Windows Photos is getting a significant update that will introduce a selection of new features designed to improve user experience.
According to Microsoft’s official blog post about the Photos improvements, users can expect features like in-depth search, background blur, location search, and ‘Motion Photos’ – think live photos on iPhones – which will bring a little life to the currently rather drab photo software.
Background blur will surely be welcomed by Photos users who want to remove backgrounds from their photos, highlight certain subjects, or modify the area being blurred. To be honest, it may be cruel to say it, but like the majority of these updates, it’s about time. Many of the new features have already existed for a while on other platforms, most notably within Apple’s software ecosystem.
Get with the times, man
You’ll also be able to search for specific photos by the type of content within the photo. This means you can now type in things like ‘cat, car, beach, holiday’ and more, with the app attempting to identify and collate relevant images. You’ll have to log into your Microsoft account to be able to use the feature, and the blog post does warn that the enhanced search bar may not work right away.
Other features to expect include live photos and location searches, which will help you find the right picture when you’re ready to reminisce (or plan your next vacation Instagram post). If you went to the beach, you can type in either ‘beach’ or the name of the specific beach, the city you visited, or just home and school.
Microsoft seems to be on a roll recently, dishing out updates and new features across its product range, and it’s really good to see. With updates to Microsoft Edge, the continuing popularity of Bing AI, and now a Windows Photo refresh, we’re really eager to see what the company has to offer in the near future.
Windows 11 is about to get a drastically-improved Snipping Tool and revised Photos app. The most exciting new features include the Snipping Tool allowing users to copy text straight from screenshots, and the Photos app getting features like the ability to blur the background of photos.
This news has come from Windows Insider users (members of the official Microsoft community, the Windows Insider Program, for people who want to test out the latest developments to the operating system and help Microsoft improve it).
The Verge writes that Windows Insiders have been allowed access to updates of both the Snipping Tool and Photos app in the Canary and Dev Channels in the Windows Insider Program (two out of four of the channels through which Microsoft distributes previews). As a Windows Snipping Tool enthusiast, Microsoft certainly has my attention.
Microsoft has written in more detail about these new arrivals in two new update posts on the Windows Insider Blog (an official update blog by Microsoft).
A sharper Windows 11 Snipping Tool
The blog post presenting the nifty new text capture and recognition capability of the Snipping Tool (version 11.2308.33.0) introduces the new feature as 'Text Actions'. This will make it much easier to copy and paste or share text with others straight from a screen capture. You’ll have to select Text Actions in the Snipping Tools toolbar and then you’ll be shown all the text you can highlight, select and copy.
You can also manipulate text within the screenshot, like being able to redact sensitive information right in the screenshot using the 'Quick Redact' function.
Aside from the exciting new text capture capabilities of Snipping Tool, there will be integration with Windows 11’s Phone Link feature. It will show a notification prompt to open the Snipping Tool for markup of a screenshot, and allow users to instantly access and edit recent photos from Android devices with the Snipping Tool on a PC.
A renewed Photos app
The Photos app is also being revised based on community feedback, Microsoft writes in the blog post about the Photos app update. The main part of the update is the new Background Blur option, which does what it says on the tin – instantly detects and blurs the background of a photo. It has further options with the Blur Intensity parameter and Brush Tool to select what areas you’d like to blur.
Another cool feature being previewed is a ‘Content Search’ capability for photos that you backup on OneDrive. This will allow you to search by content of a photo, I assume using some intelligent image detection software that can scan and label the photo with searchable tags based on what it detects in the image – much like Google Photos, which has a similar feature.
As well as this search feature, you can also search for photos based on the location they were taken. You’ll be able to do this in multiple places – your local files, OneDrive and iCloud. Yep, you read that right – iPhone owners can search their iCloud storage on their Windows 11 device with the updated Photos app.
Microsoft details how to use these features in the announcement blog post, along with some other fixes and changes to do with the Photos app.
“Edit and Create Video options are now easily accessible at the top of the gallery view.”
I don’t know what this means exactly with regard to the video editing functions in Windows 11’s Photos app, so I guess we’ll have to see what it looks like as testers try out the previews of these features.
According to Windows Latest, you may be able to open the old Video Editor, but if it’s been updated (probably through the most recent Windows 10 update), you’ll be met with a pop-up saying the following:
“Microsoft Video Editor is no longer available in the Photos app. Your previous video projects can be accessed by downloading the Photos Legacy app in Settings. For new videos, unleash your creativity with Clipchamp.“
So, what can you do now?
