Windows Live Essentials the Recap

For the past few months I have looked at Microsoft’s Windows Live Essentials suite of free applications that integrates with online services such as Live Spaces, Photos and Mail. I would like to do a recap to get you up to speed.

With the launch of Windows 7, Microsoft has introduced some new scenarios and ways of working with your computer. Core operating system features like Windows Touch, Ink and Speech make up a really strong feature set. The new Scenic user interface in particular with its radically updated Taskbar has kept folks busy learning about its new functionality like Jump List, Aero Peek and Pinning Shortcuts to it plus more, but what about the ‘other’ Windows? Yes, the one that focuses on extending the experiences of the Windows OS to the web and personal activities such as email, photos, videos and expression. Windows Live Essentials is more than just applications though; it’s also a seamless, streamlined set of well integrated software plus services. Microsoft is focused on delivering value beyond the box and based on my experience with the suite since September 2008, I must say, I am highly impressed! Back in January of 2007, Microsoft introduced Windows Vista, which bundled new and improved applications such as Windows Photo Gallery, Windows Mail and Windows Movie Maker. Over time Microsoft updated Photo Gallery and Mail beyond the operating system christening them as ‘Live’ applications. This created a problem of duality, triggering a possibility of confusion between similar applications already built into the OS. So, Microsoft decided from then on that certain programs would be removed from Windows and be made available exclusively through Windows Live instead.

Here is a quote from Windows Live General Manager Brian Hall about the decision:

Removing programs such as Photo Gallery, Mail and Movie Maker from the core operating system will give Microsoft more time to focus on the core operating system experience in addition to improving the efficiency of things like Service Packs which could ultimately be fewer and smaller. Mr. Hall also said that a cleaner operating system eliminates potential confusion for customers faced with two different programs that are similar in function-one already in Windows and the other from Windows Live. He also said that Microsoft is working with OEMs are around Windows 7 so that they can place shortcuts that will link to a download page where you can choose just the programs you.

One thing users must note is that Windows Live Essentials is free! The only thing required is an Internet connection and going to the Windows Live Essential’s home page and download it.

Installing Windows Live Essentials 
Instant and Social Communication with Windows Live Messenger 9 
Managing and Sharing Digital Memories using Windows Live Photo Gallery 2009
A Look at Windows Live Mail 2009 
Online Expression – Using Windows Live Writer 2009
Movies on the Go with Windows Live Movie Maker BETA

Quick Looks

A Quick Look at Windows Live Toolbar
A Quick Look at Windows Live Sync
Windows Live Essentials – Integration with Microsoft Office 2007
A Quick Look at the Microsoft Outlook Connector

Windows Live Family Safety

Windows Vista introduced Parental Controls which made it easy to manage the time your children spend using the computer in addition what type of content they can view on the web and receive reports about their activities online. Windows Live Family Safety is pretty much the same; the difference is it’s more about managing the online activities. With Live Family Safety Filter, you can choose who they communicate with online and generate reports of their online activities other features include:

  • Categorize and block unwanted web content for yourself and your family.
  • Create your own list of allowed or blocked sites.
  • Monitor Family Safety users’ Internet activity.

If you are running any of the consumer editions of Windows Vista such as Home Basic, Premium or Ultimate, you probably don’t need it, but for Vista Business and Windows XP users it should be a welcome addition. To setup the service, you need to have a Windows Live ID (XBOX, Hotmail) that will be your primary account for Family Safety. The Family Safety interface features a Profile Center, with a toggle on or off button. The ‘Customize settings for your family’ area features a link to a dedicated website where Parents can add accounts and customize settings.

Final Conclusion

Windows Live Essentials is deep; it’s deep in features and value. The thing about the suite is the cohesive experience it delivers, focusing primarily on what users enjoy doing on the PC these days. Microsoft for years has provided a complete suite of knowledge worker experiences with Microsoft Office. Windows Live Essentials fills that gap for the consumer. The most exciting thing about Live Essentials is that all these applications and services are free and they make connecting up to family and friends seamless; providing a simplified process of sharing memories, interest and providing safety online. After using the suite since the early betas I am a solidified user and I know you will be too. So I say, go to http://download.live.com right now!

Pros:

  • Its free
  • Integrates well with Windows Live services
  • Small in size, great performance in applications like Windows Live Photo Gallery
  • Very complete feature set
  • Makes sharing multimedia easier
  • Synchronization and remote access features makes it easy to maintain data between multiple PC’s.
  • Compliments Windows operating systems such as XP, and specific features such as Parental Controls built into Windows Vista and Windows 7 well.

Cons:

  • Windows Live Movie Maker needs more work
  • Windows Live Writer needs a more simplified setup process
    – Page Break option, posting a 22 page post is too long for blogging service like Live Spaces.
    – Ability to rename and merge categories.
  • More integration with Windows 7 would be great, especially where Jump List is concerned.
  • Downloading the suite needs to be more appropriate, Web Installer needs to be an option, not the default.

Rating:

  • Installation: 88%
  • Ease of Use: 95%
  • Features: 95%
  • Manual: N/A
  • Price: N/A%
  • Overall: 90%

So, have you been using Windows Live Essentials? If so, what are your thoughts and what tips do you have for improving the applications? I would definitely love to hear them!

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