera Poster Creator ($29) can help you create a huge print from lots of smaller images that you tape together. You can download a copy from SRS1 Software.
Hot Pic of the Week
Get published, get famous! Each week, we select our favorite reader-submitted photo based on creativity, originality, and technique. Every month, the best of the weekly winners gets a prize valued at between $15 and $50.
Here's how to enter: Send us your photograph in JPEG format, at a resolution no higher than 640 by 480 pixels. Entries at higher resolutions will be immediately disqualified. If necessary, use an image editing program to reduce the file size of your image before e-mailing it to us. Include the title of your photo along with a short description and how you photographed it. Don't forget to send your name, e-mail address, and postal address. Before entering, please read the full description of the contest rules and regulations.
This Week's Hot Pic: "Sierra Contemplation," by Jason Barnes, Yosemite, California
Jason says: "I took this photo in the Sierra Mountains of Yosemite National Park, near the summit of Mount Starr King. This was the night before our summit climb. Before we headed back down to the saddle for some dinner, I noticed the sun escaping behind some clouds. It was silhouetting my friend, so I quickly took this shot."
Jason used a Nikon Coolpix 5400 set on manual exposure mode with a shutter speed of 1/1000 second.