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How to Organize Your Clipart and Photos for Desktop Publishing

written by: •edited by: Daniel P. McGoldrick•updated: 2/24/2009

Remember the old Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoon? Bullwinkle was always trying to pull a rabbit out of his hat, and it would never work. Sometimes finding the right clipart or image for your document can be just as difficult. Here are tips on how to use Picasa to easily pull the rabbit out of your hat.

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    If you are a Windows user and have not yet downloaded your free copy of Google's Picasa 2 then you need to get right over there and download it (http://picasa.google.com/). Picasa 2 runs on Windows  2000, XP, and Vista. The older version is still available for a limited time if you still use Windows 98 or ME. If you are a Mac user, don't despair because the same tips will work with iPhoto, which comes pre-installed or as a very inexpensive part of the iLife suite.

    Now, we all know that one of the biggest frustrations of Desktop Publishing is when we need a particular photograph or a piece of clipart, and we know we have something that fits the bill, but we have no idea where it is on our computer. If you remember the name, you might be able to find it. But otherwise, you have to scroll through all your photos and clipart until you find it. It will probably be named DSC081307 or something equally useful.

    There is a better way. First, a lot of people aren't aware that clipart, as far as Picasa or iPhoto are concerned, are still just images. As long as the file format is one that it recognizes, such as JPG, PNG, GIF, BMP or TIF.

    The first thing you need to do is decide how you want to organize your photos and clipart. I organize my personal photos (family, pets, etc.), under one category (directory), my professional photos under another category, then stock photos, and last is clipart. Within each of these categories, I have sub-categories (sub-directories) to help me keep everything organized. I might not want to use my professional photos as clipart, nor would I want to mistake a great stock photo as something I took myself. So thinking ahead is imperative.

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    Now is also a good time to decide on your naming convention. "Aunt Martha" isn't going to help if you have 20 years worth of pictures of her. What I might use would be something like: "Aunt_Martha_062408A" which tells me it is a picture of Aunt Martha taken on June 24th, 2008 and it is the first one in the batch. There are numerous naming conventions you can use. The important thing is that you decide on one and use it consistently.

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    To get a head start, rename each image, then move it to the appropriate directory if you already know what the image is. Both Picasa and iPhoto allows you to scan your entire collection of images and create an index based on their current location. If the images are already in the appropriate sub-directory, so much the better. You can also rearrange and move them to the correct directory using the software. 

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    If you haven't already done so, here is where you would go in and rename each file to something more meaningful, and searchable. Then you would move it to the appropriate sub-directory. If you are using iPhoto, you can also assign a rating using the 0-5 star rating method.

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    Depending on the number of images you have, this may be a time consuming effort. Picasa and iPhoto makes this task much easier with thumbnail images and lots of extra information about every image on your computer. You can even control the size of the thumbnail images. In the end, it will save you a lot of time and grief when you need to find that one particular image. Once you get everything organized and indexed, it becomes much easier to keep them that way.

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    Then it is a simple matter of navigating to the directory using Picasa or iPhoto, and locating the image you need. Or you can use the search function to find the image. So if you need that cute photo of a moose with a squirrel on his head, you can just search "moose and squirrel" and quickly find the image.

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