Monthly Archives: June 2010

Having fun with the new Windows Live Messenger wave 4

I have been a avid user of Windows Live Messenger for many years now. It gives me the opportunity to stay in touch with family and friends along with catching up with old acquaintances. Some persons could look at Instant Messaging as one of the first forms of social networking and its one of the many improvements in this new release of Windows Live Messenger that is heavily emphasized. Windows Live Messenger is available as part of the Windows Live Essentials wave 4 beta. Please reference my experience installing Windows Live Essentials wave 4 here

Windows Live Messenger wave 4 screen

The sign in screen has been updated for this release, featuring a much broader interface compared to its predecessor. You will also notice the new Wave 4 theme which is a minor update which features less waves and more lens flares. There is also an emphasis on the Messenger wording using a bold highlight. You will notice if you press Alt, the drop down menus are not available, normally, you wouldn’t need access to these features, but if you would like to make some adjustments you can click on the Options link at the bottom of the Messenger window.

Sign in Experience

Well, its not that different from past releases, but is more elegant through its simplicity. Of course, there might be more to come.

Signing into the new Windows Live Messenger

When you are signed in, you are presented with a well emphasized Social page of Windows Live Messenger, which displays an array of activities happening within your circle of friends. The interface is dynamic and lively presenting various forms of media coming in from various networks. You will even see pictures, videos and post from your friends. It’s a very exciting layout that is more interactive from the beginning. I notice the interface for Windows Live Messenger wave 4 is more worded than previous versions. This is something I first saw with the release of Windows 7, its also a familiar experience that users of Microsoft’s forth coming mobile operating system Windows Phone 7 will also notice. Surprisingly, the interface feels a lot like using Windows Live Messenger for iPhone which I recently, check it out here.

The interface is divided into two main sections, on the far right hand side, you will see the main Friends pane which list all your Messenger contacts. You will also notice in the lower right hand corner all the social networking services you are connected to in addition to a Add button for quickly adding other services.

See the latest photos from your friends!

You can keep a track of your social activities along with the latest blog entries from your friends too!

Highlights – The most interesting happenings amongst your friends.

Recent – Displays the most recent activities, these include social networking, blogs, photos, videos posted by your friends and more.

Me – Displays all your social networking entries, along with Photos you have recently posted.

Photos – Probably the best feature of social, I notice I have a lot of friends who love to take photos, I was so impressed with the exquisite photos I saw showing up in the Photos section of my Social from friends across Windows Live Skydrive and services such as Flickr. Technogran, you are a pro! I hope you don’t mind if I grab some your photos!

More – Displays links from the web shared by your friends along with their blog entries.

 

New Notification experience

Windows Live Messenger wave 4 introduce some long awaited features, one of them is support tabbed browsing. Its great to finally see this feature, because I am often chatting with multiple persons, and its hard to keep track of what’s happening. The new tab window displays multiple contacts within tabs along with a status button to indicate whether they are away, offline, online. There are no significant changes to conversation view, but I notice that emoticons are more emotive

Windows Live Messenger works great on Windows 7, the screenshot below shows a cool synergy.

When you hover over the Messenger icon on the Taskbar, you will notice that there is an integrated status menu that you can quickly change on the fly. Very nice!

 

Messenger wave is customizable too, if you don’t want to have the Social Page turned on, you simply click the single view button in the upper right hand corner of the window.

This is just an early impression of the new Messenger, and I like what I see in this release. Its obvious we are a more social networking type of users these days and the new Messenger allows you to capitalize on that by providing deeper ways of engaging with your family friends. Ironically Messenger wave 4 brings productivity to social networking (in a good way), the ability to easily see what’s happening in your friends and family lives through photos and videos along with their interest along centralizing information shared through popular networks such as Facebook and Twitter really is a great experience that will definitely keep me a loyal user.

Related:

Instant and Social Communication with Windows Live Messenger 9

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The new Social Experience in Windows Live Wave 4

Over the weekend I got the chance to download and play with the new Windows Live Essentials wave 4, which is currently in beta. One of the most popular programs in the multimedia suite is Windows Live Messenger and I was particularly interested in seeing how the folks who work on this cool app/service have made it better. Lets just say I am pleasantly surprised.

