Walt Mossberg

Recent Columns by Walt Mossberg

Mossberg’s Mailbox

Finding a Photo-Organizing Program

There’s no other major item most of us own that is as confusing, unpredictable and unreliable as our personal computers. Everybody has questions about them, and we aim to help.

Here are a few questions about computers I’ve received recently from people like you, and my answers. I have edited and restated the questions a bit, for readability. This week my mailbox contained questions about switching between software provided by camera companies, Web-based tax-preparation software and scheduling antispyware sweeps.

If you have a question, send it to me at mossberg@wsj.com, and I may select it to be answered here in Mossberg’s Mailbox.

I have been using Olympus digital cameras for years, so I have a library of Olympus digital photos using Olympus software. If I were to switch to a Canon camera, how easy is it to also switch software? Is there an easy way to transfer the Olympus photos into the Canon software?

Unless you are doing something unusual, all your photos from both cameras should be in the standard format called “jpg” and I assume either company’s software can handle all of them. However, I don’t recommend using the software supplied by camera makers. They may be fine at making cameras, but, with the exception of Kodak, they usually create lousy software. Instead, I suggest getting a good, general photo-organizing program, and making that the center for managing your pictures — whatever camera you use.

Every Macintosh computer comes with a superb program called iPhoto for organizing, sharing and editing photos. Windows computers don’t come with anything as good, but you can download a free program called Picasa from Google, at picasa.com. Or, you can download Kodak’s very nice EasyShare software, at Kodak.com. It’s free, comes in versions for both Windows and Mac, and doesn’t require a Kodak camera or printer to use. Paid software that also does the trick on Windows includes ACDSee, at acdsystems.com; and Corel Photo Album, at corel.com.

In 2002, you advised against using Web-based tax-preparation software, writing, “Your tax data are highly sensitive and confidential, and I think the Web is just too susceptible to hackers and crooks to make it a fitting repository for such information.” Do you continue to have these concerns?

Yes. If anything, the incidence of identity theft and other security problems on the Web have grown worse since 2002. I am not criticizing the tax-preparation companies, which I assume have good security. And I am not advising people against normal e-commerce, or the use of credit cards online. But I would be personally loath to put the broad and deep financial information required for a tax filing on a server controlled by someone else and connected to the Internet. I would instead download or buy traditional tax-preparation software, which keeps your data on your own hard disk.

I have the Spy Sweeper antispyware software that you recommend, and am wondering how often you suggest scheduling it to automatically scan my computer for software. I was thinking once a month.

Once a month isn’t good enough if you are an active Internet user, or your computer is on a broadband connection and stays on, and connected, all the time. I run both spyware and virus scans nightly on my Windows computers, and I advise all Windows broadband users to do so. There’s no downside, if your computer is on all the time anyway. I also advise setting the software to run in the background, guarding your PC against new intrusions.

Write to Walter S. Mossberg at mossberg@wsj.com

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