From Spaces to WordPress step by step. Give yourself a new header.

12. Adding a Custom Header.

One of the features often requested on Windows Live Spaces was the ability to add your own header to your Space. On WordPress, most of the available themes allow you to do just that, so this how-to takes you through how to add your own header to your blog. To illustrate how to add a header, I’m going to use my testing blog on here which at the moment is using the Elegant Grunge theme.  To tie in with that theme, I am going to add a Grungy type header so first of all, I need to grab a free background that is both darkish and grungy. I do this by simply doing a search using either Bing or Google to find that type of background to use for my header.

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Beginning Blogging 9. Keeping up Appearances.

Next let’s work through choosing another Theme for your blog, giving it a header of your choice and also choosing a new background. Some of the newer themes allow you to add a new header and background to them. So let’s choose one shall we? From your WordPress dashboard, click on Appearance from the left hand sidebar. You will be presented with all the themes that are currently available on WordPress. We need to narrow our search for a new theme down to background and header customisation.

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Talking about the new Bing Bar.

Today I  have been trying out the new Bing bar in Internet Explorer 8 and thought it might be useful  to  write a post about how useful I have found it.  It is actually almost a carbon copy of the MSN toolbar that I posted about recently and works in more or less the same way, in fact it has replaced the MSN Toolbar beta.  You will need to have Silverlight on board in order to use the new Bing bar which is available from HERE..

New Bing BarOnce you have downloaded the new Bing Bar from HERE , you can customize it fully to suit your tastes and interests. You can choose which buttons to have available for use by simply dragging them to and fro from the buttons drop down list which  is accessible  by clicking on the plus sign to the right of the default buttons,  and there are some very useful ones to choose from. For example in my case,  I don’t need the cars, money, sport or travel buttons, but I will make use of the TV, Tech and Gadgets, Weather, Windows Live and Life and Style buttons so you can fully tailor the choice of buttons to use to suit you, your interests and your lifestyle.

All buttons to choose fromAs with the MSN Toolbar, by clicking on the Spanner icon on the right hand side of the toolbar, you can also choose the colour and a seasonal theme as well for your Bing Bar. On the far right hand side, you can input your Live ID by clicking on the small down arrow and inserting your  Live ID credentials. The Toolbar will then show your Live ID icon on the far right hand side. . Once you are signed in, you can then click again on the small black arrow to either sign out or alternatively click on view your profile to be taken straight to your Windows Live profile page. A nice touch. To the immediate left of the spanner icon is a small green shield containing a tick which when clicked on states whether or not your computer is at the recommended safely level. I presume that when this is not so, the shield turns red to warn you that all  is not well.

Safety shieldClicking on each of your chosen buttons on the toolbar instigates a  drop down list of choices depending on the button in question, and I try to show some of the choices available to you here. For example, clicking  on the Windows Live button if you have chosen it for your Toolbar  will then display a drop down list allowing  you the choice of going or accessing Live Photo Gallery, Spaces, SkyDrive, your Profile, your photos or alternatively your Mobile. So a quick and easy way to access all of your Windows Live pages and applications whilst you are  browsing the web.

Windows Live dropdownThe weather button is fully customisable and once you have input your location either via your postcode or town, shows your local weather in a very attractive format for the next five days complete with descriptive icons ably illustrated by the picture below.

setting up your weatherOne button I was very keen to include  in my Bar was of course the Tech and Gadgets button, and again this when clicked on shows a variety of technological news about the latest Gadgets and includes News, Features, Photos, Shopping, Mobiles and also an MSN blog about Technology and Gadgets. I had better use this particular button with some caution or I might end up going on a  big spending spree!

Tech and Gadgets buttonThe News button features the news  from your particular  location, so in my case the top news in the drop down list is from the UK. Similarly, the TV button features news about the  TV programs currently being shown in your location so in my particular case, the drop down features the latest news from ‘I’m a Celebrity, Get me out of here.’ which is currently showing this week on ITV. All the news in the list  features a small screen of the person being talked about in each news feature. Again in the TV button list, there is quite a choice available to peruse, such as news, Features, Photos, Video, Soaps and another blog to read.  Quite a comprehensive list to work through!

TV drop down is location savvyI  am certainly going to use this Bing Bar from now on, it is definitely as good if not better than the MSN Toolbar that I was previously using and I thoroughly recommend that you give it a try. it is fully customisable to suit you and your interests and that is always a winning feature in my book!  So take a look at this video about the new Bing Bar and then  why don’t you give it a try! It works in both Internet Explorer and Firefox.

