Windows 7 : Managing Pictures with Windows Live Photo Gallery (part 3) - Changing How Your Digital Memories Are Displayed

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4. Changing How Your Digital Memories Are Displayed

Photo Gallery is a fairly versatile application. In the Navigation pane, you can choose to filter the view of photos and videos by various criteria. The top option, or node, is called All Photos and Videos. This entry lets you view all of the photos and videos you have in the My Pictures, Public Pictures, My Videos, and Public Videos folders (by default).

If you want to filter the view down a bit, you can expand and contract the various nodes found in the Navigation pane. For example, if you expand All Photos and Videos, you'll see subnodes in the tree for My Pictures, My Videos, Public Pictures, and Public Videos. Choosing one of those will filter the Thumbnail pane to show only the content in the selected folder. Other nodes in the Navigation pane include Date Taken, People Tags, and Descriptive Tags.

The Folders nodes provide you with a close approximation to the old XP-style shell management. When you expand these nodes, you'll see a cascading set of folders representing the folders that Photo Gallery watches for new content.


Although it's not obvious at all, you can actually add or remove folders from the list of folders that Windows Live Photo Gallery watches. To add a folder, simply navigate to that folder in an Explorer window and then drag it over to the Folders node. To remove a folder, including one of the default folders, right-click it inside of the Photo Gallery View By pane and choose delete. Be very careful here: when you delete a folder in this fashion, you are also deleting the original, so you will also delete the actual pictures as well. This is poor design on Microsoft's part, in our opinion.

As is often the case with any tree control–type user interface, the Navigation pane can grow beyond the bounds of the application window quite easily, especially if you've got a large image library with a lot of folders or tags. In such a case, the pane adopts a scrollbar so you can still access all of your pictures by navigating up and down through the list.

4.4.1. Grouping and Arranging in Photo Gallery

The thumbnail pane supports a number of organizational features that will be familiar to you if you've spent time playing around with similar features in the Windows shell . In fact, these features were clearly inspired by the Windows 7 shell.

The various organizational features are located below the toolbar and above the thumbnail pane. From left to right, these include the following:

  • Arrange By: As with the Windows shell, Photo Gallery sports a handy way to arrange the items you're viewing. The default view is auto, which displays standard thumbnails in ascending order, with the oldest pictures at the top. However, you can click the Arrange By control to show different arrangements, including by Name, Date, Rating, Type, Tag, or Person. But here's where Photo Gallery wildly differs from the Windows 7 shell: instead of arranging the pictures into stacks,

    Photo Gallery instead segregates the pictures vertically into groups, as shown in Figure 6.

    These groups can be expanded and collapsed to save space. In Figure 7, you can see a few collapsed groups.

    Figure 6. When you use Photo Gallery's Arrange By options, pictures are vertically segregated into groups.
    Figure 7. Groups can be collapsed to save space.
  • Arrange Order: As you can in the shell, you can also order arranged items in either ascending or descending order. For example, if you choose Arrange By and then Date, and then use a descending arrange order, images will be displayed with the most recent images at the top. In ascending order, the oldest images will be shown at the top.

  • Filter By: To the right of Arrange By and Arrange Order, you will see a Filter By control followed by a list of five grayed-out stars. This control enables you to filter the current view by rating. To view only those photos that are rated four stars, for example, click the fourth star from the left. This will highlight the first four stars and, naturally, display only the four-star-rated items, as shown in Figure 8.

    Figure 8. Curiously, you can only filter by rating using the Filter By control.

    You can fine-tune the filter a bit. To the right of the stars is a link titled "only." Tap this and you can choose "and higher" or "and lower." For example, to filter images in the current view down to those that are rated three stars and below, you would click the third star and then choose "and lower."

    Note that the Filter By link now reads "Clear filter." To remove the filter, click this link.

  • Search: Photo Gallery's search functionality is surprisingly complete. You can search by all kinds of things—file name, descriptive tags, people, date, and so on—further filtering the view. In Figure 9, you can see the results of searching for a specific tag.

Figure 9. The search box enables you to find specific photos and filter the current view.

In addition to these UI controls, Photo Gallery also exposes shell-like grouping and sorting options, as well as a number of thumbnail view styles, most of which are unique to this application.

