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Windows Live Photo Gallery and Windows Live Folders: First Impressions

Got the email letting me into the Windows Live Folders and Windows Live Photo Gallery betas, and here’s my first impressions on the products.

First, a note: The betas will supposedly only be available through 4 pm Pacific today, so check your inbox right now to see if you got in.

Windows Live Folders

Windows Live Folders gives you 500 megabytes of public file storage. You get to choose between categorizing your files under Personal Folders, Shared Folders, and Public Folders, and precreated folders under Personal (Documents, Music and Pictures) and Public. Personal folders are completely closed to the world, shared folders can be shared, but only with people you approve, and public folders are available to anyone who has a link to it.

Click here for a photo I’ve stored in my public folder.

Here’s what you see on the website (presumbly they generate a thumbnail eventually):

Folders file page

The file is located at If you receive a public Live Folders file, replace self.aspx with browse.aspx and you can see the folder structure, like:

Folders bouncy ball

While you are waiting for a file to upload, Microsoft presents you with a bouncy ball game. It’s cute, and fun. You push the ball around with your mouse, or just click it, and it can go all over the place.

Photo Gallery install

The Windows Live Photo Gallery installation makes you install Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Compact Edition, even on Windows Vista, which is strange because, as a replacement for Windows Vista Photo Gallery, you’d think it wouldn’t need anything Vista didn’t already have.

Photo Gallery Windows Live ID sign in

You can sign in to your Windows Live ID for more features.

After installation, images you try to open will default to Windows Live Photo Gallery.

Here are Windows Vista Photo Gallery and Windows Live Photo Gallery to compare (Live is on top):

Windows Live Photo Gallery vs Windows Vista Photo Gallery

Differences between the two, besides the blue color scheme (blue is apparently Windows Live, black is Windows Vista):

1: A new Share button, which replaces the email button, giving you the option to email the photo or Publish to Live Spaces.

2: A button to login to Windows Live ID

3: The sidebar appears to be gone. UPDATE: You can bring it back by pressing the Info button. Curiously, this only brings back the sidebar, but clicking it again does not toggle it off. Bad software design in this case.

4: The Reset Thumbnails button has been replaced with a button that toggles between thumnails and detail view, which looks like this:

Details view

5: Folders are now placed underneath the All Pictures link, simplifying navigation and putting elements together in a way that makes sense

Also, the Table of Content view has been improved with column sorting:

Table of contents view

Pretty good stuff, the performance is excellent. There doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of difference between the Live and Vista versions of Photo Gallery, but it is an improved version, and the new photo stitching feature in Live Photo Gallery alone makes it worth it (I haven’t had a chance to test it out). I’ll update this post if there’s anything I’ve missed.

June 27th, 2007 Posted by | General, Live, Windows | 5 comments

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  1. Hi Nathan. Did you try clicking the Info button to get the sidebar back?

    Comment by Matt Ellis | June 27, 2007

  2. Thanks for pointing that out to me! I’ll update the article.

    Comment by Nathan Weinberg | June 27, 2007

  3. Hi, how can I get Windows Live Photo Gallery beta?

    Comment by Jose Melendez | June 27, 2007

  4. Go to Microsoft Connect ( and see if you can still sign up for the beta. It might be too late, though. If it is, expect the installer to find its way to a torrent site by the weekend.

    Comment by Nathan Weinberg | June 27, 2007

  5. The service is also available outside the US. By changing the language settings in Internet Explorer or in Firefox you can access Windows Live Folders and use it completely without an invitation. See the link to the Dutch website with screenshots.

    Comment by Michel | June 28, 2007

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