You can still download the Photos Legacy app in the Microsoft Store, like the pop-up says, and restore the original Video Editor. Yet Windows Latest speculates that this might signal the beginning of the end for this generation of the Photos app and its editing capabilities. Eventually, we may not even have a Photos Legacy app at all (along with its Video Editor feature).
The Photos Legacy app is similar to the Windows 11 version of the app, and it differs from the previous Windows 10 Photos app. Some of the changes that angered users are the removal of the Clarity slider and the Spot fix feature. This change was warned about shortly before it happened as Windows 10 users were notified ahead of the changes.
The move is presumably because Microsoft wants to usher users away from the Video Editor feature and over to the web-based Clipchamp, which was acquired by Microsoft back in 2021. Windows 11’s Photos and Windows 10’s Photos will still include video editing for now, as confirmed by an engineer at Microsoft to Windows Latest.
The new video editor in town: Clipchamp
So what’s Clipchamp? It’s a free video editor that allows users to make as many videos as they like in high definition (1080p). It’s a browser-based app that you can access at clipchamp.com and to access it, all you need is a Microsoft account and to log in on the website. You can find our review of Clipchamp here.
This app might remind you of a relic of the recent past – Windows Movie Maker. Movie Maker is also no more – officially decommissioned back in 2017 – and Microsoft is propping up Clipchamp as a replacement for it.
Clipchamp is a more capable video-editing app, and allows any user to make a video that looks pretty professional. It also has a user-friendly interface and quick setup process. However, many still liked the old Video Editor, perhaps for its even more straightforward simplicity.
What's the actual problem?
Not just known for its simple approach, Windows 10’s Video Editor could also encode much smaller-sized videos than those of Clipchamp. In Microsoft’s Feedback Hub, where users give feedback directly to Microsoft as outlined by Windows Latest, one user asked: “Why is the Clipchamp exported video 5 times the size of the photo “legacy” video editor?”
The user details their complaint and outlines their comparison between Clipchamp and Photos Legacy’s Video Editor, and they aren’t happy. I understand why; there's a big difference, especially if you’re making a video for personal reasons instead of commercial purposes. File storage isn’t free, after all!
It makes you think – does Microsoft have plans to present a repackaged Video Editor elsewhere? Maybe it could enjoy a new lease on life as a paid download if it still maintains such popularity.
If you have similar thoughts or your own opinion you’d like to share, Microsoft does often repeat that they’d like to hear users’ thoughts on the matter. The uproar was so loud when it tried to do something similar with Paint that the beloved app was brought back as a optional download via the Microsoft Store, so maybe the tech giant will listen to users this time around too.
Despite Microsoft’s efforts, many users are stubbornly clinging on to Windows 10, rather than upgrading to Windows 11, and the upshot of that is that the company is still adding new features to the older operating system – with Windows 10 getting a new version of the Photos app.
The new version of the Photos app for Windows 10 is basically the same as the one found in Windows 11, and offers new editing capabilities and a filmstrip view that lets you view all your photos and videos in a single window.
You can also view your photos and videos in a mode called ‘multi-view’, a favorite feature of existing users of the app. Multi-view is another novel way to go through your photos and videos, allowing you to open them all within one window and easily compare them side-by-side, as detailed by Windows Latest.
What have users been saying?
However, despite all of these flashy new features, some users have complained that they prefer the old version of the Photos app for Windows 10. According to posts from both Microsoft’s Feedback Hub and the Microsoft Answers Forum, some users voiced that they’d like to see the “Clarity” and “Spot Fix” features returned to the newer Photos app.
If you’d like to add your opinion on this issue, you can go to the Feedback Hub which is designed for users to submit their feedback directly to Microsoft. You can also speak to other users about the issue on the Microsoft Answers Forum, which is Microsoft’s dedicated community support forum.
A major complaint is that this new Photos app no longer has the “clarity” options that the older version had. The “clarity” capability in the older app was similar to that of Photoshop, and one user wrote that they aren’t interested in other effects, they just want their photos to appear more clearly.
This particular feature was greatly praised because it could be used for more than just visual edits – it could also be used to clarify blurry photos to make features sharper, and if it included alphanumeric characters, easier to read.
