Enhancing a photo CD collection with PhotoLauncher

There are so many ways to share photos online these days, but wouldn't it be nice to save a collection of images on a recordable CD, to be able to use the CD on a moment's notice to showcase your latest vacation photos when your friends stop by for a visit? Ideally, you probably want the CD to start a slide show of the photos automatically when you insert it into the computer, because who has time to fiddle with the computer controls while you are discussing your last vacation with the friends, right?

OK, let's try to create such a disc. Open File Explorer, navigate to the folder where the photos are stored, select the ones you want to include in the collection (you want only the best ones, right?), and use the Burn to disc command:

Use Windows Explorer to burn the photos to a recordable disc.

That was easy, wasn't it? Now let's try to insert the freshly created disc in the PC and check the result, will it start displaying the photos on its own? Unfortunately, not. If you have Windows XP and the auto-play of the CDs is not disabled on your computer, you will probably see a prompt asking you to start a slide show, but Microsoft has disabled this function in the later versions of Windows (you can thank the bad guys for making us all paranoid about letting things run automatically on our computers.)

If you have a more recent version of Windows, such as Windows 8, then Windows should offer you to browse the CD with File Explorer, which you can use to start a slide show with a few mouse clicks:

Use Windows Explorer to start a slide show.

Still, even a few mouse clicks feels like so much trouble when the friends are eager to see your photos right away! Is there a way to automate the process? Let's try to design a file named autorun.inf to burn along with the photos, to make it start the photo show right away. Run Windows Notepad (or if you use AB Commander, open its Quick Editor) and enter the following text:

[autorun]
label=My Photos
icon=Fish.jpg
action=Show Photos
open=Fish.jpg
shellexecute=Fish.jpg

The label directive lets us specify the text that Windows should use when prompting you what to do with the disc. The action directive lets us provide the text of the action on the Windows prompt. Finally, the open and shellexecute directives specify the file we want to open: Windows will launch the default application to open the file, which most probably display the image on the screen. In this example we decided to start with Fish.jpg, but you can specify another file, of course.

Save the file as autorun.inf somewhere on your hard disk (make sure the actual file name is autorun.inf and not autorun.inf.txt which may happen in some situations if you save the file with Windows Notepad.) Add this file to the set of the image files to burn, and make another disc, this time with the autorun.inf included with the images. Insert the disc into the computer and observe what Windows does with the disc now:

This should work well enough if the default application associated with the JPG files on your computer is the photo viewing application: if you select Show Photos from this menu (it could be another text, depending on the action directive in the autorun.inf file), it should launch the photo viewer and open the Fish.jpg file. However, what if you have another application set up to open the JPG files by default, such as PhotoShop? Or, if your friend is too busy to watch the photos right now, but offers to borrow the CD to watch it at home, who knows what kind of software is set up on your friend's computer to open the JPG files?

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Is there a way to make sure that the Photo viewer is launched to view the image on the CD, and not some other graphics application? That's where our freeware utility PhotoLauncher comes in. We've designed it so that when it starts, it launches the built-in Windows photo viewer to display an image file from the CD. Moreover, after launching the photo viewer, it also automatically turns on the slide show mode. Think how many mouse clicks and other trouble this can save!

To use PhotoLauncher, download it using the button below, save the Zip file to your hard drive, unpack it, review the license file included there, and if you agree to the terms of the license, add the file PhotoLauncher.exe to the set of the image files to be burned to the CD. Also, modify the autorun.inf file as follows:

[autorun]
label=My Photos
icon=PhotoLauncher.exe
action=Show My Photos
open=PhotoLauncher.exe
shellexecute=PhotoLauncher.exe
firstimage=Fish.jpg
autoplay=on

Let's see what's changed: we've used the open and shellexecute to specify the file PhotoLauncher.exe, because that's the file we want to run by default when the CD is inserted in the computer. We've also added two more directives, firstimage and autoplay. The first one is used to tell PhotoLancher which image file it should display first, and the second one lets you control whether the slide show mode should or should not be enabled automatically. (It's on by default, but if for some reason you don't want the slide show to start on its own, you can specify autoplay=off in the autorun.inf file.)

Burn the image files together with the updated autorun.inf file and the PhotoLauncher.exe file , and see what happens when you insert the CD into the computer:

If you select Show My Photos from this menu, PhotoLauncher will start and it in turn will locate and launch the default Windows Photo Viewer to display the first image you've specified, and also switch the slide show mode on (unless you have disabled it, of course). Exactly what we wanted!

OK, this works with Windows PCs, but what about Macs, Linux, and other computers? Sorry, PhotoLauncher will not work with them. However, you should be able to launch the photo viewer manually and make it display the photos from the CD that way.

Happy computing!

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