Have you ever wondered how your friends or work colleagues always seem to have a cool photograph on their desktop that keeps showing up when they close applications. Here's some help to make sure that you can have some fun with your images too.

The image that is used for background display on your computer screen used to be called wallpaper. Since WindowsME, Microsoft has been referring to it simply as background.

For simplicity in this article we'll keep using the term wallpaper to describe the image that you see when all your other applications are closed or minimised. In the later versions of the windows operating system it is very simple to choose any image as the background image on your computer, see item 3 below.

There are three ways to set your wallpaper depending on what software you have;

  1. Getting wallpaper from the Internet
  2. Setting wallpaper from picture-editing software
  3. Setting wallpaper with WindowsXP and WindowsME
  4. Setting wallpaper Windows2000, WindowsNT and Windows98
    (If you've got Windows95 you really do need to upgrade your computer)
1. Getting wallpaper from the Internet
When surfing the net this is as easy as clicking the right hand button on your mouse (the one you don't use very often) on the image you want to use as wallpaper. Depending on your version of browser the popup menu that appears will offer "Set Background" or "Set Wallpaper". Click on this an you're done! The bigger the image, the more of the screen it will fill. To make it fill the whole screen read section 4


2. Setting wallpaper from picture-editing software
Turning an image into wallpaper can be extremely easy if your picture-editing software offers this function. Check the file menu for an option that refers to either wallpaper or background. Here are some that definitely do; Adobe PhotoDeluxe, Sierra Imaging's Image Expert 2000, Microsoft Picture It and Ulead's Photo Express 4.0.


3. Setting wallpaper with WindowsXP and WindowsME
If you are lucky enough to have WindowsXP, you can click your right mouse button on any image and choose the "set background" option. If you have WIndowsME right mouse click and choose the "open with" option and choose your browser i.e. Internet Explorer. Once the image is open you can right click it again and "set background" or "set wallpaper" depending on your browser.


4. Setting wallpaper with Windows2000, WindowsNT and Windows98
This is the most tedious of all your options, but still easy if you follow these three short procedures. If you're not worried about your photo fitting on to the screen perfectly, you can jump straight to step 3.
  1. Determine your monitor's resolution
  2. Adjust the digital dimensions of your picture
  3. Display the picture on your monitor
Determining your monitor's resolution
Before you can frame a picture, you have to decide how big you want it to be. It's the same for your monitor. But with a monitor, you don't measure its physical dimensions. Instead, you measure its digital dimensions. Digital dimensions are based on resolution. Here's how to find out your monitor's resolution.
  • Right click on the desktop (with all programs minimized, right click in the middle of your monitor).
  • From the menu that appears, select Properties.
  • From the window that appears, click on the Settings tab. This display shows your monitor resolution (dimensions) in pixels. Typically it is one of these: 640 x 480, 800 x 600, 1024 x 768.
  • Write down your monitor's resolution. This resolution is what you will use to set your picture's dimensions.

    Adjusting the digital dimensions of your picture
    Now you are going to adjust the digital dimensions of your picture so it completely fills the monitor. This step assumes your picture-editing program allows you to set specific dimensions of your pictures. Some very basic picture-editing programs do not.
  • Open up your picture in the picture-editing program. To fill the monitor, you should use a horizontal picture or crop a vertical picture so it is horizontal. If you want to crop the picture, do so now. Make sure its shape matches the shape (aspect ratio) of your monitor. Typical aspect ratio for a monitor is 3:4 (width:height).
  • Select the size adjustment function. If it has a resolution setting, set the ppi (pixels per inch) or dpi (dots per inch) to 72. Now set the width and height of your picture so it matches the resolution setting of your monitor, which you wrote down earlier. If you want, you can make the picture smaller, so it doesn't fill the monitor. If your aspect ratio is close but not perfect, you can either recrop or just make the picture a bit bigger than the monitor's resolution (this will hide outside edges of the picture).
  • When you are done, save the picture in the file format "bmp" or the file format "jpg" in the "Windows" folder on your hard drive. Save it under a new name so you preserve the original picture.

    Displaying the picture on your monitor
    Your picture is ready for display. Here's how to make it show up on your monitor.
  • Right click on the desktop (with all programs minimized, right click in the middle of your monitor).
  • From the menu that appears, select Properties.
  • From the window that appears, click on the Background tab.
  • Select the name of your picture file in the list of wallpapers. If the picture file name does not appear in the list, click on the Browse button and find your wallpaper picture. If the picture is smaller than the full display, you can position the picture on the monitor, stretch it, or tile it with controls in this same window. (With Windows NT, click the Plus tab to select the stretch option.)
  • When you are done, click Apply and then OK. Your picture should now display as wallpaper on your monitor.

    Beyond Wallpaper
    Something else thats really cool. If you have WindowsXP you can very easily create a slideshow from all the images in a particular directory and then have that slideshow run as your screensaver. Some picture-editing software also allows this!