Modern Software Experience



Photosynth is a Microsoft technology that was officially released in August last year. It allows you create a 3D experience from a bunch of photos.
If you have not seen it yet, just hop over to and have a look at some of the featured synths.

web application

There exists a Photosynth installer you can download, but do not think that Photosynth is a desktop application. Photosynth is a web application. All the synths are hosted on the Photosynth web site.


Just a few months ago, you still had to download and install a Photosynth plug-in before you could enjoy the Photosynth, but you don’t have to do so anymore. It is so much easier now.

Today, chances are that you can just surf over to the photosynth site and will be able to enjoy synths without having to install anything.

You do need to have Silverlight installed, but you are likely to have that installed already. If you have not installed that yet, you will be prompted to install it.

installing Silverlight

I just tried this on my Windows XP machine. After removing Silverlight, I surfed to the Photosynth site using Firefox 3.

The Photosynth site showed a placeholder photo where the synth should be, with a Click me to view the synth button overlaying it, and the text You will be installing Microsoft Silverlight. It is small and fast below it. Clicking it leads to the Microsoft Silverlight site.
You do need to restart the browser after installing Silverlight.

the old Photosynth viewer

The viewer technology has changed so that you don’t need to download and install a Photosynth plug-in anymore.

The old Photosynth installer provided what you needed to view and create synths. You do not need the Photosynth installer anymore if you just want to view synths, you can just surf to the photosynth site, but you do still need it to if you want to create synths yourself.


The old Photosynth plug-in was created to work in Firefox and Internet Explorer. Now, Firefox plug-ins work fine Flock too, but Photosynth was essentially limited to just a few browser and Windows. That was because it was based on Direct3D, a Windows-specific technology.


Late in April, Microsoft replaced the original Direct3D viewer with a Silverlight-based viewer. When I tried a days ago, the Photosynth site worked just fine in both Safari for Windows and Google Chrome. It initially seemed that Google Chrome displayed the Photosynth site just fine, but that the synth viewer remains black, but it just a few seconds to load everything while all the others browsers were hogging the Internet connection.

MacOS and Linux

The nice thing about Silverlight is that it is cross-platform, which means that Photosynths can now be viewed on Firefox and Safari for MacOS as well.
Linux users can try Moonlight.

Direct3D speed

Although Microsoft does aim to make it so, the Silverlight viewer does not have the performance of the Direct3D viewer yet. That is why the Photosynth site still offers a View Synth in Direct3D viewer link directly below the default Silverlight viewer.


There are even applications to view Photosynths on an iPhone. Microsoft has viewer called Seamonkey.

The iSynth application, Photosynth for iPhone, is not a Microsoft product. It was developed by Greg Pascale who provides support through GetSatisfaction.


Navigating through a synth is not difficult, but it does take some getting used to, and it can be hard to find the right viewpoint, to bring a photo you exists into focus. It does get easier as you get more experienced.

Luckily, there is a cop-out. The synth viewer defaults to 3D view, but has a button to toggle into grid view. The grid view provides an overview of all the images in the synth and lets you pick any of these.


Making a Photosynth provides some practical tips and tricks on making your own synths.


2012-05-22 Greg Pascale

Greg Pascale's web site is gone. The link has been removed. The iSynth apps is stil, available in the iTunes store.