How to add permanent captions to your photos, Part 2: Making them visible (and make them in XP)

Srinivasan Kasturi followed my instructions in How to add permanent captions to your photos, and was disappointed that his captions didn't appear on the pictures themselves.

Srinivasan was the first of many readers who complained about this, and I have no one to blame but myself. Although I intended to offer a digital equivalent of writing a description on the back of a printed photo, the image I created to head that article (which also heads this one) suggested something different--the caption as part of the image.

So this time, I'm going to talk about making that caption visible. I'll discuss setting up slideshows and screensavers with captioned photos, and inserting the caption into the actual picture.

[Email your tech questions to answer@pcworld.com or post them on the PCW Answer Line forum.]

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But first, a quick note for XP users: Sorry that my original instructions didn't work in your operating system. Try this: Right-click a photo and select Properties. Click the Summary tab. Type your caption in the Title field.

Now back to the main issue: How to make the contents of your caption visible.

As I mentioned in the previous article, the two most popular free photo-organizing programs, Microsoft's Photo Gallery and Google's Picasa, recognize the contents of the Title field as the photo's caption. But only Picasa really makes use of it. When you view a picture full-screen, the caption appears in tiny letters below the photo.

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It also shows up--with bigger text--in a Picasa slideshow.

You can also use Picasa to add captions to your photo screen saver. Inside Picasa, select Create>Add to Screensaver. This will bring up Windows' Screen Saver Settings dialog box, with the Google Photos Screensaver already selected. Click the Settings button, and make sure Show captions is checked.

But what if you want the caption visible every time you view the photo? For that you need a photo-editing program. I've yet to see one without a tool for adding text. In fact, you can use Paint--the image editor that comes with Windows-provided you're using Windows 7 or 8. Early versions of Paint have some odd quirks with text entry.

Third-party image editors, many of them free, also offer this capability.

With just about every one of these programs, click the tool with a big letter on it (usually A or T), then drag across the part of your photo where you want the text. This creates a rectangle in which you can type or paste the appropriate caption. You'll want to adjust the font size and color to make the text visible.

I strongly recommend that you select your editor's Save As option when you're done, and give your photo a new name (perhaps the original name plus the word caption). That way, you'll always have the unchanged original.

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