Microsoft today has announced that an upcoming add-on for Windows XP will enable the handling of Canon and Nikon RAW formats directly within Windows.
Called the Microsoft RAW Image Thumbnailer and Viewer PowerToy, it's comprised of two parts: a shell extension and RAW image viewing application.
The shell extension will add support for rendering of RAW thumbnails, display of metadata and printing from within Windows Explorer.
RAW Image Viewer, which will resemble the current Picture and Fax Viewer, will display high-resolution previews, slide shows and allow printing also.
Both the shell extension and the RAW Image Viewer utilize software development kits provided by Canon and Nikon for their respective cameras' RAW files. Therefore, the colour appearance of RAW photos within Windows Explorer or the RAW Image Viewer will be similar to that of the camera makers' RAW conversion software.
The PowerToy will be available as a free download from the Microsoft web site. A precise release date has not been set, though it's expected to ship in June 2005.
The shell extension in action, displaying RAW CR2 (and JPEG) files from an EOS-1D Mark II
Previewing a RAW CR2 file in RAW Image Viewer
RAW in Longhorn
The software giant has also revealed that the next major release of Windows, dubbed Longhorn and due out in 2006, will include the necessary infrastructure so that RAW files can be supported directly in the operating system. Camera makers and other RAW format vendors will be able to produce codecs that plug into Longhorn and allow the operating system, as well any application running on Longhorn, to view and process RAW files. Canon, Nikon, Fujifilm and Adobe have agreed to produce RAW format codecs for Longhorn. (Nikon put out their own press release announcing their intention to work with Microsoft on RAW support in Longhorn.)
Plus, a future version of Digital Image Suite, Microsoft's consumer-level image editing and image management application, will incorporate the ability to view and process RAW files from Canon and Nikon digital cameras.
At trade shows over the past several months, Microsoft has shown a pre-release version of a PowerToy designed to streamline the link-up between certain FTP-based camera wireless transmitters and Windows XP, a dedicated colour management settings control panel and the RAW Image Thumbnailer and Viewer. All have been developed by the company's Rich Media Group. The RAW Image Thumbnailer and Viewer appears poised to be the first of these products to ship.
• Numerous details have been added to the story after its initial publication (June 1, 2005)
• Added link to Nikon's press release touting the collaboration with Microsoft (June 2, 2005)