Windows Technical Preview–Import Photos with Picasa

Using Picasa to import photos in Windows Technical Preview

In a prior article, Windows Technical Preview – Import Photos with “Photos”, I explored the functioning of the Windows Technical Preview for importing photos from a DSLR camera. The results were less than satisfactory. Alright, for RAW photo files the Windows 10 preview is utterly useless as is. What is a photo enthusiast to do? In this article I will explore using Picasa. yes, Picasa the program from arch-foe Google for managing, enhancing, and sharing photos.

On a clean Windows Technical Preview virtual machine (running in VMware Player) I downloaded and installed Picasa. Win10-Cam-p-002

Win10-Cam-p-011aNext I plugged in a camera. And what should my eyes behold? There in that AutoPlay “what shall I do” window was a listing of Picasa. Of course, I clicked on that. So when I plug in my camera the next time, Picasa will start to import my photos.

Well, my elation was short-lived. What Windows Technical Preview promises it does not necessarily deliver. The next time I plugged in my camera only the device recognition sound indicated that it was being seen. As to launching Picasa, nope.

So I opened Picasa, then plugged in the camera and turned it on. Funny, the only thing that happened was the Picasa window going inactive, the nice blue top just turned gray. If you want to import, you have to use the Import option in Picasa. That is certainly a weird process. I intentionally have a memory card that is almost full with photos. So it took Picasa quite a while to “investigate” the camera. It really imports the photos on a temporary basis and list them in the preview screen where you can select the photos you wish to import. If some have been previously imported there is a “don’t” circle. The folder selection options are meager but adequate. You can specify the main folder and subfolders. For the subfolders there are three choices, a folder for which you specify the name, a folder with today’s date, or date-taken folders. The “investigative” process took 20 minutes for the 634 photos on my camera. Once the photos to be imported are selected the process is rather quick. I will illustrate with a couple of screen shots from a later stage in my testing but these illustrate the import process pretty well.

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The good news is that Picasa can display and edit the RAW files, Nikon NEF files in my case, just fine. Picasa writes its own info file with the edit settings so the next time a photo is opened these prior settings are applied. This makes it appear as if Picasa had edited the photo. The actual photo file is not touched (except for some items, but that is a story for another day). You can use “Save as” to make an edited JPG copy of the photo.

The files on the camera I used for this test averaged about 8 MB. I wondered how importing from a camera that produces larger RAW files would fare. I used a Nikon D800 for another test, the files average more than 70 MB each. Picasa recognized the camera but found no photos. This camera uses two memory cards. Apparently the Picasa designers had not encountered this situation, so this is not supported.

It is always possible to import photo files with File Explorer. Locate the desired files on the camera and select them and drag the thumbnails to the desired PC folder. Here is an illustration of that process.

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Although a bit more delicate, this process is really much faster that using the Picasa import option.

Once copied to the PC, Picasa had no problems displaying and editing these RAW files.

For the photo enthusiast running the Windows Technical Preview using Picasa is a workable solution. By itself Windows Technical Preview is useless. Longtime readers of this blog know that I am partial to using Photo Gallery, Microsoft’s tool for managing, enhancing and sharing photos. Just scan down a bit in the sidebar for the reason of my bias. In my next article I will take up using Photo Gallery in the Windows Technical Preview.

.:.

© 2014 Ludwig Keck

Posted in Digital Photos, Photography, Photos, Picasa, Windows 10 | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Windows Technical Preview – Import Photos with “Photos”

Using the default photo importer in Windows Technical Preview

With the Windows Technical Preview, a preview of Windows 10, Microsoft promises to correct all the flubs of Windows 8 and Windows 8.1. Those prior offerings were a disappointment for photo enthusiasts. Is there hope for the new system? In this article, I will look at the preview and see what is offered.

Win10-Camera-001aThe Windows Technical Preview takes you to the desktop on start – a good omen. When a camera is plugged in, it is recognized and a little blue panel pops up just at it did in Windows 8. It asks “Tap to choose what happens with this device”. Win10-Camera-002a“Tap” is touch-speak for “click”, we can live with that. Next come some offerings, “Open device to view files – File Explorer”, “Import photos and videos – Photos”, and “Take no action”.

The only useful one is to import with “Photos”. Win10-Camera-003aIn Windows 8 that was a big disappointment. The next full screen message does not inspire much confidence. Does it really take a full screen to say “Scanning your device. Files found …”. Then, still full screen, an ominous listing of the photos on the camera. I say ominous because instead of thumbnails of the photos the listings shows a little landscape icon for each file. There are option in a menu bar on the bottom. All images are checked and there is a Clear selection option. Others are Select all, Import, and Cancel.

