Microsoft's HD Photo plug-in is now finalised, letting you read and write files in a new JPEG format using Adobe Photoshop. Microsoft is hoping the format will spread to digital cameras and other image editing apps too.

Microsoft says the plug-in offers twice the quality of JPEG, with a more dynamic range, richer colours and crisper details, but an efficient file size - the key reason why the JPEG format was so successful in the first place. Naturally, Microsoft aims for HD Photo to eventually replace traditional JPEGs.

JPEG XR

The format is actually called JPEG XR; HD Photo is more of a marketing term to fit in with the current wave of HD branding. We'd be happy to start using the new format if it was ready to use straight away, built into cameras from the outset.

You'll be able to view images at different resolutions on screen - useful for when you want to zoom in on a high-resolution image without having to download a massive file.

The HD Photo plug-in is free to download now and is available for both Windows (XP and later) and Mac OS X (10.4 and later). It is already built into Windows Vista, labelled Windows Media Photo.