Importing Photos with Windows Vista

We all know that no one really wants to import.  We want to look at our pictures, enjoy them, share them, maybe even edit and organize them — but not import them.  Importing is just a means to an end, and in Vista we focused on getting you to that end as quickly and painlessly as possible.  You’ll see a lot of changes from XP but don’t let that scare you off.  The first change you’ll notice is there is no longer a step to select your photos.  Before you decide that’s a bad thing read on about how duplicate detection prevents importing multiple times, how waiting to delete your photos until you are in the Gallery might save you from deleting a salvageable photo, and more.

Wireless support and more
One of the biggest changes to import is one you’ll never see.  We now use Windows Portable Devices to communicate with cameras and other device types.  Windows Portable Devices allows you to acquire more photos at one time, support more device types, and it also provides support for wireless.  A solution is on the way for those of you tired of dealing with all those cables every time you want to import.   Look for cameras that support wireless using Windows Portable Devices.

Duplicate Detection
Did you forget to erase your card after your last import and don’t want to re-import the same images again?  No problem, Vista has duplicate detection.  The Import Pictures and Videos experience recognizes files it has already imported and doesn’t try to import them again.  No need to make you go in and select the new pictures by hand anymore.

Recently Imported
In the Windows Photos Gallery you will see a node in the navigation tree labeled ‘Recently Imported’.  This scope allows you to quickly find all the photos you’ve imported in the last 30 days.  It’s always where you will find yourself immediately after import completes.  The Import Pictures and Videos experience ends in the Recently Imported view where you can quickly view, delete, organize, edit, and share you photos with just a few clicks of the mouse.  You might be used to deleting the duds in import but we think it’s worth the wait to acquire them and take a second look in the Gallery.  It’s hard to tell if a photo is really salvageable from a thumbnail.  In the Gallery you can look at your photo full screen and try our quick fix tools to see if the photo is really hopeless or no – it might just be worth saving.

The Import Pictures and Videos experience offers the ability to quickly add a relevant tag during the import process as a quick shortcut to get you started with your organization.  This may not be ideal if you are importing pictures from multiple events but not to worry, import will leave you in the Windows Photo Gallery which is the best place to do rich tagging and metadata based organization.  If you usually have more than one event on your camera when you import, you may want to suppress this option altogether.  To do so,  click on the Options link on the tagging screen of the import experience or open the Windows Photo Gallery, click on the File menu, click Option, and click the Import tab.  In Options you can uncheck ‘Prompt for tag on import’.  You might also want to change the file naming default to ‘Original File Name’.

Rotate on import
Ever wonder why we can’t just automatically correct rotation?  We wondered the same thing.  In Vista we look at the EXIF data in the file at import time to see if the camera has indicated that rotation is required.  If it is, we’ll go ahead and do that for you.  Don’t want the helping hand?  No problem, you can turn off the rotate feature in Options.  

File and Folder naming
Windows Photo Gallery makes it simple to find your pictures by searching and organizing based on tags you’ve entered.  However, there will be times when you need to browse by file and folder name to find what you are looking for.  By default we will use the date imported plus the tag (if provided) to create the folder name and the tag for the file name.  Not to your liking, not a problem.  You can customize the file and folder naming in the import Options.  Note that there is no way to import to multiple folders based on event at this time but we are looking into this.

If the above still isn’t enough, we’ve added plug-in support to import.  This allows 3rd parties, Microsoft, or even you to write custom plug-ins to extend import.  A plug in could be anything from a backup option, applying filters, or specialized file and folder naming templates.  Currently no plug-ins are available but we will keep you posted as that changes.  If you are interested in writing your own details will be available on MSDN soon, stay tuned and we’ll post a link when the SDK goes live.

– Ashley Averett, Program Manager

Comments (18)

  1. Radeldudel says:

    (How) Does this import (and Photo Gallery) work with RAW pictures?

  2. dejuid00 says:

    Duplicate Detection – What happens if I’ve deleted the photo from my PC (perhaps not using the Gallery interface) but not from my camera, and I want to download it to my PC again?

    Download All – Horrible choice.  I frequently download pictures from a day out with friends to their PC.  I don’t want to have to download all the pics on the camera, then delete the ones not meant for them.  Of course, your users have been complaining about this ‘feature’ and the single-tag since it was revealed.  At least you wrote a ‘justification’.

