Windows 8.1 Photo App and Multi PC Shares

Since we are on the topic of updating to Windows 8.1 and the Photos app let’s talk about getting the Photos
App to recognize photos from multiple sources in a home network.

First things first and the simplest is SkyDrive.  We have an MS Account set up and nifty space to store stuff out in the cloud.  Our Windows Phone is set up to automatically save our snaps out there and we want to manage those.

Note: about the Nokia Lumina 1020.  When you set the 1020 to save to SkyDrive automatically, it saves a small +250kb shareable photo out there.  The large image is still on your phone.  You can install and use the Windows Phone 8 app on your PC to manage and copy the large images to a pc where you can edit and get all professional with them.  

SkyDrive Photos

Anyways, getting to your SkyDrive photos is easy.  You are logged into any computer with your MS Account and launch the Photos App.  Click the down arrow to the right of Pictures library and choose SkyDrive. Wala, there are all the SkyDrive Photos.


That was easy…

Ok, so let’s move on to a home network with Pictures scattered all over the place.

Home Network Shares

Doh! Where did my Libraries go?  My first freakout with Windows 8.1.  When you launch Windows Explorer you may find there is no “Libraries” link in the (left) Quick Launch column.  If you use Libraries a lot you may want to turn that on.  For some reason they decided to have this off by default.

With Windows Explorer open, on the Menu bar click View Tab (not the same View tab as in the image below), Click on Folder Options and check Show libraries.


This is really all about Organization.

We all know that organizing (many) images on one computer is a chore, but multiple PCs is insane.  I’m nearing 100K images and they are scattered all over the place 😦

If your structure for Pictures is Default (C:\users\somebody\pictures) on each PC sharing images; when you include each PCs Pictures folder in the Libraries of other PCs you will quickly become lost as to what image is on what PC when using the Windows Photo App.

Below is the Windows Photos App on my Surface Pro.  Green are images physically located on the Surface, Red is my HomeServer share, Yellow is the Pictures folder on my Desktop workstation.  As you can see, there is no indication as to what is where.  If all your images are in the root “pictures” folder on each PC, you will have a bazillion images on the home screen of the Windows Photos App.


Organization (structure) is key to what you see when you launch the Windows Photos App.  Of course all kinds of things can go wrong (Homegroup, sharing etc.) when trying to access all your pictures on all pcs in the home network, but that is another story.

When possible have all your client PCs work, store and access in a single location.  I have a Windows 8 Pro w/Media Center PC set up with 4TB of space and a Picture Share.  All my home PCs have (included in Pictures library) access to the Share.  Having a central location is best for all parties involved, including all you client pcs and Xboxes and Media Center extenders.

Some things can’t be helped.  In the image above you can see a Camera Roll (this is where the Surface saves images taken with the Surface camera), From Andy 1020 (this is where the Windows Phone app stores pictures from my Nokia 1020) and Screenshots (This is where the Surface saves images when I press and hold the Windows logo + down on volume (screen caps)) folders.  Windows creates these folders and uses them.  I’ve deleted some of them but they come back. I probably could change where my Win Phone saves pics.  When running the Windows Photo App each PC will have different (local) images/folders depending on your structure.

Surface w/SD card:  Again in the image above you can see a folder called SDCard Pictures.  On my Surface Pro I have an SD Card mounted (C:\SDCard\) and that is where I try to put all my images while working on the Surface.  It appears as a folder because I created a folder called C:\SDCard\Pictures and in that folder created a sub-folder called SDCard Pictures that has all my folders/images in.  I included the “Pictures” folder in my Surface Pros pictures library.  I did this to distinguish between the default Pictures (C:\users\username\pictures) folder and my SDCard Pictures folder.

Creating a sub-folder in the Pictures folder while sitting at a machine seems rather lame as you are thinking, “I know where I am, these pictures belong to this computer”.  It’s when you share/include these images across several pcs that it comes into play.  When you launch the Photos App on a PC/Tablet, it Strips the top level folder name (meaning it is only displaying what’s in the folder and below). Also when you “Include” a library on a PC/Tablet, again it strips the top level name.  I might be sitting at a computer named “Andy” and create a folder under the Pictures folder called “Andys Pictures”; if I include \Pictures\Andys Pictures on another machine…when I launch the Windows Photo App on that machine I have a folder called Andys Pictures, I know exactly where they are from.

Looking at my Home Server:

I created a folder called Pictures, I have shared the folder.  Inside the Pictures folder I created a sub-folder called HomeServer Photos.  All my folders/images are under that HomeServer Photos folder. It might look like d:\pictures\HomeServer Photos

On each pc/tablet that will access these images I include \\computername\pictures\HomeServer Photos (remember “including” strips the root level name and displays what’s in the folder) that is how, in the Photos App, I get the HomeServer Photos folder instead of a bunch of images/folders all willy nilly on the home page of the app.   If you have pictures across multiple pcs you definitely will want to have something that lets you know what is on what pc in the house.


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