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There is no hint of being able to select the target folder or any other options. Import is all that will cause the process to proceed. So I click Import. The import process goes on and the screen turns black for a simple message. Win10-Camera-007a

These full-screen “modern” apps can be run in a smaller window on the desktop, but there are limits to how small you can make them. My fear is stoked when the message says “There are no files or folders in this view”.

File Explorer is more helpful. The import app made a folder in Pictures with the date of the importation as the file name. All photos, regardless when they were taken, that were on the camera are stuffed into that one folder. There are no thumbnails. Nothing is displayed when you click on a photo file. Win10-Camera-009a

The files are in “RAW” format on my camera which the Windows Technical Preview can’t handle. Windows 8.1 did! So now I know that the Windows 10 preview is based on Windows 8 and not on Windows 8.1. Why the step backwards, Microsoft? I’m sure if the photos were JPEG files they would show alright. But photo enthusiasts, and certainly professional photographers, want the best their cameras can deliver and that means RAW format, in my case Nikon NEF format. As I said, my Windows 8.1 machine has a codec for these files. It took Microsoft a long time to include that, Windows 8 didn’t. Microsoft has offered a codec for many years and I have used it with Windows 7, but that gets us ahead of my story. Win10-Camera-010a

When you click on a photo file you get “This file can’t be opened. The file might be damaged.” No, dear Microsoft, the file is not damaged, the Windows Technical Preview is. For now the Windows Technical Preview is too dumb to be of use to photo enthusiasts. We can get around that, I tried a couple of approaches. “Those stories and more” in coming posts, stick with me.

.:.

© 2014 Ludwig Keck

Posted in Digital Photos, Photography, Photos, Windows 10 | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

Windows 10 in a Virtual Machine

Installing Windows Technical Preview in a VMware Player Virtual Machine

Microsoft has made Windows Technical Preview, an early glimpse at Windows 10, available for download. In another post, Installing the Windows 10 Preview, the “upgrade” path was described. This article focuses on doing a clean install in a VMware Player virtual machine. Of course you need the virtual machine program on your host system. If you do not already have VMware Player you can download it from the VMware download page. This program is free for non-commercial use.

To create a virtual machine you need the installer disk image file, ISO file, of the Windows Technical Preview package. It can be downloaded from this Microsoft download site. It is available in several languages and in 32 and 64-bit versions. If your machine is of recent vintage the 64-bit version is appropriate and this article describes the installation of that version. Note that this file is quite large, around 3 GB, and thus may take some time to be downloaded.

Here are the steps for installing Windows Technical Preview in a virtual machine

Win10-V-00cStart VMware Player and click Create a New Virtual Machine.

The New Virtual Machine Wizard dialog opens. Since you have the downloaded ISO file, click  Installer disc image file (iso): and then browse to the location of the file, most likely your Downloads folder. Click Next. In the next window give your new virtual machine a name and select the place on your host machine where it is to reside. VMware Player is very flexible and you can place the file on any drive, any folder where you have plenty of space. You can even create a new folder in this dialog.

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Next specify the size of the virtual disk that will be used by your VM. The default will come up as 60GB, I like to give a VM at least 100GB of space. Although not all of that space will be used at once, do make sure that you have plenty of disk space available where you locate this virtual disk. I like the virtual disk to be one whole large file rather than a collection of little ones and check Store virtual disk as a single file.

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Click Next and inspect the recap of your selections. The defaults picked by VMware Player will most likely create a fine, functioning virtual machine that will use you host systems resources, memory, audio, networking, etc. as needed. You can customize the “hardware” that will be used or simulated. You can modify any of these choices later on. Click Finish. You now have a virtual new computer without an operating system installed but with the ISO file loaded. This will be just like putting a DVD into the tray of a brand new machine. The Wizard finishes and you now see your new computer listed and selected, ready to be “turned on”. Win10-V-06c

Click Play virtual machine to proceed to the installation of the operating system. If you have every installed an operating system before, you will see the familiar sequence. This is a slow process. The virtual machine will reboot several times (not your host computer). There will a several places where the process stops for input from you. The first such stop comes very quickly. You see Windows Setup and need to click Install now.

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Next come the license terms. You know that the only way to go on is to accept the terms.

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Check the box I accept the license terms and click Next. Don’t worry about the banner you will see at the bottom about installing VMware Tools. We will get to that once Windows is up and running.

Next you need to make a selection Which type of installation do you want? The upgrade type is already selected, but that is not what you want. You are making a clean, new installation so click Custom: Install Windows only (advanced).

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Next you will see the only disk that is available for the installation, it is selected, so just click Next. The the Settings options. Just click Use express settings.