The lasting popularity of older Windows features
Microsoft has been very keen to make Windows (and its features) more modern, but to be fair, there’s plenty it’s already gotten right. After all, there are reasons why Windows is still the most popular desktop OS around, so it shouldn’t be overly keen to jettison its older apps, especially if they remain popular.
Microsoft often makes a point of saying it’s open to feedback and encourages users to submit it, and hopefully it pays attention, because there is clear demand for some of the older Photo app’s features.
I understand why Microsoft keeps trying to push users to Windows 11 and its apps – I imagine it would like to focus its efforts on one primary OS, especially when it comes to security. That said, a lot of users really prefer Windows 10, and Microsoft needs to acknowledge why the older version remains so popular. Turning Windows 10 into Windows 11-lite won’t go down well for fans of the older OS.
Google is expanding the reach of its Locked Folder tool on the Google Photos app so it will soon be available on iOS and web. This means that if you decide to switch from an Android device to an iPhone, you can still access your secure files without issue.
It doesn’t appear like there’s any major difference between the three versions. All three types of users can store their content in a Locked Folder then back it up so it can be accessed across multiple devices. According to Google in the official announcement that you’ll be saving your files on “one of the world’s most advanced security infrastructures.”
When it first launched, Locked Folder was exclusive to Google Photos on Android. It provided users a “passcode-protected space” for images or videos, ensuring that they won’t appear on your “photo grid or other apps.”
The problem was the Locked Folders feature wasn't available outside of Android smartphones, as we just covered. So if an iPhone owner wanted to hide particularly sensitive media, they were out of luck. Those images could end up on other connected apps where they're displayed in full view.
With this update, you can rest easy knowing that moving forward, any embarrassing snapshots of you at that Christmas party will remain hidden on your iPhone.
As always, you’re in control of your photos and privacy. We made it easier to find and adjust your privacy controls and other settings with a simplified and improved settings page in Google Photos. pic.twitter.com/HTPVy6RwbNAugust 29, 2023
In addition to the expansion, the company is also simplifying the settings page on Google Photos to make finding and adjusting privacy controls easier. The menu will no longer have everything messily displayed on a single screen. Instead, individual tabs will be compartmentalized into larger sections for a much cleaner look. The Privacy tab, for example, will have all of the sharing tools where you can decide which of your friends has access to your image folders.
Keep an eye out for the update patch when it arrives. Google states the new layout for the settings page is now available on Google Photos for Android and iOS. Also, Locked Folder support begins rolling out to iOS users today.
It’s unknown when Locked Folder will make its way to Google Photos on web browsers. We didn’t see anything on our personal account. However, it is worth mentioning there are instructions for setting up Locked Folders for desktop via the official Google Photos Help website. This could mean the browser update will be launching soon – although we don’t know when. We reached out to Google for more information about when we can expect the final patch. This story will be updated at a later time.
Despite concentrating on its latest version of Windows, it seems Microsoft is still keen to bring new features to the ageing Windows 10, with a revamped Photos app apparently coming soon.
After bringing the Windows Backup app to Windows 10, after initially only offering it to Windows 11 users, there's been a further indication that Microsoft will continue making features and apps that were originally thought to be only for Windows 11 also available for Windows 10.
The new Windows Photos app now is officially installable on Windows 10 pic.twitter.com/MG0nn90CaRAugust 15, 2023
The new Photos app for Windows 10
It has also apparently been somewhat confirmed by Microsoft as the current version of the Windows 10 Photos app now states that “a new update for the Photos app is coming soon with exciting enhancements,” as evidenced by Neowin.
What users can expect in the new Photos app is a more sophisticated interface, improvements to photo library management, better integration with OneDrive, a refined “Memories” feature, a multi-window capability and multi-screen usability, and upgraded abilities to import from external sources. Another anticipated development is that the built-in video editor will be swapped out for Microsoft’s web-based video editor, Clipchamp.
How to install the new Photos app
If you’d like to try the new Photos app for Windows app before it’s available in a future update, you can do so by following these steps:
Next, you have to right-click this link and from the menu that appears, select Save link as. Allow for your device to download the file.
Finally, you’ll want to open the file you just downloaded and click Update. This will prompt Windows 10 to update the app and allow you to open it.
