A Glimpse of Many Possible Futures: Story Remix (2017.35063.12420.0)

Microsoft is still A/B testing features in Story Remix – or the Photos app as it’s called in Windows 10. And while this testing is normally administered and controlled by Microsoft server-side, I managed to unlock an internal control panel allowing me, not Microsoft, to choose which features are turned on and off.

Here are those features, with my personal on/off preference following each summary. Keep in mind, some of these features are experimental and may never ship.

Automatically enhance my photos

This feature isn’t really new. You may recall from earlier versions of Windows 10 that it scans your photos and automatically enhances bad ones, storing the results in a separate file. This switch controls that behavior and whether or not an enhance button appears in the photo viewer.

My preference: Enabled.

Back Button Highlight

The Universal Windows Platform offers standardized methods of going backward in apps. This test explores whether it’s useful to bring attention to the back button by giving it more color.

My preference: Enabled. Looks great.

Bing Page

My muscle memory tells me to head over to Google images to find an image when needed. But that involves visiting the site via my browser and juggling the photo into my media collection. This test brings Bing to the front, via a new pivot at the top, to determine if users can bust that habit.

My preference: Disabled. Bing has a lot of work to do. Right now, it’s just an awkward embedded web-page that’s incredibly difficult to use and sullies the entire app experience.

Create Video Button

Surprise, Story Remix can create videos from scratch, not just work with existing ones. And this button will be one of the many places you can start that journey.

My preference: Enabled.

Collection Item Size Layout Selector

A mouthful for what is a simple widget that allows you to manually control how dense the collection view appears.

My preference: Enabled. And set to the smallest unit.

Discover Bar (and Factoids)

The discover bar is the horizontal tile strip – “river flow”, internally – that lives at the top of the app window offering shortcuts to common tasks and other information. One of the tile types is a factoid tile. This tile automatically presents data inferred from the photos in your collections – like how many of them contain giraffes (no joke, this happened).

My preference: Enabled. Very cool stuff.

Explore, Create, and Folders Pivots

At the top of the app are two pivots you’ll use a lot – Collection and Albums — based on the things you’re working with. However, alternate naming – Explore and Create – is in test.

My preference: Explore and Create. I don’t have to wonder about the differences a Collection and Album anymore.

Refresh Button In Overflow Menu

The refresh button, currently in the main toolbar, may get moved into the overflow menu. This allows for thinner window widths before the buttons have to ditch the text and cleans up the toolbar of uncommon actions. This one is pretty straight forward.

My preference: Enabled. I don’t often need to click this button.


Traditionally, searching for photos involves the painful task of remembering what the filename is. Or perhaps the date it was taken. But with deep learning and artificial intelligence, Story Remix can automatically tag your content and let you search for people, places or things naturally.

My preference: Enabled. It found all 19,084 photos where Paul looks like a monkey.

Upload To YouTube

Videos created in Story Remix can soon be uploaded to YouTube, complementing OneDrive and Facebook.

My preference: Enabled.

Story Builder

Creating memories and building stories is what Story Remix is about. So it makes sense to see a lot of features in its main editor being tested.

Like themes.

And camera motion.

And transitions. And tweaks to text placement, text appearance, music preview, and even the ability to rename your work.

My preference: All enabled.

Teaching Moments

While Story Remix is relatively easy to use, there are moments where you could use a nudge to get the most out of the app. And the team is toying with converting those moments into little tips that appear the first time you do something.

My preference: Enabled.

Viewer Chrome Off

To reduce UI clutter, the viewer may lose some of its UI bits and buttons, commonly referred to as chrome.

My preference: Enabled. A lot of the removed chrome is duplicated in the app itself. For example, instead of clicking the arrows, you can hover over the left/right edges of the viewer and click to move forward or backward. Or you can touch swipe either direction, too.

What’s New Dialog


Yep, that’s being tested too. And we’re talking minute differences in the text that appears in the window.

My preference: The “Edit videos” variant. The less I see the word “remix” the better.


I couldn’t take screenshots of all the features being tested, as some relate to under-the-hood changes or are difficult to stage. But they deserve mention nevertheless.

  • Pairing of theme and music with content (AGM)
  • Capturing content directly into an album
  • Burst shot detection (stacking)
  • Automatic album creation
  • Viewer support for “rich media”
  • Viewer activation via URI
  • Thumbnail caching improvements
  • Import button badging
  • “Sticky Ink” inking also known as ink anchoring
  • OneDrive ads and notifications
  • Photo Collage
  • Remote services (e.g. machine learning and AI)
  • Search improvements (people, teaching moments, tiles, throttling)
  • Scroll collection to item opened via Open With

What About Special Effects?

Unsurprisingly, the special effects shown at Microsoft’s Build conference earlier this year haven’t made it into the product yet. While I did put my hands on this feature at the conference – it’s real! – the absence of these features in experimental form seems to indicate they’re far away from actually shipping. (It clearly won’t make Fall Creators Update.) That’s a bummer.

Anyway, as Story Remix continues to evolve, we’ll keep you updated.

