Monday, 11 May 2009

Adding Pictures to a Word Document

Have you ever looked at a book containing photos and thought, "I'd like a book of my own photos"?

Well with Microsoft Word, inserting photos or pictures of any kind into a document is very easy. However, there are a few things you should know. You can very soon use up a lot of the memory in your computer doing this, so let's have a look at how to create your book, but not let the computer run out of memory.

First of all let's understand what I mean by the word memory. It's easier to begin with what I don't mean. I don't mean the disk space or storage space - the disk drive where you computer stores your information and documents when you save them. What I mean is the internal memory of the computer, known as the RAM, that it uses to temporarily store all the things you are currently doing and all the things the computer is doing by itself in order to work.

When the internal memory gets too low the computer slows down, because it runs out of space to carry out its normal functions; like checking the keyboard to see if you've pressed a key. It slows down because if the memory is too full it has to save a bit of information to the temporary space on your disk drive so it can load back the bit of information it needs to check the keyboard and then it can forget that bit again and go back and reload the information it saved to the disk - until it is time to check the keyboard again. It checks the keyboard a lot... That's a silly example but it helps to illustrate my point.

The next thing you should know is that when you open a piece of software, whether it's Word, Excel or you open a program to play music on the computer in the background whilst you're working, the software takes up a part of the internal memory of your computer. That's before you open any documents or music files.

Opening a document uses up another chunk of internal memory the size of which depends on how large the document is. So opening lots of documents at once uses up more and more memory until you start to close them.

Now, let's get back to our photo book. We open Word, which takes up a bit of memory and then we open a document which takes up a bit more. Every time we type a letter the document size increases. And every time we insert a photo it increases by a lot. So what we need to do is keep the overall size of the document down so that the computer doesn't start to run slowly. If it runs out of memory altogether the computer will freeze or crash and you may be forced to switch it off and on again - which will lose any work you haven't saved.

If we were going to have a book with 300 pages each containing a couple of photos and some text describing what was on each page you would need to split the book into several documents. When they are printed out you can combine them all together again so by saving, say, 10 or 20 pages to a document and having 10 or 15 documents as parts or chapters of the book, you would be certain that the computer would not run out of memory.

But we can do even more than that.

First let's go and find a picture on the Internet that we want in our book. You should note that there is copyright on every photo on the Internet so you may need to ask permission or find one that already has permission granted for you to use it.

So I'm going to use one of my own here and it's stored on my account at Flickr. I allow anyone to download my photos but they cannot be used for profit (which means no publishing by a profit-making organisation or use for advertising), they must be attributed (you have to say that it was taken by John Burke) and you cannot alter the photos in any way.

There are several ways to insert the photo into a Word document so I'm going to do the same thing in several ways and then save the document each time and then we'll have a look at the size of those documents.

First we'll open a Word document and type some text which will be the same text in each document.

For the first document I'm just going to go to the Flickr page, right-click the photo and copy it and then go back to the Word document and paste it after the text. Then I'm going to save the document with the name tram photo 1.doc. It is 150 Kilobytes in size (150KB).

Now I'm going to open a new Word document and type exactly the same text but this time instead of copying and pasting the photo, I'm going to right-click the photo on the Flickr website and choose the Save Picture As... option and save it to my hard drive.

Then I'll insert the picture from my hard drive by choosing the Insert tab in Word and clicking the picture option. If you have an older version of Word, click the Insert menu, then choose Picture and then from file....

You can now browse to find the file you saved and choose that. It will be placed into the Word document where your cursor point (the mouse icon) is.

It looks bigger than it did when we pasted it, doesn't it? Never mind, we'll now save this document as tram photo 2.doc. It saves as a file 150KB in size - exactly the same as copying and pasting!

Just to keep the documents the same I'll click and drag the photo to shrink it to the size we had before. Even better - I'll right-click the picture in the first document and find out exactly how big it was and alter the picture in the second file to be exactly the same size.

Then I'll save it again as tram photo 3.doc. It saves as a file 150KB in size - exactly the same as when the photo was bigger. So that means if we used a really big photo from the Internet but wanted it small in the book, it would still be adding a hefty size to the file.

There must be a better way of doing things. Perhaps if we used a photo editing piece of software to re-size the picture down to the size we wanted before inserting it? You can use any software you like. Common photo-editing software include Adobe Photo Shop and Paint Shop Pro. Both have their supporters. I have used Paint Shop Pro for years - it came as an old version on the front of a magazine for free...

If you have none, then Windows has something called Paint that will do the job. You find it from the Start menu, All Programs and then Accessories. Open it and the copy the photo from Flickr and paste it into Paint.

Drop down the Image tab and choose Resize/Skew. A bit of experimenting with the sizes will soon tell you what size your photo needs to be. Then go back to the Image tab and select Crop. Then save the photo somewhere on your hard drive making sure that you save it with a filetype of JPEG which compresses the filesize of the image.

Now I'll go back to Word and open a new document and type exactly the same words in again and now I'll use the Insert tab to insert the saved photo from Paint. I resized it to exactly half the original width and height by the way, which makes the picture 1/4 of the original size.

If you see something like this when you insert the picture...

...you forgot to crop the photo or you clicked the mouse somewhere to deselect the area of the photo before you cropped. When you resize the photo it simply makes the picture smaller but in an area equal to the original.

And the proof of the pudding finally is here in a look, using the detailed view of Windows Explorer, at the folder where I saved all the files including the photos.

Those file sizes are fairly small but if you start adding photos that have been saved straight from your camera they can be huge. Add a dozen of those to a Word document and the filesize just keeps adding up - and taking the internal memory of your PC.

In a future entry I'll show how to wrap text around the photographs. Start creating your memoires now! Before your own memory goes...!!!

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