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