Friday, October 1, 2010

Windows Live Essentials 2011

Windows-Live-Essentials-logoLooking for a few new tools to handle your day to day deeds?  How about just updating the ones that came installed with your Windows 7 machine?  Either way, you can NOT beat free.  Free is a wonderful price for powerful, and useful tools.  Let me introduce to you Windows Live Essentials.  This a free set of tools that every Windows users should seriously consider adding to their list of essential applications on their desktop.

Windows Live Essentials is a selection of tools created by Microsoft for the Windows XP, Vista and 7 platforms.  This complete free suite includes an email client called Live Mail, a blog editor called Live Writer (which I am writing this blog and others on), Live Messengers (formerly MSN Messenger), Live Photo Gallery, Live Movie Maker, and Live Mesh.  There is also a Family Security feature to help keep track of what your family is doing online, and to ensure the safety of your children, while they are online.  The 2011 version of the suite has a very similar appearance to that of Office 2007 and 2010.  It also help it melt into Windows 7’s interface a bit better, as well.  It doesn’t look to bad on Windows Vista, either.

Live_Mail

First and foremost, this is why anyone is probably going to download this application suite.  They will need an email client.  The last iteration of Windows Live Mail, and Windows Mail (Vista) was a decent enough application.  However, the issue remained that the Calendar and Contacts were not fully integrated into the application.  Clients such as Mozilla Thunderbird and Outlook maintained the hold on the market thanks to having contacts integrated, along with the calendar.  Thunderbird required the Lightening add-on, but it still managed to do the job perfectly better.  Now we have Live Mail 2011.  Here we have an email client that looks like it should be part of an Office installation, rather than a freebie collection of tools.   After some toying around and setting it up, I was impressed with the application.  It if fluid, functional and easy to navigate.  The contacts list integrates Facebook, LinkedIn, and Myspace, along with your client contacts list.  It isn’t as seamless as I would care for it to be, but it does the job.  As for the calendar, you can do several calendars, but don’t expect to import your Google calendar and effectively use it.  It will let you utilize your Live Calendar just fine, though.

Live_MessengerThe second biggest reason anyone has downloaded Live Essentials is for this application, Live Messenger.  This is Microsoft’s premier instant messaging client.  It is the one application that Microsoft has been pushing for years to get out ahead of the likes of Yahoo IM, AIM, and others.  It is perhaps the least popular of the IM clients on the market thanks to the amount of bloat it once had.  Todays version seems to run a lot smoother in comparison.  I don’t care to much for some of the new features that it seems to have integrated, and the lack of smoothness on Vista, but all in all, it is a slimmer installment of the client.

Windows Live Writer.  This is a tool I swear by!  I use it for all of my blogs, especially this one.  It is so windows-live--writeramazingly functional, and so many awesome features.  I was amazed when I first tried it out a couple of years ago.  I couldn’t believe what all I could do with it.  It seriously feels like Microsoft Word, or some other Word Processor app.  However, it is missing key elements from those categories, but it still has more than what you would find with simple apps like Word Pad, or Notepad.  You have a slew of choices to tie it into a handful of other blogging sites, so you are not restricted to using JUST Live Spaces (which is now closing anyway).  The application is also given extra functionality thanks to plug-ins downloaded from the Live Gallery page.  Admittedly, there is not a whole lot out there, but there are a couple that are extremely useful and well worth a look at.

For me about to say this is like blasphemy.  I have been a Picasa user for about 2 years now.  I did NOT like Windows Photo Live_Photo_GalleryGallery on Vista, and I was not impressed with the last iteration of Live Photo Gallery.  However, here I am looking at Live Photo Gallery 2011 and am gushing over it.  It is a wonderful application.  I have to admit I am tossed up between Picasa 3 and Live Photo Gallery.  I use Picasa a great deal thanks to my use of an Android phone, but this version of Live Photo Gallery has me wanting more out of it.  It is fluid.  It has a TON of options.  All of said options are easy to navigate.  You can do so much with this application.  It is well worth the download and install.  There are plug-ins available for Live Photo Gallery to give you the ability to upload to a variety of places, including MySpace, Facebook, and Picasa!

Live_Movie_MakerWhen XP first came out, it had a limited, but somewhat useful Movie Maker application built in.  It was a decent enough app.  When Vista came out, there were a few new features thrown in to help round out the application, but still wasn’t “enough”.  Live Movie Maker attempted to give it a more “integrated” feel to the whole Live experience, but didn’t seem to offer much more over the standard Vista installation.  Now we have Live Movie Maker 2011.  What sets this apart from the last version?  Not a whole lot other than it looks easier to use, and maintains the same look that all of the rest of the Live Essentials applications have.  One thing I would note, however, is that the 2011 edition also has Facebook and Youtube integration.  In other words, you can edit your film, and then publish it directly to either site and share it with the world.  Will definitely be a blessing to all the amateur YouTube film makers out there.Live_Mesh

Last but not least is Live Mesh.  Live Mesh replaces Windows Live ID.  It doesn’t have much to it really to boast about.  It primarily serves the purpose of creating a singular log in experience to everything Windows Live related.  It ties into your Windows installation to some extent as well, but not enough to be an annoyance if at all noticeable.  It also helps with Skydrive, Microsoft’s online cloud storage solution.

All-in-all, I do believe that everyone will agree that there are aspects to Windows Live Essentials they will love and appreciate.  They will also agree there are aspects they do not care for.  I didn’t review the Family Safety functionality since I did not install it.  This suite has been installed directly to my personal laptop, so such security is not “essential” to me.

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