  3. Ashley Averett [Microsoft] says:

    Radeldudel, both Import and the Photo Gallery support RAW.  Note that to view or edit RAW files a Windows Codec for that file type must be installed on Vista.  No RAW codecs don’t ship in the box.  This won’t prevent importing the files but you will find they don’t show up in the Gallery until you have the codec installed.  However, the Gallery will look for RAW files and prompt you to install a codec if we see them.  We have partnered with the IHVs providing the codecs so we when we prompt you we can also give you a link to the download location.

  4. Ashley Averett [Microsoft] says:

    Dejuid00, the Gallery scans your PC regularly so even if you don’t delete photos via the Gallery UI they will still be removed from the Gallery.  At that point if you import  those photos will be imported again.  Note that if you delete and then immediately import the Gallery may not have had time to scan again.  If you want to be sure you could close the Gallery and then re-open it.

    As for download all, it is great for the common case where a user just wants to quickly get their files on their PC and start viewing them.  It is not meant to solve the ‘share to my friends PC’.  I agree it’s an important scenario, it is just not one we chose to address with the import experience in this release.  The work around is to go to Computer and browse to your camera where you can drag and drop the files to your friends PC.  We’ll continue to evaluate this scenario as we move forward.

  5. slipslip says:

    "Duplicate Detection" – what’s this based on, the file name? What if I change the file name once imported. Will that mean that I still get doubles?

    "Tagging" – Tagging is all well and good, but not if it has to be done. Automation is the key, I believe that an OS should recognise a camera as belonging to a user, thus when importing images the ‘Author’ field should have the name (taken from the profile of the logged in user) inserted into it, automatically. Cutting out one less process.

    "Extensibility" – thanks, looks like Vista will do what people want it too, rather than waiting for an upgrade

  6. mcm says:

    Is it possible to somehow show the captions for the photos during a slideshow?

  7. anony.muos says:

    Please guys but how can you decide people wont need to select. Cant MS listen to feedback? Everyone wants the ability to select photos…maybe SP1.

    And what standard do you use for Windows Portable Devices? Bluetooth or is it Infrared?

  8. ryukrem says:

    Why can’t you rotate pictures on display in Photo Gallery? I have thousands of pictures on hard drive already but Photo Gallery doesn’t display rotating them. The rotation is supported but only when importing from devices. This doesn’t work for pictures already on the hard drive. How can I get them displayed rotated? I prefer the files not being changed but rather them being displayed rotated as EXIF indicates. I really wish if Photo Gallery Options has a check box like "Rotate pictures on display" in General tab. Plese consider.

  9. KarenW says:

    mcm – Unfortunately it is not possible to show captions for the photos during the slideshow.  This is something we are considering for our next release.

  10. KarenW says:

    slipslip – Duplicate detection is not affected by file name changes.  If you change the name of the file after import, you will not get doubles.

    Thanks for your ideas on auto-tagging on import.  We will consider this for our next release.

  11. KarenW says:

    someone – We are listening to your feedback, and we are hearing that it is very important for some users to specifically select what they import.  We are considering this in our plans for future updates/releases.

    MTP/IP is the standard used in Windows Vista to wirelessly transfer photos and other media from a camera to a PC.  The MTP/IP specifications and related tools are in the MTP Porting Kit available as a download from Microsoft at

  12. lonnie_mccullough says:

    I really cannot believe that picture selection was taken out of the product.  Surely you could have left a check box or an advanced options dialog to invoke this functionality somehow.  As is, picture importing is next to useless for me.  I go for weeks without taking pictures off my camera and not being able to select which ones I want means that pictures of my baby girl will get put alongside pictures of that christmas party I just went to (not to mention Haloween).  This is just inexcusable.  I really loved the photo import experience on XP.  Simple, nice previews of the images so I know what I am getting, fast, and easy.  What more can you ask for?  It was also the only good way to get my photos named something human readable and not DSC??????.jpg.  What in the hell were you guys thinking?  It makes Vista feel like a step down for me and I’m sure that there are a lot of people who only use their PCs for web browsing and looking at photos and you’ve just made one of those activities that much more frustrating.

