A friend of mine recently asked me if I could quickly create a professional-looking slide show that he could run from his laptop while working his company’s booth at a local trade show. When I asked him what he meant by professional, he explained that he wanted to create a slide show highlighting various pictures of his company’s products while a recording of his voice played his marketing spiel.

As we talked more, I learned that this was a last-minute idea and he needed it up and running that afternoon if at all possible. Since he had Microsoft Windows Vista Home Premium on his laptop, I told him that he could quickly create the type of slide show that he was looking for using just Sound Recorder and Photo Gallery with its Themes feature. He had assumed that to create such a slide show would require using some advanced techniques in PowerPoint or Windows Movie Maker — two programs that he wasn’t very familiar with.

After looking over the laptop, his marketing spiel, and the set of photos he wanted to use, I showed him how to get started. When we were done with the project, my friend was very impressed with the result and suggested that I write an article about the technique. After toying with the idea a bit, I decided that the technique could come in handy in a number of situations. So in this Vista Report, I’ll show you how to create professional-looking slide shows using Photo Gallery’s Themes feature.

This blog post is also available in the PDF format as a TechRepublic Download.

Getting started

To create a professional-looking slide show in Photo Gallery that uses the Themes feature, you’ll need to make sure that the video card in your Vista system supports the Vertex Shader 2.0 feature and has a Windows Experience Index score of 3.0 in the Graphics category. If your video card doesn’t meet these specifications, then the Themes feature will be unavailable.

In order to make the recording procedure as easy as possible, it’s best to type your speech in your word processor and practice it several times. Not only will this reduce the likelihood of your getting all tongue-tied while recording, but it will help you to make a more relaxed sounding recording of your voice.

Once you assemble the set of pictures that you want to have in your slide show, create a new folder and copy the pictures to that folder. As you do, rename them in numerical order according to the arrangement in which you would like them to display. For example, 1.jpg, 2.jpg, and so on.

Examining Photo Gallery’s Themes

Let’s begin by taking a look at Photo Gallery’s Themes feature in order for you to get your bearings. You can start Photo Gallery by choosing Start | All Programs | Windows Photo Gallery. When Photo Gallery launches, as shown in Figure A, just click the Play Slide Show button or you can press [F11].

Figure A

When Photo Gallery launches, click the Play Slide Show button.

When you do, you’ll see the Slide Show toolbar at the bottom of the screen. If you click the Themes button, you’ll see the twelve available slide show themes on the menu, as shown in Figure B. As you can see, there are seven animation themes, two color themes, and three transition themes.

Figure B

The Themes menu contains 12 different slide show themes.

Animation themes

  • Album – Displays multiple pictures side-by-side or a single picture on a classic-looking photo album page and then transitions with a basic fade.
  • Collage – Displays multiple pictures tilted at various angles on a crème-colored textured background and then transitions with a basic fade.
  • Frame – Displays multiple or single pictures in a frame on aqua-colored background and then transitions with a basic fade.
  • Glass – Displays multiple pictures in a frame on purple glass-colored background and then transitions with one picture slowly fading out while another fades in.
  • Spin – Displays single pictures in a frame on black-to-aqua-colored background and then transitions by flipping the pictures over with one rotating to the back and another rotating in from the bottom.
  • Stack – Displays pictures stacking one on top of the other at various angles.
  • Travel – Displays multiple pictures tilted at various angles on a leather-colored background that contains passport-like stamps and then transitions with a basic fade, or a pan and zoom, or a spin.

Transition themes

  • Classic – A no-nonsense transition that simply pages through the pictures.
  • Fade – A basic fade to the next picture transition.
  • Pan and zoom – An interesting display that zooms in or out as it pans across a picture and then transitions with a basic fade.

Color themes

  • Black and white – Displays pictures in black and white and then transitions with a basic fade.
  • Sepia – Displays picture in sepia and then transitions with a basic fade.

If you click the Tool or Sprocket button, you’ll see the menu shown in Figure C. You can use the Slow, Medium, and Fast options to control the speed at which your pictures switch. Leave the Loop option selected if you want your pictures to display in the numerical order.

As you experiment with the different themes, keep in mind that Photo Gallery remembers the last theme settings you use and will load those settings the next time you run a slide show.

Figure C

You can adjust the speed at which your slide show plays.

Recording your speech

In Windows Vista, Microsoft has greatly extended the length of time that you can record with Sound Recorder. In fact, after experimenting, it would appear that the only limit would be the amount of hard disk space you have available.

In addition, Vista’s Sound Recorder now saves recordings using the Windows Media Audio (WMA) format rather than the old WAV format. This means that you end up with a very good quality recording that’s economical on hard disk space.

You start Sound Recorder by choosing Start | All Programs | Accessories | Sound Recorder. When Sound Recorder launches, as shown in Figure D, just click the Start Recording button. In order to give yourself time to get your slide show up and running, record several seconds of silence before you begin speaking into the microphone.

Figure D

Sound Recorder’s new UI is very simplistic in Vista.

When you’re done, just click the Stop Recording button, as shown in Figure E. When you do, you’ll see the Save As dialog box and can immediately save your recording.

Figure E

When you’re done, just click the Stop Recording button.

If you click the Cancel button in the Save As dialog box, you’ll return to Sound Recorder and will see that the button now reads Resume Recording, as shown in Figure F. In this way, you can record your speech in segments if you wish.

Figure F

You can resume your recording session.

Running your slide show

Once you have all the pieces in place, you can run your slide show along with your speech. To begin, double-click the first picture in your slide show, and when Photo Gallery launches, maximize the window.

Next, switch back to the folder and double-click your WMA file to launch it in Windows Media Player. Then, immediately click the Stop button. Next, click the Turn Repeat On button. Then, click the Switch to Compact Mode button. Once Windows Media Player is in Compact Mode, as shown in Figure G, click the Play button.

Figure G

In Compact Mode, playing your recording is easy.

At this point, click the Photo Gallery toolbar and immediately press [F11] to load the slide show. If you’ve timed everything just right, the slide show and recording should start at about the same time. If not, just click the Pause button in the Slide Show toolbar and wait for the recording to start again.

What’s your take?

Have you experimented with the Themes feature in Photo Gallery? Will you use this technique to create a quick slide show? Please drop by the Discussion area and let us know your thoughts.