Official blog for the Windows Live Digital Memories
Many photographers (especially those with digital SLRs) shoot in ‘RAW’ mode, which outputs a file format that is proprietary to their camera make and model (e.g. .CR2, .NEF, etc.). These RAW formats preserve more of the original information from the camera than the JPG file that most other cameras output. This extra information provides greater quality, but it comes at a price of convenience. JPG is a universally supported image file format, but as anyone who has used RAW files can tell you, they are anything but universally supported.
In the past, RAW shooters had to either rely on RAW conversion software provided by their camera manufacturer, or put their fate in the hands of the myriad of software makers who have attempted to reverse-engineer these formats for support in their software applications. This led to a number of problems: compatibility issues, varying quality or inconsistent results from one application to another, and holes in the user workflow where RAW support is lacking.
Windows Vista attempts to solve these problems by providing an extensible platform that allows support for these (and other) new file formats to be added to Windows by the owner of the file format. This support comes in the form of a codec, which users will get from their camera manufacturer, either by downloading it, or provided with a new camera body. The Photo Gallery will even detect the presence of these files and help you download a codec when it exists.
Microsoft has been working with the major camera manufacturers so that they can provide codecs for their various RAW formats to their customers. Once these codecs are installed, users will find that they can now view their RAW files and thumbnails throughout Windows Vista. Users can also perform most of the same tasks on their RAW files that they perform on their JPG files in the Photo Gallery – their RAW files can be viewed, tagged, rated, printed, etc. Because photographers shoot RAW for advanced editing of their photos, we did not enable the light touch-up functionality in the Photo Gallery for RAW files. Windows Vista also exposes a set of APIs, so that other applications can also provide this same level of functionality by using the same RAW codec.
The camera manufacturers are hard at work getting their RAW codecs ready. Although we can’t provide specifics of their individual plans, we expect codecs for the most common RAW formats to be available to customers within the first few months after the January 30th Vista launch. If you are interested in support for your specific camera model, we suggest that you contact your camera manufacturer for more details.
It feels like only a few days ago when I was discussing the RAW codec architecture on this blog...in fact, it was. It turns out that the timing couldn't have been better, because today Nikon released their RAW codec for Windows Vista.
There are two ways to get the codec: You can download it directly from Nikon's site, or you can use the Photo Gallery to assist you.
If you have .NEF files in any of the folders that are monitored by the Photo Gallery, you will have seen the following dialog on startup of the Gallery:
Clicking the download button will open a web page with information about the file formats that the Gallery has detected. If you have several different types of RAW files on your machine, you will see a web page open for each file format. The page for Nikon NEF files is here: http://shell.windows.com/fileassoc/0409/xml/redir.asp?EXT=nef, and takes you to the Nikon page to download the codec. Installation instructions are provided.
If you got tired of seeing that dialog, and checked the "Don't show this message again" box, you can still get to this functionality from the Gallery. Click 'Options' under the 'File' menu, and then click on the 'Check for updates' button at the bottom of the 'General' tab.
Other codecs have 'coming soon' pages, but this mechanism will work for them as well when they are released. Of course, we'll also announce the release of new codecs on our blog.
Important note to users of the Nikon RAW Codec for Windows with Nikon RAW files: We have received reported compatibility issues with their Nikon NEF files after installing Nikon’s RAW codec. Tagging the RAW files through Windows Vista or the Photo Info tool appears to cause these files to become unreadable in other applications, such as Adobe Photoshop. We have confirmed that these files can still be opened with Nikon Capture. Nikon and Microsoft are investigating the issue, and we will post an update when we have more information. In the meantime, we suggest that you exercise caution with your Nikon RAW files. If you plan on tagging them, make a backup of the file first, and verify that the tagged file continues to work with your other applications before proceeding.
One of our sister teams at Microsoft that focuses on the needs of professional photographers has just released a new tool called Microsoft Photo Info.
It runs on both XP and Vista, and is designed to enable quick and easy viewing and editing of photo metadata in explorer.
I installed it on my Vista machine, and it works as advertised. Right-clicking on a photo in explorer shows a new context-menu item 'Photo Info' that launches the above dialog. This works on both single and multiple selections, allowing you to view and edit important metadata values. What I like even more is how the tooltips in explorer are enhanced to show more relevant metadata as well.
The Windows Vista Photo Gallery does not have the same extensibility model as the Windows Shell, so it was impossible to integrate this tool into the Photo Gallery in this release. I'm sure we'll be looking at enabling these types of scenarios in the future though.
