Thomas Hawk recognizes one of Vista’s killer features

Microsoft’s Charlie Owen convinced photo-blogger extraordinaire Thomas Hawk to try Windows Vista. Now, Thomas has been a particularly vocal Mac switcher in the past year or thereabouts, so it was interesting to see this portion of his initial report on Taking the Vista Plunge:

Why am I upgrading to Vista you might ask? Well, most significantly I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to search for photos by keywords with Vista. I tried searching by keywords from my MacBook over the network … but my Mac kept choking on the search queries. I think this is because my digital library [close to 100,000 digital image files] is too large for the Mac to search it over the network.


Ok, tag search works brilliantly. My first tag search for “neon” pulled up almost 1,000 photos of mine that I’ve keyworded neon using Adobe’s Bridge. EXCELLENT! I’ll have much more to write about the OS later, but the fact that I can now do keyword searches for my photos in Vista adds a lot of value for me.

Glad to see Thomas recognize this. His skills as a photographer are legendary and he truly lives a digital lifestyle when it comes to media.

I pointed out something similar last year, on the day that Vista was released, calling out Vista’s Photo Gallery as one of its three killer features:

What most reviewers miss is Photo Gallery’s support for the Extensible Metadata Platform (XMP), developed by Adobe and used in a variety of professional-strength photo-editing applications. When you tag a JPEG or TIFF photo with keywords in Windows Vista, those tags are stored directly in the file as metadata, which you can use to search, sort, and filter images in Photo Gallery. That’s a great leap forward from Apple’s iPhoto and Google’s Picasa, both of which store metadata in sidecar files rather than in the image itself.

The integration between metadata in media files and the integrated desktop search is something I appreciate even a year later. And Thomas calls out Adobe Bridge for praise. It’s a part of just about every professional-strength Adobe product and uses the exact same tagging format as Windows Vista.

By the way, the comments to Thomas’s post are worth reading too.

16 thoughts on “Thomas Hawk recognizes one of Vista’s killer features

  1. I still prefer the Scanner and Camera Wizard in XP. Why couldn’t Microsoft keep that functionality in Vista? You know, give the user a choice?

    While tagging has been around for a while, Windows Photo Gallery is still a few years behind the now defunct Adobe Photo Album. In APA I could select multiple tags and it would show me only the pictures with ALL those tags. Selecting multiple tags in WPG shows me pictures with ANY of those tags. I prefer the APA method.

    I also liked how in APA you could group tags, ie. Family, Places, etc. In WPG, you could end up with a very long list of tags. Now, that wouldn’t be a problem if I entering multiple tags in the search bar showed me pictures with ALL those tags.

    Windows Photo Gallery is no killer feature.

  2. Vincent,

    I find this fascinating. The functionality you want is already there! To match the Scanner and Camera Wizard functionality, get the Windows Live Photo Gallery upgrade, which is brilliant.

    Also, you can do AND-wise filtering using the search box in Photo Gallery (and Windows Live Photo Gallery). Yes, if you click the individual tags you get an OR search, but if you type the tags in the search box you get an AND search, just like you’re looking for.

    Try it. It’s much more powerful than you think.

  3. What a friend and I found out about Vista and photo tagging is that the new Windows Live Photo Gallery makes Vista’s photo gallery totally awesome. I personally thought the way that Vista handled importing photos was a huge step backward for the OS compared to XP. But wow… Windows Live Photo Gallery is really really nice for that.

    It groups images it finds on your cards by time (which you can alter by sliding a control to increase or decrease the separation between “shoots”).

    You can then assign the folder and pictures names (different if you like), and then assign bulk tags to all the photos.

    Once they’re in WLPG you can multi-select photos easily and just type in tags. It will auto-complete tags that you have been using in the current photo shoot, or also grab previous tags you’ve used in other photo shoots. It also auto-rotates precisely as you import them.

    What I discovered on another computer is that when you pair WLPG with Windows Live Mail as you default mail client, you can apply effects to the pictures if you email them to people… which is cute.

    It also will auto-upload to Flickr and Windows Live Spaces. And all the tags stick.

    It’s really a huge upgrade to Vista’s native photo handling and is a joy to work with.


  4. I surely agree with Mr. Hawk about how much nicer everything looks with Vista. My ThinkPad computer’s screens are tons easier on the eyes. Pictures and text are less jaggy. That translates into decreased eye fatigue after hours of use.

