Windows Live Adds Photo Editing, Blogging Tools and More

Windows Live Adds Photo Editing, Blogging Tools and More

If you've had a hard time figuring out what Microsoft means by "Windows Live," you're in good company. Microsoft has used the Live moniker for both web-based services such as Windows Live Search, Windows Live Messenger, and Windows Live Hotmail and for desktop applications that also include a web component, like Windows Live One Care. On Wednesday, Microsoft launched a beta version of its new Windows Live Suite, which includes features to help you connect with other users, find information online, customize your online experience, join a social network, back up data online, edit and share photos and videos, create a content-rich blog, and protect your family from the seamy side of the Internet. The Windows Live Suite works with both Windows XP SP2 and Windows Vista.

I tried beta versions of Windows Live Photo Gallery and Live Writer for this article, but other components include Windows Live Mail, Windows Live Messenger, Windows Live Family Safety, and Windows Live SkyDrive.

Live Photo Gallery - Better Editing, Easier Sharing

I decided to give the "new" Photo Gallery feature a try. It's an enhanced feature of the Photo Gallery feature in Windows Vista, so what's new? The Fix command now features a real-time histogram with Shadow and Highlights sliders. Although it lacks a specific adjustment for midtones (included in the three-slider Levels commands in Adobe Photoshop/Photoshop Elements), the Shadow and Highlight sliders and the ability to adjust the black and white points on the histogram itself make it easier than ever to intelligently fix problem photos.

Before

A photo before editing with Photo Gallery 

After

Photo after editing with Photo Gallery

The Fix command also includes an Adjust Detail (sharpening) tool. Photo Gallery is now web-enabled, too, with an option to publish photos to Windows Live Spaces or MSN Soapbox. Photo Gallery also feature better integration with Windows Movie Maker.

Live Writer - Blog On Your Own Terms

Windows Live Writer supports Microsoft's own Windows Live Spaces and SharePoint blogs, but you can also configure it to work with other blogging services like WordPress, Blogger, and so on. Enter the blog's URL, your username and password, and Live Writer analyzes your blog and configures itself. Live Writer lives up to its promise of a rich blogging experience, providing automatic uploading of pictures from your system, insertion of maps from Microsoft Live Earth service, tags from Technorati, 43 Things, and other tag services, and video insertion. Publishing your entries is one-click simple, and you can also manage your blog with Live Writer.

Windows Live Writer creating a blog entry

Windows Live Suite is beta software, so you might not want to run it on a mission-critical system, but the features I tried suggest that when Windows Live Suite's components reach production status, Microsoft may have a winner on its hands.

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Merve

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stuartx13

This to me seems like it is targeted at google,If so sorry M$ YOU HAD YOUR CHANCE.

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rb3m

unless you have Vista 64 bits, then you'll have to wait until full release... again.

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dentaku

The best thing about the new Photo Gallery is that they finally fixed the rather inadequate Photo Import Wizard in Vista.
It groups photos by date and lets you choose which photos you want to transfer just like the old picture and scanner transfer wizard, only better. They even let you choose how "far apart in time" pictures have to be so that it considers it another group that will create it's own subgroup and folder and the controls for how these folders and files are named it very useful.
They've also added panorama stitching capabilities.

If Live is what Microsoft will be using to start adding extra little touches to Vista without having to include it into service packs or Windows Updates then I'm all for these oddly/confusingly named applications. It's kind of like the old Power Toys only bigger.

The whiners can't complain that it's being bundled with the OS or automatically installed because you have to download and install them yourself.

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Marcus_Soperus

Thanks for providing even more details about Live Photo Gallery. The Panoramic Photo option is located in the Gallery view of your photo collection (inside the Make menu, which is also where the options for burning a CD and DVD are now located). As long as you have some overlapping detail in each photo, the Panoramic Photo option works very nicely. I used it to reassemble a vintage newspaper front page I photographed in sections and it did a very good job.

Your comparison to PowerToys is helpful - as you point out, nobody is forced to use MS Live tools, but with improvements like this, why not use them? Of course, the big difference here is that MS officially supports Live products, while PowerToys have always been 'cool, but use at your own risk.'

By default, Windows Live Photo Gallery replaces Windows Photo Gallery (WPG) as the default preview option. However, the original WPG is not gone: to use it, right-click a photo, select Open With, select Choose Default Program, Other Programs, and navigate to Windows Photo Gallery. It will then become an an option on the Open With menu.
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