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Microsoft adapts Outlook for photographers

A free plug-in lets photographers create sorted lists of necessary gear for photo shoots. Plus, Microsoft makes it easier to find raw image codecs.

Microsoft Pro Photo Shoot lets photographers create gear lists for appointments. Microsoft

Microsoft has released a free Outlook plug-in to help photographers remember which equipment to bring to photo shoots they've scheduled with the calendar and contacts software.

The free plug-in, called Pro Photo Shoot, lets photographers create a list of their photographic equipment and then use a check-box list to pick what's needed for a particular appointment. Outlook produces a sorted list.

The software can be downloaded for Outlook 2003 and Outlook 2007.

The software is part of Microsoft's gradual effort to appeal more to photography enthusiasts, an audience that historically has been one of Apple's most loyal and lucrative. Another part of that effort is Microsoft's work to standardize HD Photo as JPEG XR, an alternative to conventional JPEG that can store higher-fidelity images.

And another part is support in Windows Vista for viewing, tagging, printing, and otherwise handling "raw" photos, the unprocessed sensor data from higher-end cameras that can yield higher-quality photos than ordinary JPEG. Where Apple creates its own raw image codecs--software for encoding and decoding digital files--Microsoft relies on camera manufacturers to supply them. (The codecs also work with Windows Live Photo Gallery installed on Windows XP.)

I've found it difficult to locate the codecs in the past, since it often requires navigating various camera makers' support site, but Microsoft has just set up a new site with links to download the Vista raw image codecs. So far, support is included for the main digital SLR manufacturers: Nikon, Canon, Sony, Pentax, and Olympus. In addition, Ardfry Imaging offers a codec for $30, or a free trial version, to handle raw images encoded with Adobe Systems' Digital Negative (DNG) format.