Grouping and sorting works largely as it does in the shell. To group thumbnails, right-click a blank area of the thumbnail pane and then choose Group by. Photo Gallery offers a much wider range of grouping options than does the Windows 7 shell. You can see the list of possibilities in Figure 10.

Photo Gallery's Sort By also offers more options than its Explorer counterpart. Here, you get Date taken, Date Modified, File Size, Image Size, Rating, Caption, and File Name.

Finally, Photo Gallery offers a wide range of view styles, all of which are specially tailored to photos. You access these options by right-clicking a blank area in the thumbnail pane and then choosing View and one of the following options:

  • Thumbnails: The default view, this displays just thumbnail images with no surrounding text.

  • Thumbnails with date taken: Here, a caption is added to the bottom of each thumbnail, describing the date and time that each photo was taken. This is shown in Figure 11.

    Figure 10. Photo Gallery offers more grouping options than Windows Explorer.
    Figure 11. Want more than plain thumbnails? Photo Gallery offers various options, including this one, Date taken.
  • Thumbnails with date modified: Here, the caption reflects the date and time the underlying file was last modified.

  • Thumbnails with file size: In this case, the thumbnail caption will display the size of the underlying file, in kilobytes (KB) or megabytes (MB).

  • Thumbnails with image size: This refers to the dimensions of the image, in pixels. For example, you may see captions such as 3328 × 1872 or 3072 × 2304.

  • Thumbnails with rating: This is an excellent view style for those who want to rate their photos. It displays five grayed-out stars as the caption for unrated photos, or the correct rating in cases where one has been previously supplied. Note that this caption isn't read-only: you can also click within the stars to rate photos on-the-fly. This is shown in Figure 12.

    Figure 12. With this view style enabled, you can rate individual photos.
  • Thumbnails with caption: This view style provides a way to view and add captions to individual photos.

  • Thumbnails with file name: This view style displays the photo's underlying filename as the caption. Interestingly, you can edit it, and when you do, the underlying filename is changed as well.

  • Details: The unfortunately named Details view is, in fact, the very best view option of all. Don't be fooled by the name, as it has nothing to do with the Details view found in the Windows shell. This is no text view. Instead, each thumbnail is accompanied by a block of text to the right of the thumbnail, instead of the bottom. This text includes the image's filename, date and time taken, file size, image size (resolution), rating, and caption, as shown in Figure 13. The date taken, time taken, rating, and caption can all be edited in this view, which makes it very handy indeed.

Figure 13. Details view is the most complete and usable thumbnail view style.

Regardless of which view style you prefer, you can utilize the thumbnail resizing tool, found in the bottom right of the application window, to adjust the size of each thumbnail. As you can see in Figure 14, you're free to make the thumbnails as large—or small—as you want.

Figure 14. The thumbnail resizing tool lets you zoom in and out on the thumbnail images.


You can also resize the thumbnails in Windows Live Photo Gallery with the scroll wheel on your mouse, if you have one: just hold down the Ctrl key and scroll. No scroll wheel–equipped mouse? No problem: you can use the keyboard instead. Again, hold down the Ctrl key, but this time repeatedly tap the minus (-) key to zoom out or the plus key (+, really =) to zoom in.

Additionally, you can use the toggle to the left of the thumbnail resizing tool to toggle between the current view and the default thumbnails view.


To reset the thumbnails to their default size, tap Ctrl+0.

You can also enable a little-known Table of Contents pane from the Photo Gallery right-click menu. This adds a pane between the Navigation pane and thumbnail pane that corresponds to the current Group by setting. So, for example, if you're grouping by Date taken, the Table of Contents pane will list dates. If you're grouping by Rating, it will list ratings. The Table of Contents pane is shown in Figure 15.

Figure 15. The Table of Contents pane works better with some grouping styles than others.

Table of Contents acts like the Table of Contents in a book, enabling you to jump from group to group quickly. Say you have grouped by Year taken. The Table of Contents pane lists the name of each year for which you have one or more photos. Additionally, small blue meters below each year name visually hint at the number of pictures for each year. As you click year names in the Table of Contents, the Thumbnail pane scrolls down to display the corresponding group. Also, as it scrolls, a hazy blue box appears in the Table of Contents, visually showing you which portion of your pictures you're currently viewing.

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