    I agree that most people probably just dump pictures from their camera to their PC and don’t want to select each individual picture to import but designing only for the lowest common denominator (you did not design for the common case, just the scenario that users unfamiliar with computers / digital media are most likely to choose) is just stupid and once Vista users get comfortable importing pictures they are going to wonder why they are tagging pictures of their dog as "Junior’s Soccer Game".

    Bring back selection.  Seriously.  Everyone I know has used it and if everything is selected by default the experience is the exact same.

    By the way you never did really justify why it was taken out, just some hand waving about a common case that I think is likely to become more and more frustrating the more you have to use the product.

    I still cannot believe you took selection out.  I could rant about this all day.  It really takes some of the shine off Vista.  One of the first things I did after installing Vista was to plug in my camera (it had been several weeks since I last imported pictures) and I was shocked to see that a feature I love and use extensively had gone been cut for no apparent reason.

    Did you guys even do any user research here or were you just going on gut?

    By the way Windows Photo Gallery is very nice.  I look forward to using it after I stop fuming about all my pictures being dumped into one folder.

  13. lonnie_mccullough says:

    I also think you better have this featue back in by Jan. 30th.  I’ve told a lot of regular users about this development and most had no idea what I was talking about but a significant number (~40%) were pissed that you would take features they use on a regular basis out of the product.

    Don’t end up with a bunch of frustrated users on the day the OS is released to consumers.  You really need to have something in place to address this soon.  My wife is one of the regular users out there who just browses the web and looks at pictures she gets off our digital camera.  She was so upset that she couldn’t select which pictures she wanted to import that she wanted to go back to XP.  She is not a power user or a digital photography proffesional, she just wants to keep things organized and you’ve made it that much harder.  This is certainly not the definition of a corner case.

    Damnit I am so angry you took this out.  This is not some special case thing that people do occasionaly.  You have basically said to all your users out there: "Get your photos off your camera as soon as possible after taking them because if you don’t you will have a mess to sort out."  User centric software should never dictate to the user how it must be used.  It needs to adapt to the messy lives that real users lead.  Most people I know go weeks without taking pictures off their camera.

    Get a clue guys.  Simplification for simplification’s sake is just a meaningless endevour and it seems that Vista is plauged by this mentality.  How many people were complaining that they had no idea what the selection step was for in the XP import experience?  How many seconds did it add to the import process?  2, 3 at most if you just clicked "Next".


  14. lonnie_mccullough says:

    Sorry about the rant there.  I have just been so upset by the Vista import experience that it really gets me steamed.

    So what can be done to improve the situation?

    I think one of the issues with the XP experience for novice users is that they have no idea they can click the "Back" button to go back and import more pictures.  If the selection step were added back into the process you could place a link on the finish page to go back to the start of the wizard to select more pictures.  Most users never need to go back in a wizard so you have to make them realize that is an option.

    Please, please bring it back.  Everything else about Vista has been awesome.  Please don’t force me to write my own clone of the XP import experience.

    Please, please, please, bring selection back!!!

  15. mtpdev says:

    Are MTP/IP Events supported in Vista ? When I gave an event(Object Added/ Request Object Transfer) from the device to Vista I was not able to get the "Get Object" MTP Command from Vista. If there are any blogs related to MTP/IP, please let me know.

    Thanks in Advance.

  16. KarenW says:

    mtpdev – Unfortunately, there aren’t any blogs on MTP/IP.  We have contacted the team who may be able to help with your question.  If we get more information we will post back to this blog.

  17. supersi says:

    lonnie_mccullough took (most of) the words right out of my mouth. What on earth were you people thinking? I am a Microsoft .NET developer for an international bank. I know all the effort that goes into requirements gathering, planning, developing and testing major software releases.

    In what phase of the business requirements gathering phase did a bunch of people sit down, discuss the features of the new Vista photo import wizard, and explicitly decide to *remove* the ability to select which photos to import? Were you not at that meeting? Did the developers not scratch their heads in bewilderment as they coded the wizard, knowing that it was an idiotic set of requirements?

    Just about every single person who owns a PC also owns a digital camera and loads their photos onto their computer, most likely using this wizard. This is a feature of the OS that is used by just about *everyone* on the planet! And you dumbed it down so that it’s useless for anyone under the age of 60 who knows what they’re doing?

    Incomprehensible. I am now searching the web for a third party application that works the way I want it to. Honestly, how hard can it be to make getting photos from my camera to my PC an easy experience?