Along with the Windows Live Wave 3 beta download package – comes the new Windows Live Photo Gallery that we’ve been talking about over and over again. First things first, here’s what you get when you load up Photo Gallery:
Simplicity is the word to describe my first impression of the new program. They have abandoned the Vista-feel to it by reducing the bottom rotating/zooming/viewing functions to the bottom-right hand corner. The menu bar up the top is now elegant white. But for those who wishes extra customisation like Messenger offers, I’d be sorry to disappoint you that similar to the previous version of Photo Gallery, it doesn’t support changing the colours of this menu bar at the top. But hey, it’s the rich functionalities that matters more than a colour-changing menu bar, right?
So the newest and sweetest addition to Photo Gallery, as mentioned before, is the ability to tag your Messenger contacts or any person using “People tags”. From the window above, we can see that your Messenger contact list is loaded into the left navigation bar, provided that you’re signed into your Windows Live ID. Selecting a photo and then clicking the “Add people tag” will allow you to drag your cursor and select a person’s face:
Very handy feature there, it has a scroll-wheel that filters through your Messenger contact list as your type the person’s name. Here’s what it looks like when you’ve tagged the person in your photo:
Photo Sharing – integration with Windows Live Photos
Clicking on a contact’s name on the left navigation bar will bring up all the photos that have the person tagged in. What is not shown in the following screenshot is the new integration with Windows Live Photos. If a contact have uploaded and shared their photos on the new Windows Live Photos website, their photos and albums that have been shared will be able to be accessed from Photo Gallery also, and you will be able to download the entire album into you Photo Gallery, if you wish to do so.
Facial Recognition (Updated)
Searching through your photos has never been easier, thanks to the descriptive tags (the original “tags” in previous versions) and the new People tags, you can now easily search through your library and look for the perfect photo you want…..that is, provided that you have tagged them properly, which could be a pain especially having to re-tag every person in your entire collection of photos (think how you had to tag every single photo you uploaded onto Facebook manually). And this is where the question comes in – where did facial recognition go? We hope that it will eventually make a comeback in the next beta version. (Update: Sorry guys I must’ve missed it before, turned out that facial recognition is still in Photo Gallery) This is where Facial Recognition in Photo Gallery comes in handy.
After the automatic scan by Photo Gallery to detect facial features in your photos (and this may take a while if you have a very large collection of photos), you’ll find that there will be a “People found” category when you click on “People tags” on the left navigation bar. Clicking on any of the photos with people found but not yet identified, and the following screen will appear:
You can then select the contact you want, or enter a new name not in your contact list, to add the people tags to the photo. Notice that this tool is not yet perfect, as you can see it skipped a person’s face in the photo above.
Metadata Removal upon Publishing onto the web
On the right infobar you can now see a whole lot of new information such as camera metadata, ratings, and more. When uploading your photos onto Spaces (or the upcoming Windows Live Photos perhaps?) or Flickr, you may choose to upload these metadata or not.
Developer Plug-ins Support
Yes, Photo Gallery will join Windows Live Dev, allowing developers to develop plug-ins for the application:
What we don’t know is what kind of plug-ins will be available, as the link to Windows Live Dev is currently not available. Will it allow plugins such as facial recognition? Or will it be plug-ins to allow users to publish their photos onto additional photo-sharing websites (like Facebook)? Update: Windows Live Photo & Video team blog has just posted information about 3rd party plug-ins – seems like our second hypothesis was right, the plug-ins will “includes a new Publishing API that enables the community to build plug-ins for virtually any sharing service”.
Photosynth Integration and Extras
Last but not least, notice the “Extras” menu in the menu bar. In addition to stitching a panoramic photo, Photo Gallery now also integrates with the latest Photosynth technology that was released not long ago (only if you have Photosynth installed). It’s great to see the services from Microsoft Live Labs coming into a real product:
Developers will also be able to use the Photo Gallery API to add their applications into the Extras menu. Thanks to Scott’s tip apparently Autocollage 2008 is also integrated into this Extras menu, provided you have it installed of course.
Overall, Photo Gallery had been a solid tool that does what it should do, and with additional features that helps you to better manage your photos and share them with the rest of the world. It is also great to see that Microsoft is progressively separating bundled applications such as Mail, Calendar, Movie Maker and Photo Gallery out of Windows, allowing additional flexibility in it’s feature set and a more focused development effort. The software, although still in beta stages, is quite stable and functional. However, it is quite disappointing that it doesn’t have the consistent look and feel with the other Wave 3 application – namely Messenger, which now even offers background themes customisation similar to the Wave 3 headers you seen in online services like Hotmail.
Read more LiveSide reviews on the new Windows Live betas: