The spiffy new Windows Color System architecture in the upcoming Windows Vista may well be a breakthrough technology for photographers and the applications they use to view and print pictures. But Vista is perhaps a year away. In the meantime, Microsoft's Rich Media Group (RMG) is focused in part on improving Windows XP's pro digital photography support, including the current operating system's colour management functionality.
Being readied for release by RMG is a Color Control Panel PowerToy, an applet meant to simplify the process of managing ICC profiles in Windows XP. This latest offering will be a free download from the Microsoft web site when it ships later this year.
The Color Control Panel will be a one-stop shop for ICC profile management in XP. It doesn't extend the colour management capabilities of the operating system so much as it provides a centralized interface for configuring those capabilities. Features include:
- The ability to view, in a single list, all installed profiles, even if they're spread across multiple profile folders. Information displayed about each profile includes the path, profile class (monitor, printer, etc.), profile size, the profile's profile connection space (PCS), creation date, a 3D gamut plot and other nerdy bits of data.
- Easy installation and removal of profiles from the system from within the Color Control Panel interface.
- An alternative method for associating profiles with displays, printers and scanners. This includes setting the default profile for a display. This task, while not difficult now, is buried too-many-mouse-clicks deep inside Display Properties (we think the programmers behind the current method were getting paid by the dialog). Being able to change and set the display profile more readily should on its own make the Color Control Panel worth the download. Not changed, however, is XP's inability in most hardware configurations to have each display in a multiple display setup be colour managed through a separate monitor profile (though certain video cards do allow for this). Beefier multiple monitor support on the Windows platform isn't expected before the release of Vista.
- The option to set a reminder to recalibrate the display after a user-specified period of time.
Overriding the system-wide default colour space of sRGB, viewing a list of installed colour management modules (CMM's) and comparing 3D gamut plots of two different colour profiles round out the list of features.
The Profiles tab
The Color tab
A Color Plot comparing sRGB to Wide Gamut RGB
The Color Control Panel is tentatively slated for release in October 2005 and will run on all flavours of Windows XP with Service Pack 2 installed.
In June 2005, RMG released the RAW Image Thumbnailer and Viewer for Windows XP PowerToy, a freeware add-on that enables the display of Canon and Nikon RAW files in Windows Explorer and an included viewing application. Prior to that, in September 2004, RMG demonstrated (but ultimately didn't ship) a wireless configuration utility.
Thanks to Gary Voth for his assistance in the preparation of this article.