FotoEase
An Easy Way to Share Pictures
It is easy to take pictures with a digital camera but how can you share those pictures with your friends and family? One way is to attach the pictures to an email. This does work but it makes for very large letters that take time and bandwidth to send and receive and clog up the recipient's mailboxes. A much better way is to create a web site containing the pictures and send only the address of that page to all of your friends. This is not so easy, however. It requires specialized knowledge. With FotoEase it can be done quickly by anyone - 10 to 15 minutes after taking your pictures your friends and family all over the world will be able to see them on the web!

I hasten to add that there is a one time set up procedure that can be tricky. There is glad help with this process - call Jon at 831-460-2648 or email him at jon@logicalpoetry.com. Also note that at this point FotoEase only runs on Microsoft Windows machines.

Index of Topics

Top
What Does FotoEase Do?
One Time Set Up Procedure
Running FotoEase
Generation
Compression
Processing an Existing Collection
Minor Keys
Commercial Products
Examples of Photo Collections Made with FotoEase

What Does FotoEase Do?

FotoEase was designed with a very specific task in mind. It does not do many things that you might expect of a picture processing program such as adjusting contrast and/or brightness or removing red-eye. This is what it does:
  1. Gets pictures from the Compact Flash reader.

    You can also choose any directory with images in it. See below.

  2. Resizes and compresses the images making reasonably sized thumbnails and larger views.

    The size of the pictures and files is controlled with a configuration file.

  3. Presents the pictures for viewing and selecting.

    Images can be omitted if they are out of focus or duplicated. They can be rotated.

  4. Generates hyperlinked web pages to contain the images.

    Multiple pages of images link to each other. The thumbnails link to the larger views. Larger views link to each other in a kind of slideshow.

    Click on one of these pictures to see an example of a web page generated by FotoEase.

  5. Transfers the pictures and web pages to your personal web space.

    What personal web space? You very likely have a few megabytes of web space provided by your ISP (internet service provider). Most people have not used their space simply because they haven't known how!

  6. Sends Email to a mailing list.

    The letter will contain a link your friends and family can click on. They will go directly to the web pages you just created. You can edit the letter to describe what they will see.

To the index

One Time Set Up Procedure

Click here to download a 2 megabyte file named FotoEase-0.1.exe. Double click on that file and choose Unzip (13 files), Okay, Close.

Make a shortcut on the Desktop to C:\FotoEase\Ease\fotoease.exe.

Double click on C:\FotoEase\Ease\prefs.txt to bring up a text editor (usually NotePad). It will look something like this:

# for ftp'ing the files to the web
# we need a domain name, user name, password and
# an optional subdirectory underneath the home directory where
# web data is stored.
ftp_site peanutbutter.org
ftp_name jelly
ftp_pass sandwich
ftp_home pub_html

# the URL of the web site.
# FotoEase will make a 'fotoease' subdirectory there
# to contain its top level index file and the subdirectories
# of the picture collections.
home     http://www.peanutbutter.org/~jelly

... etc. ...
Lines beginning with a sharp '#' are comments. Blank lines are ignored. The first word on the line is the key and the rest of the line is the value for that key. Change the values for these keys: Save the file and exit NotePad.

There are two other files to edit:

The file C:\FotoEase\Ease\addrs.txt contains the names and email addresses of your friends and family, one per line. It is okay to use the extended format with their full name:

Your Friend <friend@universe.net>

The file C:\FotoEase\Ease\letter.txt contains the default content of the email that will let your friends know that a new set of pictures is ready to view. You can always edit it before sending but there may be some things that you always want the letter to say - like a greeting and/or a closing. You can put those things in letter.txt. Do not mess with the %link% string as it will be replaced with a hypertext link to the web pages containing your pictures. Your friends can simply click on it and see your pictures instantly!

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Running FotoEase

Take your pictures. Remove the Compact Flash card from your camera and place it in the CF reader device connected to your computer.

Double click on the shortcut to fotoease.exe which you made on your desktop.

A window will appear that says "Please wait. Getting the pictures ...". A progress indicator will show green, then yellow and finally red.

May 1, 2005Bjorn at the Wildflower Triathlon 2005
May 1, 2005Bjorn at the Wildflower Triathlon 2005
February 9, 2005Rallies and Protests in Boston - 2000
The first picture will be shown. At this point you have 15 commands each of which is described below. To invoke the command you can either click on the button at the bottom of the window or you can type the first letter of the command name. Typing is often much easier and faster than mousing around. That mouse can really slow you down!

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Generation

After choosing the "Generate" command the picture window disappears and another window appears with 3 text fields for you to fill in:

When you have finished the above you can press the green "Proceed" button. Three things will happen:

  1. The web pages will be generated.

  2. The pages and the pictures will be transfered to your web space (this takes a while).

  3. Email will be sent to the mailing list.

FotoEase has done all it can and it will exit automatically.

