Windows Live Photo & Video Blog

Official blog for the Windows Live Digital Memories Experience team

May, 2006

  • Windows Live Photo & Video Blog

    Viewing Photos in Windows Vista


    I’m John Thornton, one of the Program Managers for the Windows Photo Gallery. My team completely re-wrote the XP “Windows Picture and Fax Viewer” from the ground up for Windows Vista. The XP viewer served its time well but it was starting to show its age.  So what are the big improvements in viewing photos you ask? 

    The new look and feel is the most obvious thing you’ll see when you fire up Vista and double click on a photo. Like XP, all the controls for navigating and reviewing your photos are there, but we’ve also added features beyond just viewing.

    In Windows Vista you can watch personal videos in the same viewer you use to view photos. It’s great if your camera takes video in addition to stills. In XP many folks never even saw the videos because the XP viewer just skipped over them. Video editing in the viewer is something we don’t do, but we do provide an easy link in the viewer to Windows Movie Maker which can take care of most simple video editing tasks, as well as publishing your videos to DVD.

    My favorite new feature is that you now can edit photos right in the viewer. No more launching a separate app just to adjust an image a tad. You can’t fix every photo flaw with the supplied editing tools, but the basic photo editing stuff is there like exposure, color, red-eye and crop. We exercised self restraint when trying to determine what tasks we should have. It was tempting to throw in every editing concept we are familiar with, but that wasn’t the right design. We really wanted to create something simple enough that everyone could use it, yet powerful enough that it was useful for everyone, so we focused on the basic edits that are most commonly applied by consumers. 

    One of our design philosophies was that a user should be able to use every tool on one photo in under a minute and be happy with the results. It’s intentionally not a creative toolset, rather it’s a corrective toolset. It’s intended to streamline your workflow for quick adjustments, not replace your favorite editing applications.

    One of the best features isn’t one that appears on a toolbar: it’s a completely new imaging engine under the hood. It is designed to work well with the large and high bit depth images high-end cameras are producing, and more importantly, it’s ready for the huge ones tomorrow’s cameras will produce. 

    It’s also built on top of an extensible image codec system. So as new image file formats come out (e.g., new RAW formats from camera vendors), you will be able to view them in the Gallery.  We don’t have support yet for editing RAW (right now it’s just jpg, tiff and wpd files), but we have that on the radar. Getting RAW viewing into the operating system is the first step.

    - John Thornton


  • Windows Live Photo & Video Blog

    Pixie Hunt: Cameraphone Scavenger Hunt


    A couple of years ago, some friends of mine invited me along on their scavenger hunt.  We buzzed around town in teams collecting photos of ourselves performing various fun and bizarre acts (e.g., "take a photo of your team making a human pyramid with a stranger", "take a photo of your team with the Fremont Troll") and generally making a ruckus.  We had a ball and occasionally crossed paths with the other teams, but I kept thinking that it would be fun to be able to see what pictures the other teams were taking and banter back and forth during the game.

    And so Pixie Hunt was born. Pixie Hunt is a mash up prototype a few of us here at Microsoft put together that creates a mobile, connected scavenger hunt game.  Here's how it works:

    You load the application on your Windows Mobile 5.0 smartphone or PocketPC cameraphone, sign up for an account on Flickr and a group text messaging service, then wait for instructions.  Your phone will download a set of tasks like the examples above and you're off.  Each time you take a photo against a task, it's automatically uploaded to Flickr and tagged. Then all the other team’s phones download it and show it in the game. 

    The effect is, you get to see all the photos the other teams are taking as they take them, plus you can "smack talk" with the other teams with the integrated group SMS service.  The application takes care of basic housekeeping, like keeping score for you and organizing the pictures based on which task they were taken against.

    Because this is a mobile application, we realized we could also integrate location awareness into the game: all photos are geotagged with the latitude and longitude of where they were taken. That enabled us to add the ability to see the other teams on a Virtual Earth map and to support "location riddle" tasks (i.e., you won't get points for certain tasks unless you figure out the right place to take the photo).

