A couple of months ago, I downloaded the Windows Live Photo Gallery as a companion to the Windows Live Writer that I use for authoring my blog. It isn't perfect, but has some really nice features that might make it worth a look.
On the good side, I've found that the Auto Fix Photos does a better job of adjusting color balance and brightness than the Microsoft Picture Manager included with Office, and the included Sharpness control is good at cleaning up the occasional blur. On the minus side, there is no batch editing, so the process of touching up a gallery can be tediously slow.
A cool feature that really impressed me is the "Create Panoramic Photo" function.
The bridge at the Spanish village of Ronda is spectacular, but I struggled to find a picture from the viewpoints around it. The best that I could do was to get a collection of photos:
As an experiment, I ran them all through the panoramic photo tool, and in a minute, it warped, turned, and connected the pictures to create a seamless composite:
I need to experiment with it a bit more to see how to get the best composite, but it really seems to work.
Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with Microsoft nor stake in Windows Live.