How can I keep my file sizes from getting too large?

Managing File Sizes in Your Documents

These days, multimedia content is embedded into all sorts of places: word processing documents, spreadsheets, databases, presentations. Frequently, this can result in a document that’s so large, it’s difficult to store, manipulate and transfer to another medium. While this is far from all of the things to keep in mind when creating your documents, these tips should help you avoid the most common pitfalls which can result in a document so large it’s unmanageable.

Image Sizes

Don’t include parts that aren’t really necessary to your message.

Try to crop your images as close to the relevant subject as possible, without making it look unnatural. You’ll often want o include a little bit of the background to give your image context, but if the focus is not an element in the background, cut most of it out. Do this step before you resize, so you’ll still keep your subject as large as possible.

To crop an image in Paint.Net (located in the Start menu, under Digital Media Tools->Imaging Tools):

  1. Launch Paint.Net.
  2. Click the File menu, choose Open, and browse to your image.
  3. Click on the top tool in the tool pallette (floating on the right side of the Paint.Net window) which looks like a shaded rectangle with a dotted line around it.
    Rectangular Marquee tool from Paint.NET.
  4. Click in the corner of the portion you want to keep, hold the left mouse button down, and drag the pointer diagonally to the opposite corner. Release the mouse button when you’ve drawn a box around the part you want to keep.
  5. Click the Image menu, and choose Crop to Selection.
  6. Click the File menu, choose Save As, and give this new image a new name (in case you ever need to go back to the uncropped image for any reason.)

To crop an image in Adobe Photoshop Elements (almost identical procedure for Photoshop):

  1. Launch Photoshop Elements (found in Digital Media Tools->Imaging Tools in the Start menu, may have to click All Programs to see Digital Media Tools).
  2. Open your image by clicking on the File Menu, choose Open and browse to your image.
  3. Select the Crop tool from the tool pallette on the left.
    Crop tool from Photoshop Elements version 6
  4. Click in the top right of the area of your image you’d like to keep, hold down the left button, and drag to the lower right corner of the portion you’d like to keep.
  5. When you’ve drawn a box around the portion you’d like to keep, release the mouse button, and Photoshop Elements will shade the portions of your image outside your crop box. (You can click and drag the little square handles at the corners to change the size and shape of your crop box.)
  6. Double-click within the crop box to actually cut away the extra parts of the image (the shaded parts).
  7. Go to the File menu and click Save As to save the cropped image as a new name (in case you ever need the full one again).

Resize your images before you insert them!

Now that you’ve cropped your photos using a program like Photoshop (or Photoshop Elements),, Microsoft Photo Editor, or one of the others image editing programs, you need to resize your images. There really isn’t an easy way to decide exactly what size you’ll need, but you can get it close, and resize it again with the image editing program if it’s still too large. DON’T use the resizing tools in Word, Dreamweaver or other programs which are designed for another purpose other than image editing. It will only change the way your image looks, not the actual size!

To resize your image in Paint.NET:

  1. Launch Paint.Net.
  2. Click the File menu, choose Open, and browse to your image.
  3. Click the Image menu, then choose Resize. The best way to determine what size is the right size for your needs is to resize it to approximately the size you think you need, insert it into your project, and see if it’s the proper size relative to everything else.
    Some basic guidelines (adjust as needed for your project:

    • Web pages- thumbnail images (click on it to enlarge): no larger than about 150 pixels in either direction, 72dpi resolution; large images no larger than 300 pixels in either direction, 72 dpi resolution. (If you intend the picture to be the only or main item on the page, you might make it as large as 600 pixels, 72 dpi, but if there’s much of anything else on the page, some will have to scroll to see the whole page.)
    • Word documents- 300 pixels will be a pretty good size for content you want to fit within the flow of text, 600 pixels or more if you want the picture to be the main content.
    • PowerPoint presentations- an image along with text should be no more than about 300-400 pixels on its longest side. If you want the image to fill the entire slide, then you may want as much as 800 pixels wide (max), 500 pixels tall.
  4. Once you have your image resized, go to the File menu and choose Save As to save it as a new name. (You may need the full size version at another time.)


Note that most computer screens are only about 1000 pixels (dots of color) wide, and about 700 pixels tall. Usually, an image will need to be no more than 600 pixels in either direction for a large image in a presentation, 300 pixels on a web page, and maybe even less in a Word document.

Resist the urge to fill your project with multimedia content

Sound, images, and video can certainly make your project more interesting and engage your audience. However, unless the multimedia content is the focus of your project, you should think of it as “icing”, added as a decoration and enhancement to the body of your project. A picture may be “worth a thousand words”, but it takes much less space, and is much easier to just use the words that best describe your work.

Too much “icing” can distract your audience, and blur the focus of your project, not to mention making it much larger in size.

Think about the quality level of the multimedia content that’s needed in your project.

“You want me to put poor quality content in my Powerpoint???” No, of course you don’t want to include poor quality content in your presentation; in this context, “quality” refers to the amount of compression which is used to make your multimedia content smaller, while maintaining as much original quality as possible. There is a delicate balance between files which are too large, and those which are small, but are so compressed that they’re unclear.

Here are some tips:

JPEG images can generally be saved as ‘medium’ quality (some products express this as 5 out of 10 on a scale). Typically, this is a good balance between too compressed and too big.

Computer monitors can only display about 72 dpi (dots per inch). Scanners and digital cameras will frequently capture images at a more dense resolution. Unless you are printing an image by itself, you don’t need any higher resolution (dpi) setting than 72dpi.

Most video editing programs will have several preset options for video size and quality, based on the type of product you want at the end (DVD, online video, video displayed straight from your computer, etc.). These will offer a good balance between file size and quality.

HD video is certainly more detailed than standard resolution, but if your audience will view it as a standard-definition DVD, or in a tiny window on a web page, the effort to keep the video in high definition will be wasted. Unless you are creating a Blu-Ray disc or some other medium which will preserve your high definition, it’s probably a better idea to start the project in standard definition (unless you think you might want to republish it again in HD; convert a copy of your video to standard definition to use now.).