Time to kick your graphics knowledge up a notch and start illustrating your documents with visuals that are a bit more complex in nature than the shapes and WordArt images covered in Chapter 14, “Adding Simple Graphic Elements.” I’m talking about digital pictures. Although they offer a great deal more in pixels, they aren’t any more difficult to add than simple graphic elements, such as shapes. However, the impact they bring to your documents is considerable. Pictures have the power to provoke, inspire, explain, and communicate in a glance. In this chapter, you learn how to tap into the vast collections of images available on the Microsoft Office website, as well as insert your own photographic images stored on your computer or memory device.
Pictures fall under the broad umbrella of graphic elements you can add to spruce up and complement your text. The term picture loosely covers any sort of detailed image, whether it’s computer-generated artwork from a drawing program or a photograph taken with a digital camera or scanned in using a scanner device. Whether you like to call them pictures, illustrations, images, or artwork, we’re still talking about the same type of visuals you can put to use in your own word-processing tasks.
Understanding Picture File Types
Before you dive head first into inserting pictures, I thought I would give you the scoop about picture file types. At first glance, this might not be anything you’re interested in, but knowing a few things about file formats for pictures might help you out when you’re searching for artwork to insert into your documents. The devices and programs used to make pictures determine what sort of file format is assigned to the picture file. Just as Microsoft Word makes document files (which utilize the .DOCX file extension), programs and devices that create pictures make different kinds of picture file formats. For example, my digital camera typically spits out JPEG files when I import them into a photo viewer program. Yours might assign another format, such as TIFF. A piece of clip art you download from the Office website might use the WMF format. Knowing the file type can help you as you organize and search for picture files on your computer and on the Web.
Figure 15.1 shows examples of four different picture file types. Your naked eye might not distinguish a great deal of difference between them, but behind the scenes in the coding, things become very different.
FIGURE 15.1 Picture files use different file formats. You had better know this for the quiz later.
Obviously, different graphic file types are used with different scenarios. For example, graphics for Web use don’t require the same quality settings as those used in professional printing. With everyone sharing picture files these days, though, either directly or over the Internet, file size and quality is an issue regardless of the scenario. Picture files are notoriously large in size because of all the colors and details needed to make them. Because of this, data compression techniques are employed to help keep picture file sizes down. Lossy compression and lossless compression are two such methods. Lossy compression reduces the file size by eliminating certain data, such as redundant information; but when uncompressed, some of the original data is gone. With lossless compression, everything in the file can be recovered when the file is uncompressed. Image file formats, like those described in the following list, apply these types of data compression methods to reduce the overall file size.
The most common picture formats you’ll encounter today are
- JPEG or JPG Stands for Joint Photographics Expert Group. JPG is commonly used on photos and similar types of illustration files. Its flexible compression levels let you control the file size. JPG is a good choice when you want a smaller file size for an image, but that means the quality is lower due to its lossy compression method. However, the quality loss might not be noticeable.
- TIFF or TIF Stands for Tagged Image File Format. TIFF is great for high-color, high-depth digital images, and its lossless compression format retains image quality no matter how many times you open and resave the file. TIF is the highest quality for commercial work.
- PNG Stands for Portable Network Graphics. PNG is a bitmap file format designed specifically for use with web pages. It was originally designed to replace the GIF format to save color information more efficiently. Although not as popular as JPEG and TIFF, it’s a good choice for lossless quality images.
- GIF Stands for Graphics Interchange Format. GIF is an older file format commonly used with simple graphics, such as logos, shapes, and icons. It also supports animation. It’s a bit limiting for today’s digital technology (it only supports 8-bit, 256 color at the maximum), but it still has its place on the Web for simple graphics.
- BMP Stands for Windows Bitmap. This file format is commonly used with Windows graphics. Also called raster or paint format, it’s not compressed, which results in a larger file size. BMP files aren’t very popular as web graphics.
- RAW This is uncompressed digital image data straight from your camera. It’s not been fiddled with or compressed in any way. You must convert RAW files to another file format in order to open them in a photo-viewing program. If you hand someone a RAW file, chances are they can’t read it; it has to be converted first. With Windows 7 and later, the Camera Codec Pack helps with reading RAW file types.
- DNG Stands for Digital Negative. DNG is a new open standard RAW format developed by Adobe, and just about every digital photo program can read DNG file types.
Hey, don’t think I didn’t notice your eyes glazing over after reading about all those file types. Just remember to flip back to the list if you ever need to identify one as you encounter different graphic files on your computer journey.