    We tried the game out on ourselves (I won't embarrass anyone on my team by telling you the Flickr group we used), and it was a kick.  Now, I'm tickled to report that Cingular Wireless has agreed to co-sponsor an evening of play with us at O'Reilly's upcoming Where 2.0 conference

    Now, before you go blogging that Microsoft or Cingular are getting into the mobile game business or something, let me remind you this is just a prototype.  If all goes well, I'm hoping to make the game available as a free download from this or a related web site (we built it as a mash up of existing services so it would be easy for other people to use). And if a few folks download it and have themselves a good time, then Marcus, Raj and I will consider it a job well done.

    - Jordan Schwartz

  • Windows Live Photo & Video Blog

    Windows Photo Gallery Introduction


    My name is Scott Dart, and I'm a Program Manager on the PIX Team. By now, some of you may have heard bits and pieces about the new Windows Photo Gallery in Vista, but that has probably been pretty light on details. Over the coming days and weeks, we’ll be posting a number of articles to fill that in.

    Let’s start with the name – Windows Photo Gallery. That’s actually not entirely accurate. The Gallery is not just for your photos, but also for your personal videos. We like to think about the Gallery as a place for your digital memories. Not your clip art, not some movie trailer you downloaded somewhere, but content that was authored by you (or someone you know). You’ll hear us talk mostly about photos (just for convenience), but pretty much anything that you can do with a photo can also be done with a video. We'll try to point out the differences as they come up.

    Before we start talking about the Windows Photo Gallery in too much detail, I thought that it would be helpful to give you a visual overview of the various parts of the Gallery, so you can see how they all come together.

    You can think of the Gallery as having two modes: a Gallery mode where you can browse through all of your digital memories, and a Viewer mode, where you can get a closer look at individual photos and videos.  Roll over the picture below to see what's what.

    • The Navigation Tree is what you browse your digital memories with. Clicking anywhere in the tree shows you all the items under that branch.
    • The List View is where you see the actual thumbnails of your photos.
    • You can type in the Quick Search box to find items that have a particular word or phrase.
    • The Toolbar is where the most important tasks are exposed. Some act as menus, as well.  
    • The Info Pane shows additional information about the item or items selected.
    • The Navigation Bar is used to move through your photo collection, zoom in and out, rotate your photos, or delete them.

    When you open a photo, the gallery enters Viewer mode, showing you your picture as large as will fit. The Viewer can either show the Info Pane or the Fix Pane (illustrated below), which allows you to make simple fixes to your photos.

    That’s it for the visual roadmap. We'll be going into more detail on each of these areas shortly.

    Scott Dart - Program Manager

  • Windows Live Photo & Video Blog



    Welcome to the inaugural entry in the PIX team’s blog.  We are the Photos and Imaging eXperience Team at Microsoft.  OK, the acronym is a bit of a stretch, but it beat out my personal candidate for a team name, PIG (Photos and Imaging Group), so that’s who we are. 


    Of course, we don’t spend all our time voting on team names.  Our team is responsible for the Digital Image Suite box product and most of the photo-related pieces of Windows Vista as realized in the Windows Photo Gallery.


    For those of you who haven’t had an opportunity to try out Windows Vista yet, we think you’re in for a treat.  It’s chock full of improvements to the end-to-end photo experience, from rich organization features to built-in photo fix-up to an improved printing experience.


    The truth is, the folks on the PIX team have been working on these features for quite some time now, and they’re pretty eager to tell people about it.  So, we’re going to start this blog off with tours of some of the features in Vista that we’re most excited about by the people who worked on them.  Sprinkled in, you’re also going to see some more speculative pieces from people who just love photography and have done some deep thinking about what the future could (or should) hold.


    I hope you enjoy what you read here. Please feel free to leave comments or send us feedback directly through the link in our navbar. 


    - Jordan Schwartz

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