    I went ahead and downloaded the latest Photo Gallery, and yes, indeed, it’s nicer. Not at all like the rather clunky original version.

    Gee, I may use it now!

    I just hope Mr. Hawk finds out about how much faster Robocopy is for copy and paste jobs, so he doesn’t get frustrated by the Vista Windows Explorer copy and past function that is still pretty slow, even after SP1 RC.

    Somebody needs to advise him of the alarming hard drive thrashing as Vista re-scans all his thousands of files after every re-boot. He needs to know that Hibernate instead of a cold start will mitigate this.

  5. How is something “already there” when, one, I was unaware of it, and, two, I have to download it?

    Semantics aside, I have one question: Is Live Photo Gallery a separate program or an upgrade to WPG? It’s seems overkill to have to download a new program for a feature that should have been there in the first place. I know, hard drives are cheap so storage shouldn’t be a problem.

    As far as I can tell, the AND search is not limited to tags, but to any field in the Properties, including filename and folder name, of any image file. This may be great from a general search perspective, but it is annoying from a specific field search perspective. We should have the functionality of searching in specific fields, tags only, or whatever the user desires (you know, choice).

    I can’t add multiple tags to one or more pictures at one time. In Adobe Photo Album, I could select multiple tags, drag the tags to one or more pictures. In WPG, it’s the reverse. It’s drag the picture to one tag. Then re-drag the picture to another tag. If we can drag pictures to a tag, why not drag a tag or tags to a picture or pictures?

    You can nest tags in WPG, but dragging a picture to a sub-tag does not mean the picture inherits the upper-level tags. Again, should be an option.

    A neat feature in Photo Album was the ability to do a NOT operation. You could choose to display photos that were not tagged with the selected tags. I found this to be an invaluable method of finding pictures with missing or incorrect tags. I’m not sure how to do that WPG.

    You cannot exclude folders in WPG. You can remove folders that you have added to WPG, but you cannot remove folders that are included by default – there goes Microsoft deciding what is best for us.

    So, I’ll have to disagree with your assessment about how powerful WPG is. It pales in comparison to Adobe Photo Album. Again, WPG is no feature killer.

  6. One more question: If the Live version of Windows Photo Gallery is so much better – and it sounds like it is – why doesn’t Microsoft offer it as an update when you select Check for Updates in the Options window?

    Can I remove Windows Photo Gallery once I install Windows Live Photo Gallery?

  7. A lot of questions, Vincent. I’ll answer in a separate post. Just a note, though, that Adobe Photoshop Album is still available. Only the 2.x version is “defunct.” Get the free version here:

    The $100 upgrade version is Adobe Photoshop Elements.

    Microsoft chose, for some bizarre reason, to move the Photo Gallery dev team to Live and make the Live version the upgrade version. I can only speculate as to why (although one solid reason is that the Live version works with XP as well.)

    For me and for many people I know, Live Photo Gallery works great. The most important thing, as i noted in my post, is not the app itself but the support for XMP tags. So if I use the basic functionality in Vista Photo Gallery and then upgrade to an Adobe program all of my tagging work is preserved, not lost.

  8. Ed,

    Another question for your separate post…is there any way to export all the Adobe PShop Elements tagging information into WLPG? I’ve invested heavily in APE tagging and, assuming WLPG meets all my ongoing needs, would rather convert all that information rather than redo it all.

    I understand the PG approach puts the meta-data (tags, etc) in the actual file, which I like.

  9. Vincent, that’s the entire point of XMP. The tags are in the files, so no exporting is necessary. Now, if this is an older version of PS Elements, before they added the XMP support, there might be an export required. But with PSE6 and Vista, the tagging is seamless. Anyway, I’ll look into that. Thanks for the question.

  10. Thanks for the feedback, Ed. I just wish that Microsoft did a better job advertising the Live upgrade to Photo Gallery. I’m surprised it doesn’t show up in Windows Update as an optional update/upgrade.

    Also, thanks for pointing me to the free version of Photoshop Album.

    I’m gonna give both a Live Photo Gallery and PA 3.2 a whirl. I’m initially leaning to PA3.2 since I use PA on my XP laptop – that way I can maintain my current tags (and hoping that I can same them in each file via XMP), but I’ll give LPG a tryout.