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Shortly you will be asked to sign in to you Microsoft account. This requires your email address and password. Go ahead and enter that information. Windows 10, like Windows 8 before, has you sign on on boot. It sets up your services and is a good security measure.

You likely will be asked to verify your account. The process will send you a phone text message or email (your host machine needs to be online for this to work).

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The message will be a number that you type into the next screen.  This has worked less than perfectly for me. Microsoft gives you an escape from this verification step. You can click I can’t do this right now and the process will continue.

If you already have a virtual machine using the same login credentials you may be asked if this new machine should replace the existing one or be set up as a new machine. Click Set this up as a new PC instead and then Next to continue.

A few more minutes as the Windows Technical Review sets itself up and – behold – the Windows desktop comes up. Congratulations, your installation succeeded. But you are not quite finished. Now is the time to take care of that banner at the bottom.

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Click Install Tools in the bottom banner. Then click the blue banner, “Tap to choose…”.

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Click Run setup64.exe. This will install some VMware support tools to provide smooth mouse operation, drag and drop between host and the virtual machine and other services. Nice! Follow the instructions and allow the program to make changes, accept the typical installation and finish the install process. The VMware Tools installer will ask to restart the machine. Allow it to do so.

Now your new Windows 10 preview will come up with the familiar lock screen and login screen. Now, finally you can try out the new world of Windows 10.

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In my next article we will take a look at how Windows 10, or at least the Windows Technical Preview serve the needs of photography enthusiasts.

.:.

© 2014 Ludwig Keck

Posted in Virtual Machine, VMware Player, Windows 10 | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Installing the Windows 10 Preview

Windows Technical Preview is here

After taking a drumming with Windows 8, Microsoft wants to distance itself with that debacle by not even using the next number in sequence, so on to Windows 10!

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Eager to take it for a spin? The “Windows Technical Preview” is now available for testing. This is not a finished product and Microsoft warns not to think of it as a upgrade that is ready now. To try it out you need a PC other than your primary computer to test it on.  There are  two versions available. In this article I will discuss the version that front and center on the Microsoft site, the “Enterprise” edition will be the topic of a later article.

Installing Windows Technical Preview

Warning:

  • Do not install the Windows 10 preview on your primary computer.

  • Do not install the preview on a PC that contains anything of value.

If you don’t have an unused PC lying around, consider installing the Windows Technical Preview on a virtual machine. That too has some drawbacks if you want to see how this works on a real PC, since you will need a working virtual machine with a prior version of Windows already installed. The “Enterprise” edition can be installed as a new virtual machine, but that is a topic for another day.

The machine you are installing on needs to be up to date. For Windows 7 that means SP1 and current updates. If your machine is not up-to-date you will see a warning advising you that your system is not acceptable. Run Windows Update to get your machine ready.

Start at preview.windows.com  – You will be invited to join the “Windows Insider Program”. A necessary step. You will need to accept the terms.

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Click on install Technical Preview. The next page offers a Get the upgrade link.

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Read that page, especially the warnings carefully. You will see the usual download banner.

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Note that it is a small executable that starts you on your way to Windows 10. You can save the small file and run it later or you can click Run and be on your way.

Warning! There is no looking back, there is no easy way out. Once you leap over this cliff you are committed! When you delete a file you get a warning, not so here. This process will start the installation process. Once you run this little program the next, and only thing you will see is this:

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If you don’t restart you will be hounded by the “restating in 10 minutes” warnings. Your system is set up to proceed with the installation. Swallow hard and go on. If you do want to bail out now the easiest way is to run Restore and go back one restore point.

After restarting the Windows Update dialog comes up and you will shortly see this:

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Click Install and you are on your way. You can see from the file size, almost 2.7 GB, that this is a large install and will take some time. Indeed after the download the installation itself takes quite a bit of time. For me it took about an hour and a half to get to the desktop screen shown above.

So, is Windows 10 the answer to all the complaints and shortcomings? The Windows Technical Review only provides a very preliminary glimpse of what is to come. The system boots to the desktop. The start menu is back. The “modern” apps run on the desktop in normal windows, they can be resized and handled just like real programs.

How the preview meets the needs of photo enthusiasts will be the topic of another article in this short series on Windows 10.

.:.

