It's not often i gush about windows software, particularly considering how utterly vista has failed to capture the imagination of the ordinary user. Included with vista was the nice Windows Photo Gallery which was really an IPhoto equivalent built into the OS.
Now, Windows Live Photo Gallery (wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windows_Live_Photo_Gallery, download: http://get.live.com/photogallery/overview) is available for XP and Vista users which is essentially an upgrade to this vista application with some lovely new features that i think should make it an essential download for any blogger or user who publishes images and videos to the web on a regular basis.
First off, the name, Windows Live Media Gallery anyone?
I think MS made a mistake in calling the application Windows Live Photo Gallery, instead it should be Windows Live Media Gallery because it handles the tagging, previewing, burning, playing and publishing of video content just as gracefully as photo media. I suspect this was to avoid confusion with the Windows Media Player application. Perhaps the whole interface should be merged who knows...
When you import photos and videos into Windows Live Photo Gallery you get very granular control over where the files go and crucially the auto-tagging of the files. In the base version of Windows Photo Gallery on vista, you could only tag in an all or nothing way for all imported files. So, getting stuff in and organising your import is a breeze.
Tagging and Publishing Media
Creating, organising and assigning media to tags is easy, with drag and drop support throughout. Best of all, tags are retained when publishing media. A new Publish menu item appears at the top of the main interface, allowing you to publish images to MSN Spaces AND Flickr. I highly recommend Flickr and it's great to see MS support a 3rd party service out of the box like this. Tagging is preserved when publishing to Flickr and Flickr has officially announced support for Windows Live Photo Gallery.
Unfortunately, the only thing that lets down the Publish option is that for video only MSN Video is supported, although i hope YouTube support will be forthcoming perhaps in a future release. MSN Video is fine and dandy and free, but i have all my videos at YouTube and really want to publish there with full tagging integration a la Flickr support. In the meantime, i simply utilise the YouTube multi file upload interface and manually re-assign tags not a biggy as i don't have as many videos as photos.
Windows Live Writer
Whatever blog you use, you should really use Windows Live Writer as an excellent editor for publishing to your blog. It will work with almos any blog out there and is easy to set up as long as you have your blog's home page url, username and password. I find it much nicer to write up blog posts rather than having to login to my blog website each time.
It is also a highly extensible little applicaiton and already has plugins such as a Flickr Plugin to support selecting one or more images from your Flickr stream.
You can also easily insert videos you have posted to YouTube, Google Video or MSN Video.
There is a site, Windows Live Writer plugins, where you can view even more useful plugins for this essential blogging tool.