Tip on inserting images into Microsoft Word

Off topic a bit but this may be helpful to others inserting images into Microsoft Word documents or trying to create better images in e-books.

E-Book Images

The past few days I have been looking at ways to improve the image quality in e-books. Images are not handled well by e-book development software and some of the problems are due to undocumented “features” and software defects.

Three common file formats for images are JPG, GIF and PNG. JPG images are good for photos but not great for drawings (like App Inventor block code). However, Amazon secretly decides on its own whether or not one’s JPG images are sufficiently compressed and makes its own secret decision to recompress the original JPG even more, losing resolution in the e-book.

Images that start as PNG files are converted to JPG files by the software that creates the e-book formatted files.

GIF files go through the process “as is” and remain as unchanged GIF files. GIF files are best for drawings (rather than pictures) with lots of solid colors. Therefore it is best to use GIF files for illustrations such as App Inventor “blocks code”.

The basic rule for e-book authors is to use JPG images for photos and GIF files for drawings and illustrations (non-photo images).

Microsoft Word Turns Inserted Images into Blurry Images!

Today I discovered Microsoft Word converts clean GIF images into blurry images when GIF files are added to a document.

I was working with a document that had older images, captured and inserted differently some time ago. Those images looked nice and sharp. But when I imported new GIF screen captures, the new images looked soft and fuzzy. Word is converting (and recompressing) the imported GIF files and reducing their image quality. There is no way to turn this “feature” off in Word! This “feature” creates images that are unsuitable for e-books or printed book use.

This is a “known defect” (“feature”) introduced by Microsoft Office Word in 2010. I discovered this on Mac OS X Office 2011. The work around is save your Word document in the older 1997-2004 .doc file format. Now, when you insert images into the file, they appear correctly.

This is documented in a Microsoft forum here. Related issue in MS Powerpoint.

Afterword: I also tried OpenOffice, which I like, but ran into other problems there such that OO was not a solution either.

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