Lots of you own digital cameras or will get them for Xmas. Each camera will come with proprietary software to unload photos from the camera and handle simple editing – fixing redeye, making dark pictures brighter, and the like.

Life with new technology is full of choices, perhaps more than you realize. Software is supplied with Windows for viewing pictures. Software is included with Microsoft Office 2003 for simple photo editing. You probably already have one or two programs to do the same tasks. There are many programs on the market for organizing and editing photos. All of them are fighting to be the program that talks to your camera, or to be the program that responds when you click on a file with the extension .JPG.

You don’t have to install any software from the camera manufacturer. You can purchase an inexpensive card reader and plug the camera’s CF or SD memory card into it. The software of your choice will read the pictures and work with them. Adobe Photoshop Elements 3.0 automatically opens a tool to import photos when a memory card is inserted anywhere; it catalogs the photos in the Organizer and offers to open a simple editing tool. Microsoft Digital Image Pro can import pictures the same way.

There is no “right” answer. The camera manufacturer’s software may be perfect for you. Kodak’s EasyShare software coordinates well with online photo printing services and online services to share photos and hardware to dock the camera and print 4×6 prints. The best software will likely be whatever you get used to.

But as you hold the CD that came with your new device on the day after Xmas, think a moment before you slip it into the drive. Is this a more complicated choice than you realize? Should you take a minute to research the area and find out whether another program would serve you better? Are you installing buggy or useless software?

Go slowly. There’s lots of complicated new toys on the market and I want you to enjoy them, not be frustrated by them.

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