Digital Life

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Pieces of 8 come together

Photo editing in the coming Windows update improves but seems stuck in the era of 7.

MICROSOFT is releasing Windows 8 this month and we've been looking into its promises from a photographer's point of view.

The last of the consumer preview releases of Windows 8 is purported to be close to the version to go on sale in a couple of weeks, so we should get a clear picture of the picture, as it were.

First, the good news. Windows 8 is blindingly fast, from boot-up to opening and running applications. Responses are instantaneous, even when running the preview version on our ageing laptop.

Win 8 comes with Photos pre-installed. The tile (icon) for it is animated. The contents of your Pictures Library scroll through the icon constantly. It's a nice touch.

Photos is a native Win 8 application and it opens in the new Windows full-screen mode with a thumbnail strip showing available photo groups on the computer and on SkyDrive, Microsoft's cloud service.

Click on a group thumbnail and a larger, scrollable film strip comes up. Click on one of the strip images and it is opened in full screen. From there, navigation forward and back is easy.


It beats the Mac's dreadful Preview hands down but it is not perfect. There is no way of selecting an image in Photos to open in a photo editor.

Using Windows 8 is like using two different operating systems simultaneously. The MS photo-editing application is still the Windows Live Photo Gallery. Think ''Windows Live Photo Gallery'' and then think ''iPhoto'' and you get the picture. What we will now call WLPG is not pretty.

When WLPG opens, you are back in the Windows 7 environment, which in itself is no bad thing, but why? Presumably, as time goes by WLPG will turn up in native 8 form, but in the meantime we must shuffle between the new and the old.

As things stand, the choice between included photo editors in the two operating systems, Win 8 and Mac OSX, is easy. iPhoto is an elegant and beautiful environment and reasonably intuitive. Unlike WLPG, it is not based on the assumption that the average user wants one-click automatic editing. While WLPG and iPhoto have the same suite of controls, the Mac makes them easier to use.

When it comes to using ancient legacy software on the latest operating system, Microsoft has always treated its customers with respect and generosity and Apple has treated theirs with contempt, rendering old software obsolete with OS upgrades. The Apple way is cruel, but at least it results in proper integration of OS and software.