Windows Live Photo Gallery

You’ll have to search for it, but this updated version of the Windows Photo Gallery that debuted in Vista is worth the hunt. If you’ve chosen to steer clear of Vista, no worries: It works in XP too.

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Blame it on fallout from the U.S. government’s successful antitrust prosecution and the subsequent consent decree, which severely limits what Microsoft can legally bundle with Windows. Ship a bare-bones utility in the OS and no one will complain. Deliver a decent upgrade and you’re on shaky ground. Provide at least three degrees of separation from that OS and you’re okay again.

So you have to work to find this download. But it’s worth the search. It resolves the biggest complaint about the original Photo Gallery—its oversimplified import path. The revised import wizard groups photos by date and time and lets you pick and choose which ones to import. It also adds a whizzy bit of technology that lets you stitch photos together into widescreen panoramas. Its tagging and basic photo editing features are mostly unchanged, which is just fine. All in all, this free download is one of the best programs Microsoft has developed in ages.
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