Now that CES is behind us, and we’re (mostly) recovering, let’s take a few minutes to review some of the highlights from the past week.
More FAQs“Can you show me that 3d thing?” The ‘Flip 3D’ feature is probably the most demo’d feature of Windows Vista. It’s a feature that pivots all open windows at an angle in 3D, and allows you to quickly flip through them to switch applications. It’s quick and easy to demo, and shows off some of the eye candy in Windows Vista. It’s especially cool to see how full motion video continues playing seamlessly in the 3D mode. If you want to try this out yourself, just use the windows key + tab (it works almost exactly like the Alt-tab feature from windows XP, but with a different key combination). The good news is that even after running Windows Vista for many months, I still find myself using this feature on a regular basis – it really is a quick and effective way of switching windows.
“Will my RAW files work in the Photo Gallery?” We got more questions about RAW support than I expected. The good news is that Vista has an extensible architecture that allows for RAW support. We’ll be posting more detailed information on this blog in the next week or so.
“Tell me more about the Group Shot demo that Bill showed in his keynote” Here is a link to the Group Shot web page on Microsoft.com. Group Shot is a prototype application from Microsoft Research, and can be downloaded on XP or Vista.
“Can I publish my photos/videos to the web/blog/etc.” We got this question a lot. This is an area where we still have more work to do. There are no features built into the Windows Vista Photo Gallery for uploading and/or publishing your photos and videos to the web, blog, youtube, myspace, etc. Most of these sites allow you to upload files through your browser, which should still work fine.
Best in ShowThere’s so much to see at CES, and so little time (especially when you’re working the booth every day!). But we still managed to get out on the floor and check out some of the other exhibits. Here are some of the favorites from our team members:
Attack of the open source ninjaFinally, my favorite story from the show came from Sam: On Wednesday when the booth staff was down in the afternoon, a guy quickly moved from station to station opening IE to http://www.gnu.org/. I went to ask if he had any questions about Vista and he ran off. Vista – it’s got the competitors running scared!
- Scott Dart (Program Manager)
We've been working the booth at CES for two days now. Over those last two days, we've talked to A LOT of customers, and answered A LOT of questions. Naturally, some of the same questions come up over and over again. So we figured that this would be a good forum to share some of the questions that we have been hearing often, since a lot of people who couldn't make it to the show probably have the same questions.
What's new in Windows Vista?This is the easiest question that we get. At our stations in the booth, we're all showing the Windows Photo Gallery, which is pretty much all new functionality for Windows. Even for those features that had equivalents in XP (e.g. Movie Maker, Printing), most of the users that I've talked to either weren't aware that they existed on XP, or had never used them because they were hard to find or too poorly integrated. The Photo Gallery goes a long way towards correcting these problems by bringing all of your photo and video tasks together into one place. So far, the reaction from everyone I've talked to on the show floor has been very favorable.
Is the Photo Gallery included with Vista, or do I have to buy something extra to get it?The Photo Gallery is included as part of Vista. You don't have to buy, download, or install anything extra, it comes installed as part of Windows Vista. The only caveat to this is that the DVD burning features are only available in the Home Premium and Ultimate editions of Windows Vista.
What are the different editions of Windows Vista?The Microsoft web site has a page that describes the differences better than I can (including pricing information). I expect that most people will get Home Premium for their personal use, and will use one of the business editions at work. For the person who has everything - there's the Ultimate edition that combines all of the features from all of the editions.
Is my machine ready for Windows Vista?Download the Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor to find out:
When will Windows Vista be available?January 30th, 2007
How do I get into the Windows Vista party at CES?Sorry, you're on your own for that one...
If your question isn't answered above, ask away - we're here to help!
Happy New Year! With all of the holidays, vacations, etc., it’s been awhile since we’ve blogged at you, but it’s time to get back to...Las Vegas?
That’s right, we’re here in Las Vegas for CES! Tonight is Bill’s Keynote address, and tomorrow the show opens. To stay on top of what Microsoft is up to at the show, you can go to http://microsoftatces.com/
If you’re at the show, please stop by the booth and check out the Digital Memories demo station. Chances are, someone from our team will be in the area, but either way you’ll be able to get a closer look at the Windows Photo Gallery, and other Vista features. There are a ton of people from Microsoft here, including a bunch of people from the Digital Memories area. Some of us are CES veterans, while others (myself included) are here for the first time. We’ll be checking in throughout the week to share more of our thoughts and experiences from the show.