On Wednesday, Microsoft will ship Photo Story 3 for Windows, the latest version of its amazing digital photo slideshow utility. However, this version of Photo Story differs from previous versions in many ways, adding a wide range of new functionality. Best of all, it will be made available free to all users of Windows XP.

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Originally scheduled to be integrated with Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005, Photo Story 3 builds on the successes of Plus! Photo Story and Plus! Photo Story 2, which were included in successive versions of Plus! Digital Media Edition, a digital media-oriented add-on pack for Windows XP that sold millions of copies over two years. Like previous versions, Photo Story 3 uses a simple wizard-like interface to help consumers turn still photos into immersive animated videos called photo stories, which feature professional panning and zooming animations similar to those popularized by documentary filmmaker Ken Burns. You can also optionally add narration, background music, and titles to your photo stories.

 

Photo Story 3 builds on this functionality in a number of ways. From within the Photo Story interface, you can now edit and rotate photos, add several effects, remove black borders from vertically-oriented photos, and add captions to individual photos if you'd like. And in addition to adding music to your photo stories, you can also automatically generate a soundtrack based on a selection of genre types, styles, bands, moods, tempo, and intensity. Photo Story 3 then customizes that music to match the length of the photo story to which it is applied. Finally, Photo Story 3 also makes it easier to share your creations with friends and family, offering a variety of templates that are compatible with PCs, <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />PortableMediaCenters, Pocket PCs, and smartphones, or that can be transmitted easily via email or the Web.

 

Photo Story 3 is an amazing tool, and one that all XP users will want to check out. For more information, please visit my exhaustive review on the SuperSite for Windows.