For those of us using Windows Vista, the ability to use metadata for photo files is much greater with more flexibility.
One form of metadata available to Windows Vista users is a Tag. Think of tags the same way you think of labels for blog posts: tags are a series of "keywords" that you develop which allow you to group items together under a common theme. In this blog labels such as Profile or Applications are frequently used.
In the image below, I have used tags to label my census images for my genealogy research. I created tags such as 1900 Census, 1880 Census, etc. This tag system will then allow me to sort on the Tag column.
Entering data for tags, and in fact, for several basic metadata fields is made much easier in Windows Vista. There is no need to right-click over a file and select Properties. Go to the panel at the bottom of the Windows Explorer screen and you can select and edit any field.
The metadata fields available when using Windows Vista are much more robust than Windows XP. If you right-click over a photo file, select Properties and then select the Details tab, you will see many more fields including those automatically populated by your digital camera.
Warning! Genea-geek speak ahead! Instead of the EXIF standard used in Windows XP, Vista utilizes the XMP (Extensible Media Platform) standard developed by Adobe Systems, Inc. With XMP metadata, there are many more fields available plus you can perform bulk edits of metadata either using Windows Live Photo Gallery or various third-party applications. Some of the more popular XMP-based metadata programs are iTag and Pictomio.