Digital Photos Online with Jalbum

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This article was published by ComputorEdge, issue #2629, 2008-07-18, as a feature article, in both their PDF edition (on pages 15-24) and their website.

Publishing one's digital photos on the Internet is usually the most efficient way to make those pictures available to family and friends. If you choose to do so, then there are several options, which can be grouped into two major categories: photo services and personally-created photo albums.

One example of the former category is Flickr, owned by Yahoo. It claims to be "the best online photo management and sharing application in the world," and may well be. It is certainly popular, currently hosting millions of users and hundreds of millions of digital photos. Once you have created a new account, you can upload photos from your digital camera, camera phone, and computer; organize those photos using collections, sets, and tags; share the photos with a list of people you designate; associate map locations with your photos and videos; use your photos for creating electronic greeting cards, DVDs, framed prints, and more.

All of these features may be terrific for some people, but they might be overkill for what you are trying to create. In addition, Flickr and other similar services are limited in how many styles you can use for presenting your photo album. If you wish to have greater control over the visual appearance of your virtual photo album, then either you or someone else will need to create that photo album, ending up with one or more HTML files, JavaScript files (particularly for slideshows and other presentation effects), and image files, including thumbnail images (smaller versions of the original images, for previewing purposes).

You could have a Web developer or multimedia professional build the photo album for you, using a range of Web technologies. Or you could try to do it yourself. However, the typical individual does not possess the technical skills to create, from scratch, the Web pages that serve as an infrastructure around the photos, and which allow people to easily navigate from one photo to the next. Fortunately, there are a wide variety of photo album generators available on the Internet, and many of them can be used at no charge.

The Dr. J of Album Generators

Jalbum is one of the most popular such photo album generators, and for good reason — actually, many good reasons: It is a desktop application, and not a Web-based service, so you avoid the time and trouble of having to upload your digital photos to a remote Web server, and you retain greater control over those photos.

Jalbum is relatively easy to install and use (more on that below). You can create albums out of digital photos and even videos — surpassing the capabilities of most similar products. Jalbum is completely free to use, but still offers a large selection of presentation options — in the form of layout options that you set when creating your album, and also in the presentation theme (known as a "skin") that you choose.

An additional advantage is that you can easily publish your finished photo album on their dedicated hosting site, http://X.jalbum.net/ (where "X" is your Jalbum.net username). This feature suggests that the creators of Jalbum are well aware of the advantages of a dedicated photo hosting service. Thus, Jalbum gives you the best of both worlds.

Installing and configuring Jalbum is not difficult for anyone who feels comfortable downloading and installing a Windows application. In this article, we will examine the procedures for obtaining and using Jalbum for your own use, step-by-step.

Jalbum Accounts

If you want to be able to publish your photo albums on their website, then you will need to sign up for an account. In this article, that is the approach we will follow. However, if you simply wish to create photo albums and keep them locally on your computer, or publish them on your own website, you can instead download Jalbum from one of many software sites, such as CNET's Download.com. (In this case, you can skip ahead to the next section of this article.)

To obtain both an account and the software, begin by visiting the Jalbum homepage.

Jalbum homepage
Figure 1. Jalbum homepage

Click on any one of the "Download" links, at which point you are presented with a form for creating an account.

account sign-up
Figure 2. account sign-up

Once you have completed the sign-up process, and you are logged into your account, you have the ability to publish albums and track them within your account, designate other people within the system as contacts, send and receive messages with contacts, tag other people's albums as favorites, and modify your profile.

Jalbum profile
Figure 3. Jalbum profile

We won't get into the details of all that you can do within your online Jalbum profile. Rather, we will focus on what is needed for creating your first photo album. Begin by clicking on the "Jalbum Software" button in the green menu bar located at the top of most, if not every, page on the Jalbum site.

Jalbum site menu bar
Figure 4. Jalbum site menu bar

Download the latest version of Jalbum, which as of this writing is 8.0. During the download process, you can make a financial contribution to the Jalbum project if you would like to support their efforts.

downloading Jalbum
Figure 5. downloading Jalbum

Installing Jalbum

After you have finished downloading the installation executable file, start the installation wizard by opening the file (double-clicking it should be sufficient). The wizard will step you through the installation process, and will inform you that "JalbumWin" requires approximately 45.6 megabytes of free space. The last step of installation is to start running Jalbum itself.

If you have a software firewall that detects outbound connections, you should receive a warning that Jalbum is attempting to connect to www.jalbum.net. Jalbum contains no spyware, and such a connection is innocuous and unneeded for creating photo albums on your computer.

connection warning
Figure 6. connection warning

The Jalbum user interface is neatly designed and straightforward, as seen in the screenshot below.

program interface
Figure 7. program interface

Before creating any photo albums, you may want to check the default program behavior, and see if you would like to change any of the settings. Choose Preferences from the Tools menu. Note that the Cancel button does not work as one would expect, and instead behaves just like the OK button.

preferences dialog
Figure 8. preferences dialog

You can also modify the default photo album settings, by clicking on the large Settings button or choosing Settings from the Album menu. If you already have a directory with photos you would like to work with, be sure to set that in the "Image directory" field in the General section.

album settings dialog
Figure 9. album settings dialog

The other four Settings sections allow you to specify image scaling, image sharpness, JPEG quality, maximum sizes for the images and their thumbnails, how images are linked in the albums generated, and so much more. In fact, the Chameleon section alone contains more than a dozen subsections, reflecting the amount of control one has if that particular skin is chosen.

Album Contents and Skin

Adding pictures to your current album is quite easy: Simply click the Add button on the menu bar, locate your desired photo files in the directory tree dialog box, and drag the photos into the main area of the user interface.

The fun part is choosing what skin you would like to use, as well as the underlying color scheme. Those are selected using the Skin and Style drop-down lists located in the left-hand control panel.

control panel
Figure 10. control panel

The default Jalbum installation contains seven skins and eight styles. Many more skins are available on the Jalbum Web skins page. But it is quite likely that one of the default skins will be more than sufficient for your needs. For instance, you might choose the Mamba theme, with a black style.

Mamba theme
Figure 11. Mamba theme

After you have added all of the photos for your album, and decided upon a skin and a style, click the Preview button to see what your album would look like, or click the Make Album button and Jalbum will generate all of the necessary HTML, JavaScript, and image files for your completed album. That's all there is to it.

Note that Jalbum can also serve as a free and more open substitute for creating simple presentations for which you might otherwise use Microsoft PowerPoint — especially if the majority of your presentation slides consist of screenshots or other images — as opposed to the typical PowerPoint slides comprising text organized into bullet points. If your presentation has a limited number of textual slides, they can be created even faster in Word or some other word processor, sized appropriately, and captured in a screenshot — for later use in Jalbum.

Once you start exploring what is possible with Jalbum, it will most likely become your favorite application for generating photo albums, and possibly even replace PowerPoint for your presentation needs.

Copyright © 2008 Michael J. Ross. All rights reserved.