On Computers

Freeware Slide Show CD Creators

Jack 'daWabbit' Imsdahl, jack@oncomputers.info

27 April 2003

Being the freeware junkie I am, I went looking for inexpensive or free alternatives to the HP application Nate (Giant_One) used to create his slideshow. Normally, doing this is fun and not something I consider work at all. This time was different. I downloaded a total of 21 applications. 11 of these were rejected by reading the EULA (End User License Agreement) in which I would have been giving permission for tracking or other 'marketing' software to be installed on my machines. One was rejected because Norton Anti-Virus found something objectionable within the zip file. After installation, four more were rejected for either performance issues (instability or refusing to launch reliably) or because Ad Aware found some tracking software within the package after installation, despite nothing being said about the presence of it in the license.

So, I ended up with five applications to test. There are many more of them out there which I didn't download, meaning that however you feel about this review, don't despair because there are plenty more applications to test. Just be sure your copy of Ad Aware and your anti-virus program are up to date and use them. Read the licenses carefully. Yes, I know that is a pain in the butt. Sound practices demand these things, though. (If you don't have Ad Aware or an anti-virus program, see "Joe's Jottings" on this site for links to both. There is quality protection available, at no cost. The same for necessary system utilities Joe lists on the that page. We don't recommend these programs because they are free, but because they work. The no cost aspect of it is just gravy.)

I have a folder called "stuff" in My Documents. It contains pictures of people, racing motorcycles, racing automobiles, airplanes and our home that I didn't really have any other place to put. I'm using these applications to create slideshows of that folder's contents and will burn them to CD to see how it goes. At least, that's the plan. Most of the images in this folder are common formats; jpegs, mostly, though not all. There are a few .tifs and .gifs and two .png images. Should be a reasonably decent test.

UniDream Photo Player http://www.unidreamtech.com/

The license for this application states it is free for non-commercial, home use. The company also sells 'bigger' versions of the application for commercial use, so be sure you get the freeware one and not the shareware or commercial versions, unless you're sure you need those. The free version is all you really need, unless you're going to be making an awful lot of slideshows.

Unidream Photo Player worked well for me. It has a competent installer and uninstaller, ran right out of the box on 9x, 2K and XP Home, in my tests. The interface is just a bit complex, though I must say I found it self-explanatory. The help files were excellent; better than the native Windows help. Every operation I looked up was explained in a clear, step-by-step fashion that allowed me to complete the task on the first try, without too much thought and with no fumbling around to see what the help files meant. Background images and music are fully supported. I made a Ry Cooder MP3 and used that as background music. I also inserted a Windows Media file I had made of Little Feat and used that. Both worked flawlessly. Other formats are supported, should you need them.

Operation is complex, but straight-forward enough to make it doable for anyone. You have to create a folder for the project and put everything you wish to use, music, background images, the actual slideshow images and the Photo Player executable and help files in it. You can have as many sub-folders inside the project folder as you feel are necessary to organize the project. When everything is where it should be, you run the application from within the folder in a special mode called "Simulate CD Run" which generates the autorun.ini file and makes the CD play when inserted into the drive.

Once done, you simply open the special folder you created and burn the entire contents to CD. It sounds more clumsy than it is. Do it once and you'll have it down pat.

Of the applications I tested, this is the one I will keep.

Digital Matrix My Albumhttp://pmeindre.free.fr/MyAlbum.html

I created a slide show CD with My Album, also. This turned out to be an easy to use application, with one exception. My Album requires you to write the autorun.ini file in a text editor and insert it in the correct place. To me, this is not a horrible drawback and clear directions are given in the help files, along with a serviceable example. However, the lack of an automatically generated autorun.ini file will likely turn off some folks.

As with the previous example, this is a rather complex application, due to the many options allowed the builder of the slideshow. Insertion of music, backgrounds, text and all sorts of goodies is supported. My Album handles many graphics and music formats, so you should not run into any problems there. With only the exception of the autorun.ini file needing to be written manually, I found this application rather easy to use. The help files are very good, with everything easy to find and understand. The making of screensaver slide shows is supported, also.

I could easily live with this application, but rank it second to My Album.

Chuckle's Pic View http://www.wmn.net/jwickstrom/

You don't install Chuckle's Pic View on your computer in the normal sense. You simply paste the executable file into the folder you wish to view and it shows you the pics in slideshow form. There are no help files and if you burn your pics and the executable to a CD, the user will have to double click on the executable to start the show, unless you write an autorun.ini file for the CD.

Given that, this is the easiest to create a slideshow CD with, but the presentation is not as slick as if the CD would play automatically.

This application worked well enough, but I found it so limited that I really can't recommend it for anything but local viewing on your computer, which is a bit beside the point of this article, seeing as we're concerned with making cds.

PJ Slideshow http://hjem.get2net.dk/lpj/CreateCD.htm

This one is as simple as it gets. You just go to the link above, download the requisite files and burn them to the CD with the images. MP3 is the only supported background music format and there are very few options available for customization. However, it worked like a champ for me, giving me a CD that ran automatically with a full-screen display. The lack of customization features and good help files is what keeps me from recommending this one too highly, but it works, which has got to count for something.

ZeeTroll 1.1.1

I tried this application because of a friend's recommendation. (Her information was gleaned from some newsgroup or another, not from actual experience.) It's very complex, hard to maneuver inside itself, has to be killed via Task Manager and has a bad joke for an uninstaller. There are no help files that I can see. Steer clear of this one. I wasn't even able to find a developer's web page for help.

I mention it only because it is prominently displayed at several download sites and looks interesting enough in the blurbs that you may be tempted to try it. Don't. Hopefully, continued development of this application will bring it up to snuff because I did see things I liked about it. They just weren't enough to make me continue fooling with the application in the face of it's shortcomings.

Now, go bombard your friends, family and co-workers with slideshows of your vacation.<G>



© 2003 Jack Imsdahl

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