Before logging to Windows Live Messenger, you are presented with some pre-requisite setup experiences. The Windows Live folks are aiming to make this release focused on a more social, interactive initiative.

Profile setup with Windows Live

When you launch Windows Live Messenger for the first time, you are greeted by the following screen which ask you to take a photo for your profile. This is optional of course, but I like the synergies here by taking advantage of hardware such as built in Web cams which come with most laptops these days. I chose to skip this one since I don’t think I was quite ready for the camera just yet.

After completing this step, you are prompted to integrate with one of the available Social Networking services: Facebook or My Space. If you add Social Networks such as Twitter on your Windows Live Profile, it will also display your feed in Windows Live Messenger’s new Social page.

Connecting to popular Social Networking services.

Here we are presented with the options available for integrating with Windows Live, you can limit the visibility of your social networking activities to just Windows Live or Windows Live Messenger or if you don’t have any problems sharing your social networking activities with everyone, you can leave everything checked.

Since I am on Facebook, I clicked that option which launched the Facebook Connect log in. I was then asked to sign in with my email address and password. If you are using non-Windows Live account, no problem. I had signed up for Facebook using Yahoo! Mail a few years back, but it was no problem here at all.

Using Facebook Connect to share my Facebook feed within Windows Live Messenger

Privacy is important, so you will be asked to give permission to Messenger to gain access to your Facebook profile, along with other information such as News Feed, Photos, Video, etc.

Granting permission to your Facebook feed.

Once you have configured your Social Networking activities, the Windows Live Essentials wizard will connect to Facebook (or My Space depending on the Social network you choose during setup).

Windows Live Beta connecting

Once you are setup, you can then sign into Messenger and your Social Networking feed will appear along with the activities of your friends. In my next post, we’ll take a look at the new experience.

Related:

Windows Live Essentials – the New Install Experience

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Windows Live Essentials – the New Install Experience

When Wave 3 of Windows Live Wave 4 was released last year, I took a look at the new install experience in that release. Users will note that there was a lot more going on in comparison to the new Windows Live Essentials wave 4. Specifically, the slide show has been replaced by a more conservative installer.

Windows Live Essentials version 1

Windows Live Essentials’ wave 3

Wave 4 Install experience

Windows Live wave 4 uses the same approach as version 3, just go to Explore Windows Live Essentials beta page, and click the download link and it will prompt you to download the 1 MB web installer. I notice there is no option to access the offline installer like wave 3 allows you to. I hope this is temporary, although I understand Windows Live is more integrated with the web, features like Photo Gallery and Movie Maker still work great in an offline world.

Windows Live Essentials 4 setup experience

Programs that come with Windows Live Essentials wave 4

Immediately you are taken to the Programs to Install page (no Service Level Agreement this time around), which displays all of the programs that are included in the suite. If you have a previous version of the suite installed, programs such as Messenger, Photo Gallery/Movie Maker, Mail, Writer, Family Safety are automatically updated. Optional components include the new Windows Live Sync, Outlook Connector Pack and Messenger Companion.

Installing Windows Live Essentials

Very minimal experience indeed, the installation itself was way quicker than version 3 and this was over the Internet too, so there are some definite performance improvements here. I do hope a offline installer is provided with the final release, I have access to a few computers that are not connected to the Net, but would be just great with these updates. Once completed, I was prompted to restart my computer and I was good to go.

Related:

Installing Windows Live Essentials

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Windows Live Essentials BETA Coming Tomorrow!

Exciting news, the next version of Microsoft’s multimedia suite of programs for Photos, Video editing, Instant Messaging, Email, Synchronization with Windows Live services is coming tomorrow!

Tomorrow, hot on the heels of the Hotmail roll-out, the new Windows Live Essentials becomes available for public beta testing. Windows Live Essentials beta requires Windows Vista or Windows 7, and is available in English, French, Dutch, Japanese, Portuguese, Simplified Chinese, or Spanish.  As soon as the beta goes live tomorrow (we’ll update this blog post when it does), you’ll be able to get it from here.