Things for users to consider
It’s worth noting that the Windows 10 Photos updated app won’t work exactly like the Windows 11 version, at least for now. For instance, the Windows 11 Photos app allows for iCloud integration as the Windows 10 version doesn’t. Also, if you install the updated Photos app and find that you don’t like it as much as the older app, there’s an easy way to downgrade to the previous version. You can go to Settings in the Photos app and click the Get Photos Legacy button, and this should revert your Photos app.
I appreciate Microsoft’s approach to enable users to adjust their Windows experience to their liking, no matter what version they are using. If you like the older version of the operating system, you can get most apps and features in Windows 10 that you’d find in Windows 11.
Microsoft’s continued support for Windows 10 by bringing new apps and features to the older operating system, despite the existence of Windows 11 (which the company clearly wants its users to upgrade to), is good to see, and hopefully will put pressure on other companies (especially Apple and Google) to continue to bring new features that are compatible with older operating systems.
The Google Photos app is getting a redesigned, AI-powered Memories feature to help you find your life's highlights among the clutter of your everyday snaps and videos.
The Memories carousel, which Google says is used by half a billion people every month, was introduced four years ago at the top of the Android and iOS app. It automatically picks out what it considers to be your most important photos and videos, but Google is now making it a more central part of the app.
From today in the US (other regions in the “coming months”) the Memories feature is moving to the bottom of the app's navigation bar and getting some useful new tricks. One of these is the ability to “co-author” Memories albums with friends and family, in a similar way to shared albums.
This feature sounds particularly handy for big events like weddings, as you'll be able to invite friends or family to collaborate on specific Memories and add their photos and videos to help fill in the gaps. You can also save any Memories that are shared with you to your Google Photos account.
Google is also promising to add a couple of other new features to Memories soon. If you're struggling to think of a title for your collection of snaps (which we can't imagine is a major issue) then you'll be able to use generative AI to come up with some suggested names like “a desert adventure”. This is apparently an experimental feature, and only currently available to “select accounts in the US”.
Perhaps more useful will be the option of sharing your Memories as videos, which means you'll be able to send them to friends and family who aren't on Google Photos in messaging apps like WhatsApp. Google says this is “coming soon”, but unfortunately hasn't yet given a rough timescale. Knowing Google, that could be anything from three months to three years, but we'll update this article when we hear something more specific.
Google upgrades the photo album
While these are only minor tweaks to the Google Photos app, they do show that Google increasingly sees its cloud photo service as a social app.
The ability to “co-author” Memories albums is something that'll no doubt be used by millions for events like weddings, vacations, pets, and celebrations. And as Google Photos isn't used by everyone, the incoming option to share Memories as videos to WhatsApp groups and other messaging apps should also prove popular.
On the other hand, these AI-powered photo albums have also sparked controversy with their sometimes insensitive surfacing of unwanted memories and photos. Google says that its updated Memories view lets you quickly add or remove specific photos or videos, or hide particular memories, to help with this.
On the whole, the Memories feature is certainly an upgrade to having to pass around a physical photo album, and its AI powers will no doubt improve rapidly if half a billion people continue to use it every month. If it works as well as it does in the demos, it could effectively be an automated highlights reel of your life.
Starting next year, Google will be making it easier to transfer your user information to third-party services using its Takeout export tool.
This update comes at the tail end of an investigation by the Italian Competition Authority (AGCM), a market competition regulator. In total, there will be three new changes made to Google’s service. Although we don’t know exactly what the changes will be, the AGCM does mention a few things. Two of them will be “supplementary solutions” to Google Takeout, giving people a way to export their information to “third-party operators.” The third “commitment”, as it’s referred to, will “allow direct data portability from service to service.” That last one specifically relates to moving data generated from a person’s Google Search history and YouTube.
To give some backstory, back in 2022 the AGCM alleged Google had been abusing its dominant position in the tech industry to collect “large amounts of [user] data” and putting up “obstacles to interoperability” in sharing information with third parties. One of the complaints said Takeout was “extremely complicated” to use – something they claim was by design as it “discourages [people] from porting their data elsewhere.” In response, Google proposed the three features that we mentioned earlier as changes it could make to appease regulators; all of which the Authority accepted.
Expanding data portability
Regarding the direct data portability feature, 9to5Google states it sounds a lot like the Data Transfer Initiative (formerly known as the Data Transfer Project). If you don’t know what that is, the Data Transfer Initiative consists of Apple, Meta, and Google coming together to expand data portability to users. The classic example, as given by 9to5Google, is imagine being able to transfer images from Google Photos to iCloud without having to manually do anything. The companies handle all the heavy lifting. This could preserve precious bandwidth while also being much faster than downloading gigabytes of content.
