The second beta versions of Windows Live Essentials 2011 was recently made available to the public. I have been testing to learn what progress has been made, and here are my views on the improvements in Photo Gallery.
The navigation pane on the left side in the first beta only showed the folder tree – as is customary in other applications. The previous version also had the date and tag trees – a very useful feature. The date and descriptive tags trees are now again available. They are not shown by default. To turn them on do this: Click the File tab, click Options. In the Options dialog click the check boxes to show date and tags – see the red arrows in the illustration. This is a very useful feature and will be much appreciated.
Face recognition has improved and seems much faster. Unfortunately face detection is still much too aggressive and gets many patterns that are not faces. I will wait for the next, possibly final, release, to re-evaluate people tagging in detail.
Geotagging has made some progress, but this feature also has much work left. It might be of interest to you to learn how this feature works. My testing is just from a users point of view, so I may not have gotten the technical details completely correct.
When Photo Gallery finds a photo with GPS data – as from a camera or another program – it sends the coordinate data to an online data base (Bing maps ?) and obtains location information which it then shows. If you are not connected to the Internet, Photo Gallery checks the metadata location fields and displays that information. If there is no location information and it cannot make the Internet call, then it just says “Add geotag”. Connect to the Internet and it retrieves location data.
There are some gorgeous pictures available as Windows 7 desktop themes. I downloaded a number of those that had location identification in their descriptions. I used that information to try to geotag the images. Well, the data base still needs a lot of work too. I got the “Sorry, .. unable to find…” message quite a bit.
With detailed address information – street, city, country/region – Photo Gallery tagging works like a charm. The information is again passed to the data base and location information as well as geographic coordinates are retrieved. The coordinates are written to the file metadata in the proper location. Location description is not written into the standard place but stored somewhere else. So it is possible to have different information in those locations. There will be a lot of unhappy folks until this is corrected.
Photo Gallery now offers a tantalizing option when you right-click on the geotag.
Note the drop-down menu in the illustration. There is now a “Map it with Bing.” option.
This brings up Bing maps and shows the location with a pin. If several photos are selected that have location data and are in close proximity, there will be a pin for each photo. This is very nice. All the features of Bing maps, including 3D are there for you.
So now Photo Gallery can show the geotag data in Bing maps. The reverse is not yet there.
Progress is being made, I just can’t wait to see all the features working smoothly. Us users are just an impatient bunch.
But for now, Photo Gallery and the other applications in Windows Live Essentials are really powerful, fast, and most useful. I couldn’t live without them.
One last note: The location shown in the map above is the American Basin in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado. The thumbnails above show photos taken there this summer. They are beautiful. Want to see them large? You will find them in one of the galleries in Café Ludwig – my blog about “things photographic” – Enjoy!