As part of its ongoing effort to improve the OneDrive cloud storage service and make it work more consistently across devices, Microsoft today announced major improvements to the photos experience, with new ways to view, manage, and share photos in OneDrive. These updates will appear in the coming weeks, the company says.
Looked at in perspective, what we’re seeing is part of a series of changes to photos management in OneDrive that Microsoft promised back in November when it announced that it was stripping the Windows 8.1-based placeholder system out of OneDrive in Windows 10 in order to make the back-end sync service consistent across devices and—as crucially—be able to more easily add new features to OneDrive.
And photo management is particularly important to OneDrive users. Regardless of whether you’re using the free 30 GB or have (soon to be) unlimited storage thanks to an Office 365 subscription, OneDrive has emerged as the go-place for automatic photo backup on every modern digital device imaginable, and not just Windows phones and devices but also iPhone, iPad, Android phones and tablets and FireOS-based devices too.
On that note, I’ve been backing up every single photo I take with my cameras and devices to OneDrive since I got my first prototype Windows Phone handset in mid-2010, and looking at the service now, I have over 11,300 (!) photos in my OneDrive-based camera roll. But while OneDrive photo backup is handy, it’s just been a raw dump of photos … until now. With this week’s announcement, Microsoft is signally that it will finally make it easier to manage those photos.
These updates are coming at various times over the “next couple of weeks,” Microsoft says. They include:
Curate photos from your phone, desktop or inbox
There are a number of things happening here, and if I’m parsing this correctly, these changes will come via an update to the OneDrive sync app for Windows 7 and 8.x in the coming month.
Automatically import photos from devices that are connected to your Windows 7 or 8.x-based PC. This will make it easy to back up photos from your camera, USB stick, or external hard drive to not only your computer, but also to the cloud, Microsoft says. Imported photos will be saved to a new “Camera imports”
Save screenshots to OneDrive. You will be able to save screenshots directly to OneDrive too, using a new “Screenshots” folder. Screenshots will still be in the clipboard as before, but “now you’ll have another copy that is easy to share and available to you from any device,” Microsoft notes.
Save email-based photos to OneDrive. Earlier this month, Microsoft added the ability save any attachments to OneDrive from Outlook.com. But now you will be able to “one-click save” photo attachments in each in Outlook.com to your OneDrive too.
View, manage, and share photos with Albums
This one is available immediately (or thereabouts).
If you’re familiar with the borderline useless raw dump of photos in the camera roll folder today, you will appreciate that Microsoft is finally introducing an Albums feature that provides you with new ways to view, manage, and share your photos. Hinted at by the new Photos app in Windows 10 Technical Preview 2, Albums are automatically generated views—virtual folders, essentially—that are based on events (time, place, location).
Albums provide larger thumbnails, edge-to-edge photo views, and a beautiful collage format. When you open a photo, it now fills up the whole screen, and you can view both photos and videos in these albums. You can also create your own albums, which you can then easily share with others.
And finally—brace yourself—Albums will be coming first to the web and OneDrive iOS app starting today, with Android and Windows Phone app updates coming soon.
Search for your photos (and other files) in “a new and exciting way”
And then there’s search. Microsoft says its OneDrive and Bing teams have partnered with Microsoft Research to deliver a new OneDrive search experience that lets you search for photos based on time, location, or text that is extracted from images themselves. You can also search for photos based on tags—both ones you manually created and ones that OneDrive has automatically identified. And for documents, you can also search Office documents and PDFs by the text inside of them.
It looks like web and iOS first here as well.