© 2014 Ludwig Keck

Posted in Windows 10 | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Nikon NEF Codec and Photo Gallery

Microsoft Live Photo Gallery is a most useful and versatile tool for managing your photos. I have used it enthusiastically for many years. Like other photo handling programs, it needs to translate the image files to viewable images. For photos stored in the camera manufacturer’s RAW file format it needs a “codec” to do the translation. Microsoft provides the “Microsoft Camera Codec Pack” for use with Windows 7 (and earlier). That works well but does not allow appending or changing the file properties, “EXIF” data, for the RAW files. My recommendation has been to use the manufacturer’s codec instead, and for Nikon users that is the “Nikon NEF Codec”. That has worked well for me in the past. It allows adding meta data, such as comments or tags, to the RAW files, “NEF” extension files, and does all other things well.

Some months back I noticed that there were problems with files coming from Nikon D800 cameras, I did not check with files from other Nikon cameras. Since then Nikon has updated the codec a couple of times, for the D810 and more recently for the D750. Unfortunately the problems have persisted.

What happens is that any NEF photo files that have tags or other metadata added get hopelessly mangled in Photo Gallery when they are changed to JPG format. Here is what thumbnails look like:

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Viewed large they look the same. Take one of those files to another application and it either looks the same or even more psychedelic like here:

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Files that did not have metadata changed work perfectly well. There are probably all sorts of other conditions under which all is well. I have not explored the possibilities.

Since adding metadata was my objective for using the Nikon codec in the first place, not being able to do so successfully defeats the use. Nikon is aware of problems with Photo Gallery and says so in their release notes. I just wish they would fix the problems.

This article is also published on my Café Ludwig blog.

.:.

© 2014 Ludwig Keck

Posted in Digital Photos, Photo Gallery, Photography, Photos | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Celebrating

Celebrating moving to WordPress

Here is the little “hurray” from WordPress:

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It was the end of Microsoft’s support for Live blogs. Pity.

.:.

© 2014 Ludwig Keck

Posted in Blogging, Live Writer, Windows Live Services | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Photo Captions

Photo Captions in Blogs

In a prior post on Live Writer Basics, Photo Captions in WordPress Blogs, the topic was the caption feature provided in the WordPress blogging service. Captions are a nice feature to explain the details of an image. There were questions from readers about how to do captions for photos in Blogger blogs. This article takes up the subject and expands to Blogger blogs and blogs in general.

There is no native caption feature provided by Blogger, and there is no direct support in Live Writer. So, to do captions we do it the old-fashioned way and go back to using tables. That used to be very popular years ago when whole sites consisted of nothing but tables. That approach was cumbersome and is much despised and discouraged. However, it is a viable and relatively easy way to add captions to illustrations. Of course, it will work not just for Blogger blogs, but others as well. So it can be used on WordPress almost as readily as the  caption feature. There is a big HOWEVER, since the code described here is archaic and deprecated and won’t work with the newer WordPress themes. More and that farther down.

Here are the details – using a table to caption a photo

The Table tool in Live Writer

Table tool in Live WriterIn Live Writer the table option is on the Insert tab.

Before we go into the details let’s take a look at the problem we have set for ourselves. The need for “captioning a photo” assumes that the photo accompanies text and is set within that body of text, either to the left or the right. We likely do not want the outlines that are so common with tabular data. The table tool in Live Writer by default sets the table the width of the blog column and centers it with no text to either the right or left of it. Indeed, the tool does not offer an alignment option. We will have to do that the hard way.

captions-2-02The Live Writer Insert Table dialog

Clicking the Table tool brings up a small dialog to enter the details for the table. The dialog will look different for you the first time you use it and Live Writer will remember your settings for the next time.

For this use, captioning a photo, we need a table with just one row and one column.

The width is not critical at the outset as Live Writer will resize the table when you set the size of the photo once you have inserted it.

There is a check box for “Show table border” and a field for specifying the width of the border in pixels. For this application we don’t want a border. Unfortunately, Live Writer uses the style sheet set up for the blog theme or template and there may be some defaults that interfere with what we are trying to do. Uncheck the box, the field will be “grayed out” and no border width entry is required or possible.

Next come two other specifications, “Pad cell contents” and “Space between cells”. Both values are specified in pixels. These values are translated to HTML “cellpadding” and “cellspacing” attributes, respectively. Here again Live Writer may bow to the blog style sheet and be less than cooperative with you. We will come to the workaround shortly. Do remember that Microsoft has not seem fit to update this magnificent tool in the last few years.

We want some space between the blog text and the image, we will use the “Space between cells” value for that. A value of 10 should be fine. The “Pad cell contents” value specifies additional space within the cell, think of it as a margin setting. You would think that the two add to each other. They do. Yes, one or the other could be set to zero, but farther along in this article I will explain and added bonus feature, so go ahead and use 10 for this value also.

