W e’ve been living with a full install of Windows 8 for three weeks, running on our oldish NEC laptop. There is good news and you know what else. The good news is that 8 has breathed new life into the NEC. It is now up and running in seconds, rather than minutes. If we had a new ultrabook equipped with a solid-state drive, we imagine there would be no lag between pushing the On button and being able to get to work.
All the standard photo-editing programs also run faster, but in appearance and use they are no different from Windows 7 or Vista. There are no native Windows 8 versions of Photoshop, Lightroom or the freebie IrfanView.
This means it is like working in two operating systems simultaneously. One is the new-look ”Modern” Windows interface and the other is the old-style desktop. Microsoft’s attempt to create an interface that functions across all devices – laptops, tablets, phones and desktops – doesn’t really work. But Microsoft is to be thanked for treating customers with respect. We don’t need to buy software for the new operating system.
But that is where the good news ends. Image file handling is a big disappointment. Windows Photo Gallery is supposed to be a match for Apple’s iPhoto but it falls down at the first hurdle. You can’t open a RAW file in Photo Gallery without converting it to JPEG. On a Mac, RAW files are displayed in Preview and iPhoto, can be opened in iPhoto, and after editing can be saved in the original format.
The photo-viewing app in 8 doesn’t even show a thumbnail of a RAW file. And right-clicking on a thumbnail in the photo viewer doesn’t lead to any useful options, such as the elementary choice to open the file in Photo Gallery.
Photo Gallery itself is no match for iPhoto. It conforms to the overly automated conventions of the Modern user interface. There is an editing module with a reasonable degree of user control but the assumption is you can’t be bothered with that – just press Auto-Fix and hope for the best.
So, iPhoto looks and works like a photo-editing program for grown-ups.
The one thing about Windows 8 that is superior to the Apple alternative is no thanks to Microsoft. IrfanView is a free image-viewing file that beats the Mac’s Preview in every way. Unfortunately, there is no Mac version of IrfanView but XnView is almost as good.
Windows Photo Gallery seems to assume a user who is not a serious photographer and thinks shooting RAW means doing it in the nude; their ambition stops at Facebook or Twitter; iPhoto assumes a serious user who wants the on-the-go convenience of a friendly, well-featured photo editor to use as a quick Photoshop alternative. Apple’s way is better.
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.