I have gotten my hands on the new Windows Live Photo Gallery application and have been playing with it for the last couple of days. Here are the features that I think make the product.
Panoramic StitchingI have to admit, I was a little bit skeptical about this feature when I first heard about it. The concept is that you take a bunch of pictures, all next to each other in the same location, and WL Photo Gallery will stitch them together. Of course, I didn't believe that it could be very good, so I had to give it a try. Here are the photos that I took that make up the panoramic photo.
Let me say that I stand corrected. It only took about 45 seconds to stitch all nine photos together. Aside from the end result being wavy on the top and the bottom and a little light and dark in places, it turned out really well. The waviness was easily fixed by cropping the photo. This could completely eliminate the need for cameras that take panoramic photos. I have included a sized down version of the panoramic below, or you can click here for the full resolution picture.
Photo ImportingThis feature really took me by surprise when I was fooling around with Photo Gallery. I decided that I needed to import the photos from my camera to try out Panoramic Stitching and I also had some other photos on there from the last few weeks. I plugged in my camera and told Windows Live Photo Gallery to import them. Here is where the cool part comes in. It automatically sorted and organized the photos on my camera by the date that they were taken. By that I mean that it grouped photos taken in the same time frame (hopefully from the same event) and allowed me to label them.
This blew me away when it happened because it was completely unexpected. It is a very useful feature and it sorted the photos into exactly the right groups for me.
Windows Live Spaces PublishingIf you are a user of Windows Live Spaces, Microsoft is making it really easy for you to publish photos to your space. It literally only takes four clicks to publish a photo. It really could not be any easier. One gripe that I do have about this feature, however, is that they did not incorporate other photo sharing services, such as Flickr and Photobucket. One of the things that Windows Live really did right with Windows Live Writer is that it allowed you to write blog posts for more than just their own service. It also hooks up to Community Server, Wordpress, and many others. They should take a page out of that book with Windows Live Photo Gallery and let you publish to the photo sharing service of your choice. That would definitely lead to much wider adoption.
Brandon LeBlanc, at the Windows Experience Blog, has a more detailed list of some of the features that I didn't get to cover here.
Windows Live Photo Gallery serves as a nice upgrade to Windows Photo Gallery, which is already bundled into Vista. It adds some nice features and I expect more tweaking and fine tuning to come before the final release. Hopefully they will consider adding support for uploading your photos to other services as well as that would greatly increase the value of the product.