Read more here

I love the commitment that Microsoft has invested in these powerful products over the years. They just keep getting better with each release and the synergy between Windows Live and Windows 7 is even stronger. There are exciting improvements that will take advantage of core features in Windows 7 to provide exciting results when working on photos and videos. I am pleased to see Windows Live Essential products such as Photo Gallery and Mail embrace the Scenic Ribbon to provide consistency and better usability.

I am looking forward to using Photo Gallery in particular, I recently read about some of the exciting improvements coming such as Photo Stitching and Retouching built in, features you normally would pay for through commercial software packages. Windows Live Essentials is even more Social and its one of the things I believe will definitely set this release apart, support for networks such as Facebook and Twitter are fully embraced and I believe it will reinvigorate the use of services such as Windows Live Messenger when combined with media such as video calls and photo sharing.

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Windows 7 reaches 150 Million Licenses Sold

Windows Community Manager, Brandon Leblanc announced today on the Windows Team Blog that Windows 7, the latest version of the worlds most widely used operating system has reached a major milestone: 150 million licenses sold.

we are excited to announce that Windows 7 has sold 150 million licenses to-date. As I’ve said before, Windows 7 is the fastest selling operating system in history with 7 copies of Windows 7 sold every second.

Read more here

Microsoft focused on the fundamentals with Windows 7, listening to consumers and incorporating their feedback to produce an exceptional release. I remember when the first beta of Windows 7 was released in January of 2009 that this was going to be something special. Improved performance and efficiency of the code, revamped user interface, improved compatibility all contribute to an exciting user experience.

If you haven’t upgraded to Windows 7, now is a great time, I have been running it on my Dell Dimension 8300 I purchased back in 2004 and the performance is great. That’s one of the great things about the OS, the performance and efficiency. I also love features such as Jump List, enhanced search, desktop effects such as Aero Snaps, Peeks and the beautiful themes.

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Trying out Windows Live Messenger for iPhone

Microsoft today released the first version of its popular Instant Messaging client Windows Live Messenger for iPhone version 1.01. I took the opportunity to try it out since I saw some early previews of it. I must say I am impressed with this client, its very feature rich with a well designed interface that makes chatting on the go fun! Although it works on the iPhone, users of Apple’s iPod Touch can also use Windows Live Messenger for iPhone. Actually, it should be called Windows Live Messenger for iOS since Apple is now spreading their mobile operating system across various i-Devices such as the iPad and iPod Touch.

Installation

You have the option of downloading and syncing the Windows Live Messenger application from the iTunes App Store if you have iTunes installed. I simply downloaded it from my iPod Touch by going to the App Store app on the device and did a search for ‘Windows Live Messenger’.

I proceeded to click the free button and the very quick installation began.

Installing Windows Live Messenger for iPhone (please forgive the lo-res images, took these using my phone).

Signing in

Signing in was a breeze, when you click the WL Messenger icon on the home screen, you are immediately taken to the sign in page, which automatically displays the soft keyboard.

 

Signing in to Windows Live Messenger for iPhone

When you are signed in, you are greeted by the highlights page, which displays a strip with links of common interest at the top along with your status message. These links include, recent activities from your friends, your recent activities, photos and status messages. You also have a quick link to your Windows Live Hotmail inbox from with the application.

You can also view social networking activities from your friends on other networks such as Twitter and even view friend invitation, which is pushed to you.

At the bottom of the WL Messenger for iPhone app, are four tabs relating to social, friends, chats and photos. Social deals with activities that take place on social networks such as Twitter, you can even comment on your friends messages from within this window. The Friends tab displays your contact list, you can easily touch a contact and begin chatting. Windows Live Messenger for iPhone supports features such as favorites and ability to search your contact list. The Chat tab displays all your active chat sessions along with latest message from your friend.

Chatting on the iPod Touch

Users should feel right at home on WL Messenger for iPhone, most of the expected and familiar features are there, such as emoticons and the ability to do photo sharing which is really cool.

A beautiful set of emotive icons are available when chatting

Photos

Working with Photos on WL Messenger for iPhone is such a cool experience and its easy too, just touch the convenient Photos tab which will reveal your collection of photos stored on your Windows Live Skydrive Photos by default.