When you click Insert in the dialog you will see something like this on your screen:

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The HTML code, as seem when you click the  Source tab (lower left of Live Writer window) is like this:captions-2-04

We will need to add an attribute to this code to specify the alignment. You can do this at any time, but it is easiest to do it right away when the HTML code is at the end and easy to find. The attribute is align=”left” or align=”right” and needs to be added to the first line of the table HTML code. I like to add it just before the closing “>”. Live Writer will move it to where it likes it.

Move the cursor to the place in your post text where you want the image. Insert your table, click the Source tab. Find the table code. Move the cursor to the end of the “table” line but before the “>”. Type a space and then the align attribute. Obviously, if you want the picture on the left side, use align=”left” and if you want it along the right margin use align=”right”. Click the Edit tab to return to the normal display.

Click in the center space of the table. The cursor will be located inside the cell. I like to type my caption text before inserting the image, but it doesn’t matter. It works as you would expect. You can size the image as you normally do, the table size will be readjusted by Live Writer.

There is one thing I must caution you about: In Live Writer tables are not easy to move. It is easier to move the text that is around them.

Bonus

In elegant sites you may have admired photos not only being captioned, but also offset on a different color background. That is easy to do. First figure out the hex code for the color that you want for the background. captions-2-05Your theme or template may already set the blog on a colored background, so you want your “image highlight” to be a color that is close, a little darker if it is a light background or a little lighter if you blog is on a dark background. What I do is this: I do a screen capture of one of my blog posts, paste it into Paint and use the color picker to load the background color into the color selector. Then I adjust the color for the background I want, see the pointer in the illustration. The values for read, green and blue (see the arrow) are then translated into hex for the HTML code. For the values here, 255, 233, 191, you get FF, E9, and BF (I use the Calculator in Programmer view). The HTML attribute to set this color as the cell background is bgcolor=”ffe9bf”. This attribute goes into the “td” line. Again it doesn’t matter where you put it, Live Writer will relocate it. It is easiest, however, to put it right at the start. See the HTML code  illustration here and also the result in the normal edit view.

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The Eastern Continental Divide Monument
in Duluth, Georgia.
The location of this obelisk is at
34o 00’ 12.286” N   84o 08’ 43.245” W

Alright, let’s try it. Here is a little bit of art to illustrate photo captioning as well as setting a background color for the image. Once you try this technique it will soon become much easier that you now might think after this long dissertation. Note that for the caption all the text editing features are available.

Also note that the image not only can be sized as desired, you can also insert a hyperlink. In this case it takes you to my Café Ludwig OneDrive photo album.

What was just described works for Blogger blogs and WordPress blogs using some older themes. It does not work, or does not work well, with the newer WordPress themes. For the newer themes the use of the “” option is the way to go. This was described in Photo Captions in WordPress Blogs in the Live Writer Basics blog.

The text above is pretty much a duplicate of the article Photo Captions in Blogs from Live Writer Basics.

This blog uses a newer theme and what was described above does not work at all. The older, deprecated, HTML attributes are totally ignored and the default table settings just won’t cooperate with what was described here.

Of course, tables can be used for photo captioning and other uses, the newer conventions have to be observed and followed. Live Writer still prepares HTML code the old way. It was orphaned some four years ago by Microsoft and the world has not stood still in that time. It would be nice to wake up Microsoft and get Live Writer up to date, but that is not likely.

Modifying Live Writer table code to work with current WordPress themes

To work properly, the HTML code must be modified to use the “style” attribute for specifying the table properties. Live Writer can live with that, although it will modify the code that I will suggest here.

Use the Table tool in Live Writer but change the cell padding and spacing values to zero. The code will be as shown above, but let me repeat it here:

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For setting the photo to the left, with other text to the right, change the code to this:

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To set the photo to the right, with text to its left, specify the float value as right, and use left-margin:10px instead. Note that everything in the first line, the “<table” line, was replaced, and in the “td” line the two attributes were removed and replaced with the background color (this is optional, of course). Live Writer will change this code, but it will work. In the Edit view you will see just a dashed outline or a light space if you specified the background color.  Insert your photo into this box and your caption text. Use the normal tools and options.

imageOne last hint. If you want to use a color background but don’t wish to have to calculate the hex color value, do this: Type a couple of letter, I usually use XX, drag the cursor over them to select, highlight the text. Click the ▼ next to the little highlighter icon in the Font section, click on a color you like. The text you selected will now be on a color background like this: XX.

Now take a look in Source view. The code for the marked text will look like this:

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Yep, Live Writer uses the style attribute for this and prepared the code, including the color value, for you. just select the part you need for the “td” section.

.:.

© 2014 Ludwig Keck

Posted in Blogging, Live Writer, Photos | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment