A while back, I was a frequent visitor to the Microsoft support forum for Windows Live Photo Gallery. There was a particularly bad bug in WLPG that I was bitten by, back in November 2010. Since that was fixed, I’ve been only an occasional visitor to the support forum. I go there mainly to see what sort of issues are being reported, and also to see what the quality of support from Microsoft is like.
The last couple of visits have made me think that there’s yet another bad bug in WLPG that Microsoft have not yet realised is present.
It started with this statement being posted by a user back in December 2011: Windows Live Photo Galley doesn’t write metadata to the file, only to the database.
The response from the Windows Live Support person was misleading and wrong:
Currently, Live Photo Gallery’s slideshow doesn’t support embedding captions or other metadata in the photo. If you feel that such a feature can improve the product, I suggest you submit this as request to our product team. You may post it in our feedback page at https://feedback.live.com/.
Misleading, because the original statement had nothing to do with the Slideshow feature in WLPG, and wrong, because as I posted on the forum thread: with one exception, WLPG does write metadata into JPEG files. WLPG will save Descriptive Tags, Captions, Geotags, People Tags (if you’ve identified faces in the image) and Ratings as metadata into JPEG files, as well as holding this information in its local database. However, WLPG does not save Flags as metadata in the image files, but only in its local database.
There was, alas, no further follow-up from Windows Live Support to the issue.
Then I noticed another thread in the forum that concerned an issue with metadata: Lost metadata from Photo Gallery. This time, it concerned someone who had bought a new PC and transferred the photo files from his/her old PC, only to find that all the “Date taken” metadata of the photos was wrong.
Once again, the Windows Live Support person jumped to the wrong conclusions, and gave irrelevant advice. There then followed much to-ing and fro-ing between the original poster and a succession of Windows Live Support people. Not one of them cottoned on to the salient fact that the cause of the issue was that the WLPG running on the old PC had not been writing out metadata into the photo files as it should have been doing. So when the photos got transferred to the new PC, all the metadata changes that the user had done got left behind in the local database of WLPG on the old PC.
I pointed this out in the thread, and someone else chimed in saying that he was seeing it on one of his PCs – WLPG was not writing out metadata into the photo files as it should do. Together, we came up with a simple test for this issue. In WLPG, select a photo, right-click and select “Properties”. This brings up the Properties window of the file itself. Many of the fields in this window are directly editable, e.g. the “Date taken” field. If everything is working correctly, you should be able to edit these fields, and the changes are being written into the file’s metadata directly. If, however, WLPG is not working correctly, then these fields cannot be changed. It’s as though WLPG thinks the files are Read-only, and hence all metadata is being held only in the local database and not written out to the files themselves.
We then asked for a response from Windows Live Support, and, once again, the response was misleading and irrelevant to the issue at hand. Sigh.
So, to summarise, it looks as though, under some circumstances, WLPG is not writing out metadata into photo (JPEG) files, but merely recording the metadata in its local database. It’s difficult to say how widespread this is, because most people will not be aware that things aren’t working properly. Not until, for example, they transfer their photos across to a new PC and discover that all of the metadata is missing or wrong.
WLPG users are being lulled into a false sense of security.