TG   Enjoy.

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Live Photo Gallery v Google Picasa round 3.

More extensive editing in Picasa.

In this post I intend to take a look at the more intensive editing features contained in both of these two free desktop photo  editing programs. . Looking at Picasa first, it’s editing sidebar which is placed on the left hand side of the photo screen  is divided into three separate areas or tabs. These consist of Basic Fixes, Tuning and Effects.

Picasa's Basic FixesBasic Fixes contains clickable icons for Crop, Straighten, Redeye, I’m Feeling Lucky (auto fix) Auto Contrast, Auto Colour, Retouch, Text and Fill Light. Only Fill Light has a adjustable slider. The Redeye feature in Picasa is particularly impressive because even if the person who is affected by the redeye is some distance away in the photograph, Picasa can still enable Redeye correction and it automatically draws a green square around each affected eye so that all the user has to do is to click on Apply.

Fix red eye in PIcasaTwo features which are included in this category that are not available in Photo Gallery are Retouch and Text. As the name implies, Retouch allows the user to touch up someone’s face in order to cover up any  blemishes for example by brushing it out. You can choose which size of brush you wish to use and then by clicking the circle above the blemish you can cover it, and then click on Apply. You are able to ‘undo’ the patch or cover if you are not happy.

The text feature allows you to place some text into the photograph. You can choose which font and size of font to use and also its alignment and its transparency.

Placing text on a photo The middle tab Tuning consists of four separate sliders for Fill Light, Highlights, Shadows and Colour Temperature to enable you to ‘fine tune’ the photograph.  All can be reversed with Undo Retouches. The last tab Effects features all the different Effects that you can apply to your photo  shown as small icons consisting of that  particular photo so that you can easily see just how each effect will look when applied to the photograph. So Picasa contains some  quite extensive editing features considering that it comes entirely free to use.

PIcasa shows you its effects.

More extensive editing in Photo Gallery.

In direct contrast, the editing column in Photo Gallery is placed on the right hand side of the photo editing screen. It’s editing tools make far more  use  of sliders in order to adjust each feature. They consist of the following, Auto Adjust, Adjust Exposure, Adjust Colour, Straighten Photo, Crop Photo, Adjust Detail, Fix Red eye and Black and White Effects. With the adjust exposure feature as well as sliders for Brightness, Contrast, Shadows and Highlights, you also have  a Histogram so that you can see how your adjustments look.

The Adjust colour also makes use of sliders for Colour Temperature, Tint and Saturation.

Photo Gallery's finer adjustmentsWhen you click on Straighten photo, a grid is overlaid on top of the photograph to assist with lining up any vertical or horizontal lines in that photo. Crop photo allows you to crop out any areas that are superficial to the photo and both of these features also work exactly the same  in Picasa.

The Adjust detail feature is relatively new  to Photo Gallery and was added during the last updates. It allows you to Sharpen up your photo by using a slider. Firstly as soon as you select Adjust detail, the photo is ‘zoomed in’ so that you are more able to see the close up affects of your sharpening, then because applying any sharpening usually introduces ‘noise’ into the photo, you can click on the Analyze button to reduce the noise that may have been introduced during the sharpening procedure.  I have found that this feature works quite well.

Adjusting detail in Photo GalleryThe Fix red eye in Photo Gallery does not work in the same way as the same feature  in Picasa.  Instead, the user  has to manually drag the mouse pointer around the effected eye instead of the program automatically drawing a rectangle for you, and so whilst it is fairly easy to do if the affected person was fairly close to the camera when the photo was taken, it is not as useful if the person was stood quite a distance away.  However, one could argue that its harder to spot the incidence of Redeye if someone is a further away. 

Fix red eye in Photo galleryThe Black and white effects in Photo Gallery also are shown as small icons displaying their effects, but not of  that particular photo, so the only way to see just how they look when applied to your photo is to click on them and try them out.   All adjustments made to any photograph can easily be undone by clicking on the Undo button at the very bottom of the Edit column.

Black and White effects in PG In the next round between these two programs,  I intend to focus on any extras that either program provides such as the Panoramic feature incorporated into Photo Gallery and  the Collage feature and the Geotagging that is available in Picasa.