    P.S. The Vince in post #8 is not me 😉

  11. Ed,

    Great read. My fiancee and I are both avid digital shutterbugs; she uses a Macbook and I use a Vista notebook. iPhoto is a wonderful program for the new user, but it keeps all of its data in one big cryptic folder (sort of like iTunes) and it’s very hard to extract data if the catalog gets corrupted.

    Spotlight on Mac is a nice feature and it works well, but (at least under Tiger 10.4) seemed sluggish to me after using search in Vista. Vista’s search seems almost instant in comparison, so I wasn’t surprised to hear the gentleman’s opinion on it.

    What’s funny is when I owned a Mac, I would often hear how great/wonderful iPhoto is. It was a shock to the zealotry that I didn’t use it b/c I found the organization and search really lacking, and preferred using XP’s Import wizard. Mac has one, but you have to go ‘third party’ to get an edit/print program (ala Adobe) to get the same functionality XP had. Call me picky, but I don’t like having to go third-party to get the same basic functionality as another competitor machine.

    When I fired up Vista a few weeks ago for the first time, I really liked the Windows Photo Gallery and I continue to use it. Live Photo Gallery is on my XP (backup) notebook and hums along nicely, and it was a free upgrade to the original OS (and not a freebie from Adobe).

    Good article all around.


  12. Interesting. For me, the killer workflow is Adobe Lightroom > Windows Live Gallery. I am still disappointed by Live Gallery in some ways … where are cropping options, for instance … that could make the combination of Live Gallery + Live Writer really amazing. And while it’s nice to have Flickr integration, beefed-up Flickr features would be even cooler. I hope Microsoft keeps to develop this stuff, because as this article illustrates, you can’t assume the only people who care about creative workflow are Mac users. 😉

  13. Peter, Windows Live Photo Gallery has cropping options. Click Fix in the toolbar and you’ll find them in the pane on the right. Or is there something about those options you don’t like?

  14. Peter,

    The comment about creative workflow is very true; it certainly is not exclusive to the Mac community, but shared by PC users as well.

  15. Sorry, I accidentally cropped part of my comment (literally). Cropping in the fix pane lacks custom dimensions. Aspect ratios, yes, and I understand the desire to simplify, but this knocks out specific pixel ratios — in fact, why is this feature not a little closer to Windows Live Writer?

    There are also some major oddities and inconsistencies having to do with UI. For instance, in Live Writer, additional task panes (Properties, Sidebar) have chevrons that can hide and show these areas, plus a View menu that hides and shows these areas. In Live Gallery, you have almost identical elements that can be turned on and off only with toolbar buttons. That’ll confuse the very beginners the Live apps are supposed to target.

    Those are minor annoyances. But sometimes inconsistency can defeat the purpose of a feature — try navigating the Gallery view. Sometimes you get pop-up oversized thumbnails for images. (Neat!) Sometimes — with no apparent pattern — you don’t. (Bummer.)

    Then there’s the fact that Live Gallery isn’t really integrated with anything else. I’ve added an icon on my Quick Launch bar and default open images with Gallery. But, speaking of workflow, wouldn’t it be great to be able to consistently get at metadata or even the full Gallery interface from within the standard Windows file dialog, or at least the other Windows Live apps. No can do. Back to Live Writer, all that image data vanishes again.

    And you’re constrained by the lack of media support — no video support, no PNG (!) support.

    I say all of this because I think Gallery is good enough to criticize. Live Gallery is already a big leap forward from what’s in Vista — and getting it on XP machines, too, free, is awesome. iPhoto isn’t really a fair comparison because it takes such a different approach: the advantage of Live Gallery is complementing Explorer, Bridge, Lightroom, Live Writer, or whatever you happen to be using at the time. But I do hope the Live team continues to enhance the tool and make the Live apps more consistent across the product family.

  16. Peter:

    You write: “Cropping in the fix pane lacks custom dimensions. Aspect ratios, yes…”

    Strange. In my copy, I see seven preset dimensions plus Square, Original, and Custom. The latter allows you to drag the cropping handles to any sizxe you want. You can’t save the dimensions, nor can you see how many pixels your choice is until after you apply it. But you can most certainly do a custom crop.

    Am I missing something?

Comments are closed.