After updating several of its most popular Windows apps, Microsoft is finally releasing the Windows 11 design update to Photos. The revamped Photos app has been teased for a long time, but with the release of the Build 22454 in the Dev Channel, it’s making its way to users, at last. Let’s take a closer look at the new Photos app in Windows 11 and how it differs from its predecessor.
Before I tell you what’s new, it’s important to note that the update is not releasing to every user for now. Microsoft is following a gradual rollout which means the app is slowly going to roll out to more and more users. So, if you don’t see the update in the Microsoft Store right away, don’t worry and just be patient as the update is on its way. The October 5 version of Windows 11 will also not be shipping with the new Photos app as the build in that version is behind Build 22454.
Starting off, there is a familiar homepage that has seen a cosmetic uplift to match the overall aesthetic of Windows 11. The homepage displays 5 tabs at the top which represent different sections of app. Apart from the separate Video Editor tab, there is Collections, Albums, People, and Folders. The app feels familiar yet fresh as it builds upon the foundation of Windows 10’s Photos app but with updated Fluent Design and WinUI implementations to fit the look of Windows 11.
Collections is the default tab that the app opens with each time. The tab contains all of your pictures organized by either date or size. It’s basically the picture gallery that shows you all of your pictures, regardless of what folder they’re in. Then there’s Albums which organizes your pictures into, well, albums! These can be either user-created albums or ones that Windows 11 creates for you with the help of AI, similar to Google Photos.
Moving on, the People tab will organize your pictures with facial recognition by segmenting them into different people’s faces. The app can detect if a photo has your face in it, or maybe a celebrity’s (or whoever’s) and automatically mark that picture as such. Lastly, the aptly-named Folders tab displays the segments your pictures by file location—which folder they are in on your device. The Video Editor tab which is separated by a small line allows you to edit, markup, add text or special effects to not only your videos, but also photos!
A newer, faster interface
Upon clicking a picture, the opening time feels faster as compared to Windows 10. It’s not instant like on MacOS but it’s almost there. If you open a picture from within the Photos app then it’s instantaneous. Regardless, after a picture has opened, you’ll be greeted with the new interface. It’s similar to Windows 10 but enough has changed to warrant a breakdown.
To be fair, the Photos app on Windows 10 was already modern, but the Windows 11 version takes it up a notch. Firstly, there’s a new floating toolbar at the top of picture. The toolbar hovers over the picture, giving it a modern and clean look, while not interfering with the picture itself. On Windows 10, there were tools on the right and left of the window along with the center, but in Windows 11, all the tools have been consolidated into the floating toolbar in the center, in turn, making the app look more seamless.
The New Toolbar
Speaking of the toolbar, you get your usual tools like Zoom in and Zoom out, Rotate, Edit, Draw, Delete, Add to Favorites, File Info, and a three-dot icon that opens a drop-down menu for other options. There’s also an option to view all your photos and view all your Favorites in the toolbar. Taking a look at the bottom of the window, there’s a new scrolling photo gallery that houses all of the pictures in the folder. You can click on any one of these to open it, or mark several to open them in a grid.
Now, the toolbar options are pretty self-explanatory but have they changed at all? Well, to some degree they have. If you click on the Edit option, the app will open the same Crop and Rotate interface that it does on Windows 10. Only this time, the corners have been rounded to fall in line with Windows 11. Regardless, you get the same basic editing functions.
You can straighten the image to your liking with the slider, there is an option to apply filters and change aspect ratios. And, of course, you can crop the image as well. The Draw option within this interface also enables you to, well, draw on the image with a mouse, stylus, or your finger if you’re on a touchscreen device. So, all very familiar stuff but slightly updated to look even more modern.
WinUI Info Panel
Clicking on the Info panel, now brings up a whole new menu that opens on the right side instead of left, like on Windows 10. The panel on Windows 10 only showed the details in text, meaning that things like Dimensions only had a text heading that told you what you were looking at. On Windows 11, now there are icons next to each of these details in the Info panel to help you better distinguish and identify them. This whole ordeal is made possible thanks to WinUI implementation.
As mentioned before, the File Info menu can be opened directly from the floating toolbar. This is particularly helpful for people like me who use online photo editors and need to see the size of an image before creating a new design. Just clicking on the icon in the floating toolbar instead of having to right-click, scroll to the bottom and then open the panel is such a nice touch. It’s one of those things that don’t seem that important but when changed can have a huge impact on your productivity.
Finally, the new Photos app has a new comparison feature in which you can select up to 4 pictures and put them in a grid to compare with each other. The app will automatically adjust the positioning and size of the photos depending on what looks best. However, you can change the layout yourself, too. The comparison editor allows you to easily put multiple pictures against each other and spot differences or see which one looks best.
The new Photos app is seeing a gradual rollout from Microsoft. Right now, it’s available in Build 22454 and above in the Dev Channel. The version we’re seeing here will most likely not be available with general availability of Windows 11 on October 5, but you can expect it to release publicly soon. If you’re an Insider and you’ve got the latest update for Photos, make sure to submit your feedback regarding your experience using the app.