By Ian Burley
25th October - 2001
In case you hadn’t seen the new-look Windows yet...
25th October is an important day for Microsoft and you’re unlikely to be allowed to forget it. It’s the day Windows XP is officially launched. It’s certainly no secret as Microsoft has been winding up the launch machine for months.
We’ve had the final release version to try for the last couple of weeks and can happily report that it has worked well enough, though some of the new photo-specific features like recommended Web gallery and online printing services have not been available for testing.
As you can see from the screen view above, Windows XP sees a major facelift for the Windows family user interface. It also marks the end of the line for Windows 95 and its close relatives, 98, 98SE and ME. XP is based on the more efficient and robust NT side of the Windows family, until now represented by Windows 2000. XP is, essentially, a refinement of Windows 2000.
For digital photographers, Windows XP is interesting because a lot of work has been done to simplify connecting to imaging devices, like scanners and digital cameras. XP should recognise most of the latest digital cameras and enable them to be treated as additional hard drives without the need for loading additional driver software.
XP automatically checks image files and if it can, displays thumbnail views. My Pictures folder features like this and the slide show option first seen in Windows ME have been further refined. You can now also choose to upload photos to a nominated Web site for sharing and printing.
One of the standard choices you’ll find in the UK version of Windows XP is online printing via a specially XP-tailored version of Jessops’ print@net service.
Users choose the images they wish to print and then launch the On-Line Print Wizard. This guides them through the process step by step, including selecting print sizes for each image, and completing delivery and payment details.
Images sent through this service are processed using Jessops’ ‘Diamond Laser’ digital systems, printed onto conventional photographic paper, which Jessops guarantees is fade free for 75 years.
Windows XP does have some controversial differences when compared to its predecessors. The new software licensing for Windows XP (and Office XP released earlier this year) means you must, eventually, ‘activate’ a permanent licence, either online or via telephone. After 30 days from installation, non-activated software becomes unusable until it is activated.
The other issue is that you are unable to install one copy of Windows XP on more than one machine, say your laptop as well as your desktop PC. Microsoft say a dual machine licensing system is under trial in the US and may be introduced in the UK eventually.
Overall, XP is an inevitable choice for Windows 95/98 users - sooner or later. If you’re already using Windows 2000, the pressure to upgrade is less intense, but if you like the cute new look and feel features of XP, the temptation, Microsoft hopes, could be strong.