Tagging Hits the Mainstream

Microsoft's Photo Gallery is the first mainstream application to make heavy use of tags. Will tags prove to be a better way to organize your photos?

Microsoft Vista contains a photo management application called Photo Gallery. It's interesting to note that digital photography has become so important that you can't have an operating system anymore that doesn't ship with that kind of application. Apple raised the ante with iPhoto and Vista has what looks like a nice follow-on.

One of the interesting features of Photo Gallery is that it allows users to organize photos by tags and search for them by tag instead of managing photos using hierarchical folders. Of course, the folders are still there for practical reasons, but you can interact with Photo Gallery by tagging photos and searching on tags if you desire.

Jon Udell, discussing Photo Gallery's tagging, makes the point that this is the first mainstream application to incorporate tags as a primary organizational modality. Vista will eventually be on a billion desktops and Photo Gallery will be the de facto choice for most.

"I experience cognitive dissonance when I see a "real" file-system hierarchy and a "virtual" tag hierarchy living in the same navigational tree," says Udell. "But somebody who never had a strong sense of the difference between those two modes might not be bothered at all."

Are tags a more natural way to find things? I'm not sure. It will be interesting, as Jon says, to see what people do. So far, the SQM data that Microsoft gets back from Vista indicates people are using the feature. What do you think?

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