Monday, July 28, 2008

Update: Microsoft doesn't care about photographers

I've been working with Microsoft Pro Photo Tools 1.0 for a couple of weeks now. It has consistently failed in living up to the most basic expectations one might have had from reading its name. Consequently, I suggest a name change to Microsoft No Photo Tools.

Is this another case of senseless Microsoft bashing? I don't think so. Yesterday, after editing the "date taken" of a batch of photographs (and prudently saving the photos) I wanted to exit No Photo Tools. The program told me that my files had been changed and offered me a chance to save them - again. I said 'yes.' Wouldn't you? No Photo Tools then proceeded to give each and every photo the same capture time, identical to the current time.

How could this be? Instead of checking the opened photos' capture time against the original photos' capture time, No Photo Tools appears to have checked the last change time. I had previously changed the capture date in each picture, so they all had a capture date different from their last change time. However, how No Photo Tools came upon the idea of changing the capture time to the current time is entirely beyond me.

Luckily, I had preserved the captured time in the file name. I always extract the photos from my D40 using Nikon Transfer 1.1. This excellent program can change file names from the generic 'DSC_9999.JPG' to the date and time the photo was taken.

I now faced the daunting task of manually editing the hour/minute/second taken of several hundred photographs. Of course, No Photo Tools has a feature allowing this. However, the feature is implemented so clumsily that it amounts to a time sink. For no apparent reason, the Microsoft programmer behind this mess has implemented the hour and minute as three digits each, only two of which are visible. Tabbing between the hour, minute, and second fields takes two clicks on the Tab key for each field, and then you have to select the three digits in each field, either by a double-click or Ctrl-A. Only then can you enter the correct information.

This miserable excuse for a tag editing program is barely an alpha version, let alone beta. Stay away from it. There are much better options out there in the open source community. For tag editing single photos, XnView is primitive, but entirely dependable. For geotagging, I recommend Geosetter. For renaming JPGs, I've used Amok Exif Sorter for some time. Finally, if you want to batch edit tags in hundreds of photos at a time, you won't regret getting Phil Harvey's ExifTool. Sure, learning how to use this command-line tool will take some time, but the time spent will save you many, many hours down the road. Oh, and ExifToolGUI by Bogdan Hrastnik takes the sting out of ExifTool by giving it a visual interface.


Carlos Arguelles said...

Hi there, I am one of the Microsoft engineers that built Pro Photo Tools. I'm terribly sorry to hear about your problems. We've taken your feedback about editing the hour/minute/second into account and the new version of PPT will include a much more efficient way of doing this. As for the problem where you ended up with the capture date set to the current date, we've looked into it and can't reproduce the problem ourselves. That's certainly a very bad thing and we'd like to get to the bottom of this. Would you please contact us at and we can help you track down this and any other future issues? Thanks! Carlos

6alax1an said...

@Carlos: Thank you for your reply!

What I did to change the capture date to current date was to open a batch of photographs taken with my Nikon D40, go to date time, select a photograph and click adjust the date(s) by + 1 day and set Exif Capture date as the master. When I saw that this procedure did what I wanted, I selected all open photographs (I think 157 in all) and adjusted their capture date as well.

At this point all of the photos get a star to mark them as edited. I saved some of them individually with Save individually with new data and later all of them with Save all images with new data. However, when I wanted to exit the program I was told that the images contained new data and that it would be lost if I exited without saving. I accepted the offer to save the photographs. It was in this latter procedure that the capture date was set to current date. I looked at the pictures in the open folder between saving and exiting and they had their original capture date before exiting.

My hypothesis is that the exit program routine checks to see if the pictures have been changed and - if so - intends to write the current time in the last change field. What it does, however, is to write the current time in the capture time field.

Hope this helps!