There are checkboxes on the generate dialog to enable you to choose which of the above 3 things you may not wish to do. Note, however, that you can't transfer pages that have not already been generated!

Top Level Index

There are two other checkboxes that control how FotoEase deals with the "Top Level Index". If "Link to Top Level" is checked FotoEase will make a link on the thumbnail pages to a higher level page containing an index of your picture collections. This page has the list of titles that you have given for the the collections you have generated. Along with the titles are the dates they were created and a link to the collection itself. This is a way to see the history of your picture taking. The collections are listed in reverse chronological order.

If you want to delete an old collection, check the box entitled "Delete Old Items On Top Index". A dialog will appear for you to select the items you don't want.

The Mailing List

On the generate dialog there is an entry window with the label "Send Email to:". This is by default set to "addrs.txt" which is the text file where you put the all the email addresses of the friends and family that you wish to see the pictures. In this entry window you can put filenames or email addresses separated by commas or spaces. If you have an alternate mailing list file you can put its name here. If you have additional email addresses you can put them here as well. For example, you could replace "addrs.txt" with "altaddrs.txt raspberry@jam.com".

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Compression

Your pictures are in a special format called JPEG (pronounced "jaypeg"). This is a compressed format. The level of compression effects the quality of the image. The quality/compression levels go from 90 (least compressed - greatest quality) to 10 (most compressed - worst quality). The default is 60. The more compressed the picture, the smaller the file size which makes for faster loading web pages - this is a good thing. However, the more compressed the picture the worse the quality. Look at these two pictures:

May 1, 2005Bjorn at the Wildflower Triathlon 2005
May 1, 2005Bjorn at the Wildflower Triathlon 2005
February 9, 2005Rallies and Protests in Boston - 2000

Level 60

Level 10 - too much!

See the difference? The picture on the left is 29,000 bytes. The one on the right is 23,000 bytes. It is clearly not worth the loss of quality. Depending on the distribution of color some pictures will compress better than others.

A compression of 60 is a good compromise and is the default.

The "Plus Q" and "Oh Q" commands will increase and decrease the quality by 10 - to a maximum of 90 and a minimum of 10. You can also press the keys '1' through '9' to go directly. For example, '4' will generate picture of quality 40. Note that compression takes a while to do - the cursor will change to a busy cursor while it is happening. You only create a level of compression once - after that it is quick to move between levels.

The title bar of the picture dialog contains information about compression and other things. The basic information is: the image number, the quality level, the file size in bytes. The quality and file size will change for the little or the larger size image (see Larger - Littler). If you are looking at an excluded image the title will be begin with "Excluded: ". If you have turned the high resolution choice "on" the title will end with "Send High Resolution".

Having said all of this, it is rare that you will need to worry about changing the compression. 60 is usually good enough and most people have fairly fast connections these days.

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Processing an Existing Collection

If you have already transfered your images from the compact flash reader into another directory you can still use FotoEase to process those pictures. This would be the case if you had used some other photo processing software to crop the pictures or adjust the contrast and/or brightness or removing red-eye or an infinite number of other kinds of manipulations!. For these pictures you can use FotoEase to create web pages and send email for you.

Remove the compact flash card from the reader and invoke FotoEase. It will not find any pictures in the usual picdir location and will launch a directory selection dialog - you can use it to choose the directory containing your images.

Select (single click not double) a directory on the left hand side and choose "Accept". The ".." directory will go to the directory above if you wish. FotoEase will copy the images in the chosen directory to the C:\FotoEase\Fotos folder as if they were coming from the compact flash reader.

If you choose a directory in the C:\FotoEase\Fotos subfolder that was created by FotoEase then it will immediately start where it left off. The first picture will come up right away with all captions in place. You can proceed. You would use this mode of operation if you wanted to regenerate the web pages or if you wished to send the web address to a few more people.

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Minor Keys

These additional keys in C:\FotoEase\Ease\prefs.txt control several aspects of resizing and generation. The defaults should be okay at first but you will likely want to experiment with them later. There are full explanatory comments within prefs.txt.

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Commercial Products

FotoEase was designed to do a limited task well. If it does not do enough for you there are some very sophisticated commercial products available to do 'image management'. The following list was taken from a comprehensive survey of such programs in the PC Magazine of March 2003.

Your mileage may vary. Some of the above programs cannot upload to your own web space but only to a commercial website where you will be encouraged to purchase reprints of your pictures. Homemade things are often better than store-bought things even if they are not perfect... like a birthday cake made from scratch with love by a friend instead of a store-bought cake from Safeway!

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Examples of Photo Collections Made with FotoEase

Here are some nice collections of fotos made with FotoEase:

Send email to Jon if you want your collection included here.