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Create multimedia photo collages with Microsoft Photo Story 3

Bring photo presentations to life with this free Microsoft tool.

Microsoft's Photo Story is a free Windows program that lets you create audiovisual presentations out of your photos and images. You can quickly crop, rotate, and edit your pictures; personalize them with captions and titles; and add sound effects, narration, and background music. Photo Story saves your presentations as WMV files you can play on your PC or convert using a third-party video converter. Finished files can be small enough to send by email, too. Many Windows users already have it; those who don't can download and install it or repair their current installation, if necessary. We looked at the latest release, Photo Story 3.

Photo Story 3 opens with a wizard offering three choices: Begin a new story, edit a project, or play a story. With no stories to edit or play, we started with the first option. However, in the lower left corner of the program's window is a small Help button that opens a fairly large Help file that many users may prefer as a starting point since it explains every step and even offers extras such as tips and tricks, accessibility options for individuals with disabilities, and a Glossary. In any case, the program's wizard made each step easy even for beginners. We imported some images and arranged them on the film strip. A main window displays selected images and let us crop and rotate them, correct color levels and red eye, and apply a variety of visual effects from a drop-down list. An Auto Fix feature automatically corrects color, contrast, and red eye, too. Photo Story's wizard offers lots of advice, such as telling us that removing the black borders from our images with the Remove Black Borders tool would improve its on-screen appearance. A selection tool ensures that the right part of your photo is retained. We added text, narration, and music, and saved our project with lots of playback options.

Presentations created with Photo Story 3 are great for weddings, birthdays, and other celebrations. With a little time and effort, this surprisingly versatile tool can tell all kinds of stories. It's a hidden gem in Windows.

Editors' note: This is a review of the trial version of Photo Story 3 3.0.1115.11.

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