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Conversation 20 comments

  • RonH

    Premium Member
    25 July, 2017 - 11:16 am

    <p>Great article, thanks!</p>

  • F4IL

    25 July, 2017 - 12:30 pm

    <p>These hack-through-windows articles are great! You're uncovering tons of (hard to find) information.</p>

  • rameshthanikodi

    25 July, 2017 - 12:37 pm

    <p>A lot of this looks great, but why couldn't they just make a separate app for making videos? I think that would have been less confusing than stuffing everything into the Photos app. I'm worried that they're making the app more bloated, because even the viewer mode feels slow. I hope they can speed up the viewer mode.</p><p>Everything else looks great. BTW, the Collection Item Size Layout Selector is enabled in the shipping versions of the app right now.</p>

    • warren

      25 July, 2017 - 1:37 pm

      <blockquote><a href="#152613"><em>In reply to FalseAgent:</em></a></blockquote><p>iPhoto had the ability to export photo slideshows as a video 15 years ago. If anything, Microsoft is extremely late to the party on this one.</p>

  • Oasis

    Premium Member
    25 July, 2017 - 12:55 pm

    <p>Thanks for taking the time to do this….</p>

  • Win74ever

    25 July, 2017 - 1:19 pm

    <p>This is bullshit. The Windows Live Photo Gallery remains a better alternative.</p>

  • warren

    25 July, 2017 - 1:27 pm

    <p>The Refresh button has a separate problem — uhhh, what does it <em>do</em>? Isn't this program supposed to be showing me what's on my computer right now? When the Refresh icon is spinning, what does that mean? The mouse-hover popups doesn't help make this any clearer….. they just repeat the word in the button.</p><p><br></p><p>The contrasting colour for the back button is also a good idea. Microsoft already knows this, which is why it was done in Settings, Feedback Hub, Groove, etc. Removing this contrast for the Acrylic aesthetic is not an improvement. And while I'm talking about title bar colours, why is the hover colour on the back button different in just about every app? And why are these new Acrylic apps ignoring the "Show accent colour on title bar" setting in Personalization?</p><p><br></p>

    • Chris_Kez

      Premium Member
      26 July, 2017 - 2:25 pm

      <blockquote><a href="#152658"><em>In reply to warren:</em></a></blockquote><p>The Photos app can pull in photos from non-local sources so you may hit <em>Refresh </em>to capture new photos/changes from those other sources.</p>

  • MutualCore

    25 July, 2017 - 2:12 pm

    <p>That's the point of agile development. They can ship 10 features in the fall, another 10 features in the spring, and so on forever. There is no reason you have to wait 18 months to get 30 features when you trickle them out over time as they are ready.</p>

  • prettyconfusd

    25 July, 2017 - 3:45 pm

    <p>Very cool stuff! I think I prefer 'Albums' as a header though – my parents will certainly understand that better.</p><p><br></p><p>I hope the people and place tagging is made more visible – it's a huge part of every other kind of photo store (and used to be in Photo Gallery way back when – gosh that program was great!) and is super useful.</p><p><br></p><p>Thanks for going through it for us!</p>

  • Rob_Wade

    25 July, 2017 - 5:18 pm

    <p>I never, EVER make a "video" of pictures. And I know of none of my friends who do, or want to see someone else's. If I'm going to make a video–which I do a LOT of from actual video I've recorded, particularly from scuba diving–I'm going to use a fully dedicated video editing program. I'm not going to use some mamby-pamby feature in the Photo app.</p>

  • paulkocz

    Premium Member
    25 July, 2017 - 6:04 pm

    <p>I work in education and see real value in the what you have shown here. In fact I have demoed it several times already to teachers and they are excited at the ease with which students should be able to put together projects. The frustrating part is that with the way they are providing updates at the moment, it works one day and not the next! In fact just yesterday I updated Photos on my Surface Pro 4 and could see just about everything shown here. Then I updated to the latest Insider Build and I see none of what was here. It makes it very hard to get people excited about "upcoming" features when you don't know what it going to ship from one day to the next (or even the same day!). </p><p><br></p><p>However, while many people may find some of the features shown as rubbish, etc. from the perspective of Education, there is real value here. And with Chromebooks being a huge seller, Windows needs all it can get to differentiate itself. Yes, you can do some (maybe all) of the above in the cloud through different websites, etc. bandwidth constraints don't always make it practical. I currently have 60+ Surface Pro's with students creating video (all 1080p) for projects in classes that would kill our internet and just wouldn't be practical for cloud editing (not to mention issues around privacy and ownership). And yes, they are using Moviemaker and some other software. But I see this as really a way that kids are working today. They want fast easy results and to be honest the teachers don't want to be setting up accounts for online editing and also want fast easy results that they don't have to spend too much time in class "teaching" kids how to use software. </p><p><br></p><p>Honestly, this starts to make sense to me more each day as I see Microsoft learning from the market "dominance" (percieved?!) of other platforms that are "easier" to use.</p><p><br></p><p>I also received this an thought it might be of interest. <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DmC8uk_2KCo&quot; target="_blank">https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DmC8uk_2KCo</a></p><p><br></p&gt;

  • stmorr82zw5zml

    Premium Member
    26 July, 2017 - 1:04 am

    <p>So… where's the internal control panel?</p>

  • Roger Ramjet

    26 July, 2017 - 1:43 am

    <p>Kinda ironic that the reviewer generally gives the features thumbs up, (in an App, that I guess will be free) but when it comes to the obvious monetization elements (photos search, uploads), takes his cash (or eyeballs I guess) to the competitor. Tough business. </p>

  • feek

    Premium Member
    26 July, 2017 - 2:04 am

    <p>The Bing portion would be nice if they made it as slick as the Windows 8 Bing search was. Shit was beautiful.</p>

  • Chris_Kez

    Premium Member
    26 July, 2017 - 2:30 pm

    <p>I like the idea of adding "camera motion" to video clips; if your phone lacks OIS it can be tough to do a smooth and steady pan or push.</p>


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