Improve the look of your slideshows

When he runs a slideshow, Dan Brindell wants more than a quick cut from one photo to another. He wants the photos to “roll and fade” with interesting transitions.

Windows’ native file manager, called File Explorer in Windows 8 and Windows Explorer in previous versions, has a built-in slideshow. Open a folder filled with photos, and you’ll find a Slide show button on the toolbar (Microsoft prefers the two-word spelling—slide show; I don’t). When you select that option, then right-click the resulting full-screen slideshow, you’ll find options to control the order and speed of your show. But you won’t find options for fades, dissolves, wipes, or other transition effects.

For that you’ll have to download additional software.

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I’m going to recommend two programs, both of them free and popular. There’s a good chance you’re already using one. They’re both primarily photo organizers, but they also play slideshows. Where best to start a slideshow than in a photo organizer, where you can easily pull up all of your child’s photos from the previous year?

Photo Gallery is part of Microsoft’s Windows Essentials collection of free programs. When you click the Download now button, you’ll get a very small program from which you select which Essentials are actually essential to you, and the program will download and install only those.

You’ll find the Slide show icon on Photo Gallery’s Home tab. If you click the top part of the icon—the picture of an old-fashioned home movie screen, the slideshow will start.

But if you click the bottom half of that icon, you’ll get a drop-down of six show “themes.” Four of these are transitions. The other two, Sepia and Black and White, are not, although they also add a transition.

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Once the slide show is going, you can pull down the Change Theme menu in the upper-left corner and change it again.

Microsoft made some odd choices—okay, they made some mistakes—in choosing transitions. There are no wipes, and what is normally called a dissolve, Microsoft calls a Fade.

Google’s Picasa has a better selection of transitions than Photo Gallery. To get to the slideshow, select View>Slideshow or press Ctrl-4.

This brings up the first picture, but it doesn’t start playing the slideshow. A bar at the bottom of the screen provides options for how you want your slideshow to behave.

The transition pull-up menu is right of center. The seven options include Cut, Pan and Zoom, Dissolve, and three wipes (called Wipe, Circle, and Rectangle).

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You set the options and press Play to start the slideshow.

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