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Microsoft gets a better answer to Flickr

Lifted limits, slide shows, and a social connection come to Windows Live Photos. But there still are rough patches.

Microsoft slide show
Microsoft's improved photo-hosting site offers slide shows, but images don't fill the screen. Microsoft/CNET News

For a company that's trying to take on the online might of Yahoo and Google, Microsoft has had a decidedly inferior photo-sharing site. Now that's changing, though.

As part of an overhaul of its online properties, the company announced a number of improvements to its Windows Live Photos site.

Among the new features:

• 25GB of storage space and no more 500-shots-per-month limit on uploads.

• A what's new feed to show what photos your contacts are adding, part of the social side of Windows Live.

• A new slide show view.

• Better permissions for controlling how photos are shared.

I found the new site workable but still imperfect.

The site bears a strong resemblance to Yahoo's Flickr.
The site bears a strong resemblance to Yahoo's Flickr. Microsoft/CNET News

The most glaring ugliness to me was that the slide show is limited to small versions of the images. That's no problem on an 800x600-pixel screen, but even Flickr, which still hasn't figured out how to dynamically scale images on its regular photo pages, has full-screen slide shows.

Another hitch was that it's apparently impossible to rename your photos. So pick a file name you like before you upload. And you can't change the order of photos shown unless you want to diddle with the photos' "date taken" metadata, which sounds like a bad idea for any number of reasons.

As a fan of keyboard controls, though, I do like the fact that I can use the arrow keys to cycle through photos in an album, though it works only intermittently.

Update 10 a.m. December 5: My bad: it turns out you can change photo titles. Here's Microsoft's description how: "Click on any photo in the browse view of the thumbnails and the page that comes up lists several different options. Listed under More is the ability to move, copy or rename a file."

I still prefer Flickr's method, though: Click on the title, type a new name, then click "save."