It’s unknown exactly when everything in the Google Takeout update will be released, but we won’t have to wait long for the direct data portability tool. The tech giant told the Authority the feature will officially launch sometime during “the first quarter of 2024.” However, we might see it even sooner as third-party platforms can test an early version of the tool “six months before its actual release.” Possibly by October, at the earliest.
The report also showed just how fleeting some photography is. Of those surveyed, 80% said they have pictures or videos on their phone that they haven't looked at since the day they took them.
Gathering digital dust
We’re all taking more and more pictures and videos. High-resolution camera phones and a steady stream of photo editors and video editing apps have made it easier than ever before. Yet so much media is left gathering digital dust.
Mixbook calls it “phlushing”, which is probably the ugliest word to be written this week. It’s the act of taking photos, then flushing them down the memory hole like they didn’t happen. Moments captured in time, and never seen again. It all sounds suspiciously like the time before everyone had a camera in their pocket.
The data revealed users stored an average 3,139 pictures and videos on their phones. But 55% of respondents admitted not looking at their camera roll in the last year. And despite the best cloud storage providers storing years’-worth of media, users said they rarely went back to those taken more than twelve months ago. The same number confessed to feeling overwhelmed by how many photos and videos were stored on their device. Perhaps a problem easier ignored – at least until the likes of Apple iCloud and Google One come knocking for a storage space subscription.
What actually happens to all those photos and videos? In 50% of cases, nothing at all. A further 30% share them with family and friends, while 17% post to social media. In a sign of the times, just 3% print them, online or with a photo printer.
But the real concern is that 65% who are not regularly securely storing media – especially with so many ways to backup photos – whether they’re “phlushing” those images or not.
The web version of Google Photos just got a major upgrade that brings a slew of editing features like Color Pop, Portrait Blur and Sky suggestions. But it’s not perfect.
Google Photos has been a great cloud photo storage platform for some time, making it easy to share your snaps between devices, and on mobile it’s also a solid photo editor. It’s not on par with services like Photoshop, but you can pull off some great looking adjustments – we particularly like Color Pop which makes the image black and white except for objects you select, and Background Blur which artificially blurs the background of pictures.
While this update finally gives the web client these tools and others found on the version on your Google Pixel 7, there are unfortunately two catches to the new and improved Google Photos web version.
Firstly, you’ll need to be subscribed to Google One – Google’s paid subscription service – to be able to take advantage of these new features. The cheapest Google One tier is Basic; it costs $ 1.99 / £1.59 / AU$ 2.49 per month and gives you access to these Photos tools as well as 100GB of storage, the use of the Google One VPN and a handful of extra benefits.
The other catch is the new Google Photos web tools lack the best feature found on the Google Pixel version of the app: Magic Eraser. This AI-powered tool allows you to clean up your photos; the app removes the objects you’ve highlighted and then cleverly fills in the blank space with a background using context from the image. It’s not perfect, but nine times out of 10 you wouldn’t know the image was altered unless someone told you.
Opinion: Magic Eraser is like a photo cheat code
Magic Eraser isn’t a Google Photos editing tool you should always rely on. Our Cameras Editor Timothy Coleman recently argued that cleaning your messy photos with Magic Eraser is a bad thing. It removes authenticity from your snaps, and often options like Background Blur can create a much tidier looking image.
But there are plenty of times when a minor fix from Magic Eraser can help remove a distraction that blemishes a shot you love. When I took a holiday with my parents in December 2021, I snapped a picture of them next to a huge Christmas tree, but they’d left their brightly colored bags in the shot. Thanks to Magic Eraser I could clean up the offending items, and get a result we were much happier with.
Given my success with the tool, I’m disappointed to see it’s not coming to Google’s Photos web app yet. This is hardly a surprise though; Magic Eraser is one of the best features on Pixel phones and by making it available to any Google One subscriber, Pixel handsets would lose one of their unique appeals.
Hopefully this Pixel exclusivity won’t last forever. But even if it does, with a bevvy of AI image tools on the rise alongside the best AI art generators, you might find a Google Photos rival can offer a good alternative to Magic Eraser.