I really like using the Scanner and Camera Wizard (SCW) in Windows XP (and yes, it was originally developed for Windows Me!). SCW makes organizing digital photos easy, because you can select the pictures you want to transfer from your camera or flash memory card reader, name them, and copy them to a folder of your choice (by default, the name you assign to the picture group).
Unfortunately, SCW just hasn't kept up with the times. When you use it to transfer large pictures (5MP and higher), it's painfully slow to display the thumbnail images you use to select the photos you want to transfer. Thus, it's not surprising that SCW's been replaced in Windows Vista.
Even worse, its Vista replacement, the Importing Pictures and Videos wizard, is an annoying case of "one step forward, two steps backward."
What's good: optional picture tagging during transfer; automatically rotating pictures during transfer; displaying pictures in the Windows Photo Gallery (one of my favorite new Vista features); picture transfer from USB thumb drives.
What's bad: no way to select only certain photos for transfer; slow transfer times.
I know the list of good features is longer than the list of bad features, but trust me: if you use a digital camera, you want more control over image storage and naming than Importing Pictures and Videos gives you.
Free, Fast, and Fun – Picasa2
If you're a bargain-hunter (how does "free" sound?), try Google's Picasa2. Picasa2 displays the photos on your media (including USB flash drives) in a hurry and lets you select the pictures you want to transfer. During the 'blink-and-you'll-miss-it' transfer process, Picasa can name the pictures, the destination folder and add caption and location information you specify.
Power at a (Low) Price – Adobe Photoshop Elements' Photo Downloader
For more control over the transfer process, use the Photo Downloader in Adobe Photoshop Elements 5. The basic transfer process (which also works with USB flash drives) is comparable to Vista's Importing Pictures and Videos wizard, but it's faster. However, open the Advanced Dialog and you can specify author, copyright, file and folder name, add a tag, automatically fix red-eye, and (as with SCW and Picasa) you can select the photos you want to transfer.
If you prefer other photo editing programs, check the feature list for file transfer programs you can use instead of Importing Pictures and Videos.
SyncToy – Fast File Transfers for Purists
If you'd rather transfer your pictures now (fast!) and organize them later, don't overlook Microsoft's free SyncToy (starting with version 1.4, it works with 32-bit Vista editions as well as Windows XP). SyncToy lets you set up your choice of five different synchronization settings between any two folders on your system. Because any particular digital camera uses a consistent folder naming scheme, you can use SyncToy with your digital camera (if it is assigned a disk drive letter by Vista), with your camera's removable flash memory inserted into a card reader, or with USB flash drives. You can't rename your pictures or tag them, but for speed and the ability to preview what happens to your files, it's hard to beat SyncToy.
So, if you're grinding your teeth waiting for Importing Pictures and Videos to work its way through your digital pix, don't settle for it: you have better choices, and some of them are free!