If you're not using Google Picasa to manage your photos, I think you're missing out. It's one of the fastest and most versatile photo managers/image editors currently available, and you can't beat the price. (It's free.)
If you are already using it, you might be missing out on one of its best--and most often overlooked--features. I'm talking about the Picasa screensaver, which was formerly a standalone product (Google Photos Screensaver) bundled with the now-discontinued Google Pack.
The screensaver cycles through the photos of your choice (more on that in a minute) using any of nine impressive visual effects: pan and zoom, cross-fade, checkerboard, and so on. Here's how to set it up:
1. Start Picasa.
2. Click Tools, Configure Screensaver.
3. Windows' standard screensaver tool should appear, with Google Photos Screensaver already selected. Click Settings.
4. Now it's time to choose one or more sources for your screensaver: Picasa, your Picasa Web Albums, one or more folders on your PC (which, admittedly, are probably already represented within Picasa, so this may not be necessary), and/or public sites. This last can be any RSS photo feed, like from Flickr and other sites. Just enable the sources, you want, then click Configure if you want to fine-tune the settings (which you'll need to do for PC folders and public sites).
5. Next, choose a visual effect from the pull-down menu. You can also use the slider to adjust the time between photos. When you're done, click OK.
6. Back at the main Screen Saver Settings menu, click Preview if you want to see the setup in action. You may also want to adjust the time before the screensaver kicks in. (10 minutes is the default, but I prefer something a little longer.) Click OK when you're done.
I think you'll love the Picasa screensaver, which effectively turns your PC into a killer photo frame (when it's idle, of course). And here's a bonus: If you have multiple monitors connected to your PC, the screensaver will take full advantage of them, showing a different photo on each one. Sweet!
Contributing Editor Rick Broida writes about business and consumer technology. Ask for help with your PC hassles at firstname.lastname@example.org, or try the treasure trove of helpful folks in the PC World Community Forums. Sign up to have the Hassle-Free PC newsletter e-mailed to you each week.