Viewing your photos on the iPhone or iPod Touch is a lovely experience.

You can view a slideshow of your photos, edit the name of the photo, or even apply an effect and share it with your friends. Photos even support the iPods accelerometer, so you easily rotate and view both portrait and landscape shots easily. You can even download the photo or use it as your picture if you want. Its very impressive to see so many powerful features available on such a small device, done so elegantly and beautifully.

Some of the cool effects available for photos on your iPhone

If you want to upload an album of photos off your iPhone you can do so too. Just click the add button, give it a name, choose your access privileges and touch Done. Some of the available effects include Glamour, Burn, Warmth, Rainbow and up to 36 others.

There really are no compromises here, I am really impressed with all these rich capabilities available. I notice you are also kept signed if you are logged into Windows Live Messenger on the desktop. Not so sure about that, I would also like the ability to keep conversation history synced between both PC and mobile, although some might argue that’s a security risk. Over-all, I am very excited about this. If you own an iPhone or iPod Touch, definitely download it, the best thing of all, its FREE! Which is something you can’t say about some of the other Messenger supported clients on the App Store.

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Office 2010 now available.

Microsoft launched the general availability for the latest version of its popular productivity suite today, christened Office 2010. I got the chance to try out the final product and I must say its an excellent upgrade. Microsoft is using a multi pronged strategy to make Office the best place for business productivity; this includes the traditional desktop applications Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint etc, but also the Web.

Yep, the Internet is now a convenient way to experience popular Microsoft applications, of course, these are not as full featured as the local counterparts, instead it offers new, exciting ways to experience Office while maintaining the rich experience of content created in the applications anywhere, anytime, any device. In addition using Office in the web browser, Microsoft is also pushing a richer mobile experience too, which is part of the strategy of having access to the power of Office anytime, anywhere and any device. If you have a powerful Internet connection (simply put, lots of bandwidth), Microsoft is also utilizing some of its investments from its virtualization portfolio. Users will be able to stream a full version of Microsoft Office 2010 to their desktop without installing the suite at all.

Simply download a small setup executable, and your applications will be streamed to you. Earlier versions of Office can even co-exist with the new 2010 release this way and the key benefit to is, you can still use the suite off line. Microsoft recently announced a partnership with Facebook.com to provide a service for Facebook members to collaborate on documents at http://www.docs.com. Basically you can share and work on documents with your Facebook friends. Some might ask, what is the point of this? Considering that Microsoft Office runs on at least one billion PC’s worldwide and Facebook has at least 400 million or more subscribers, the likely possibility of you being able to share and collaborate with friends is very high.

Collaboration and consistency are the key words that best describe the theme of this release. Microsoft is also focusing on making the document lifecycle experience more dynamic and agile. Office of course has to contend with a new set of competitive challenges such as Google recently boosting up its online offerings and Oracle’s recent acquisition of SUN Microsystems assets also brings the possibility of an injection increased focus on competing with Office through the popular free alternative Open Office.org productivity suite.

Microsoft Office is not standing still, and as you dive into the suite and popular products such as Outlook which introduces an enhanced user experience with features such as Conversation View which fits nicely with the recently released Exchange Server 2010, Backstage Technology for better access to management solutions built into Office while saving time when preparing large documents, you get the reminder why Office is still number one. Visualizing information is also a critical improvement in Office, and Excel 2010 in particular focuses on better ways of analyzing key trends in information with the new feature called Sparklines. PowerPoint has finally embraced multi-media full stream and users will be impressed with the tools to help deliver presentations that are more dynamic and informative, yet entertaining.

Microsoft has created a successful franchise that is Office, a suite of applications that pioneered cohesive experiences allowing end users to be productive by using a uniformed approach to working with information across a variety of familiar applications. 2007’s successful Office 2007 infused the platform with new momentum by further innovating through new ways of using Office applications more effectively with the new Office Fluent UI that exposed tools that were once hidden under drop down menus. With Office 2010, it’s about building on those benefits by exposing more applications in the Office family to Office Fluent. In addition to that Office 2010 improves the core experiences that initially made the platform so popular.

You can read the entire review of Office Professional 2010 I prepared for ActiveWin.com here

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