Getting Spacey

The folks here at Microsoft who work on digital photo software and services are pretty passionate about their photos.  So you can imagine that it was a little frustrating for us that Microsoft didn’t offer a truly world class way to share the photos that we took on-line.  After Windows Vista shipped, a group of us set about fixing that.

Windows Live Spaces is a great service for social networking. It lets people create their own home page on the web, link to friends, host gadgets and express their personalities, but it hasn’t been a great place to share photos. Today, we took a solid first step towards changing that.

With the release that went live last night, we’ve significantly improved the photo experience within Spaces.

The first thing you may notice is that if you have a photo gadget on your Spaces home page, it should look a bit tighter. Here are some before and after shots to illustrate:

Spaces Photo Module BeforeSpaces Photo Module After

On the left is the gadget before the latest set of changes and on the right, after.  As you can see, we moved the player controls, or transports, up from under the photo and overlaid them onto the photo itself.  Don’t worry, they will fade away after a few seconds so they don’t get in your way, and then return when you move your mouse over the photo.

OK, pretty subtle.  But wait, there’s more! When you open up a photo album by clicking on the module, it used to be that the transports lay off the bottom of the screen on a standard sized monitor, so you had to scroll if you wanted to look at other photos in the album. Getting both the full photo and the transports in view at the same time involved playing with the scrollbar and some fine motor control.

Album View BeforeAlbum After

As these two screenshots illustrate, we licked that problem, as well.  On the left is what the page used to look like, and on the right, the new page. You’ll notice that the entire photo and the transports are fully visible without scrolling at all.  As a bonus, we open the comments automatically, so you can see when people leave you compliments on your fine photography. (And thanks to Pmatt Freedman for shooting those beautiful bees you see in the examples).

Finally, we knew it was hard to find an album you were looking for just by scanning a list of names, so we created a page that gave you an overview of all the albums you have on your Space.  Just click the Photos link from the gadget or the View all albums link when viewing a photo album.

All Albums Page

From here, you can re-arrange your albums, delete them or just find the one you’re looking for.  (Hint: the first album in your list is the one that will appear on your Spaces home screen gadget, use this page to choose it).

This was only one small part of the overall Spaces release.  Read the Spaces blog to learn more about the other features that were included in this release and get yourself a Space, if you don’t already have one.

Stayed tuned, we’re not done yet.

– Jordan Schwartz (Program Manager)