Windows Live Essentials is out of beta and the final release came out on 9-30-10 with hardly any fanfare. It seems Microsoft doesn’t make the tech news like Apple & Google. This suite of free products is a must-have for PC owners. In the suite are:
- movie maker (quickly and easily put pictures together complete with transitions & music)
- photo gallery (facial recognition, upload to skydrive, facebook & other sites)
- live/hotmail (replaces outlook express)
- live writer (for blogging)
- live mesh (this product has changed names so many times, but it syncs your data)
- messenger (share pictures while video chatting in HD)
- family safety (controls to keep track of what your kids can access)
- bing bar (works with firefox or IE note-my Firefox disabled the bing bar-said it was unstable)
- messenger companion (an add-on to IE where you click the icon in the menu bar and can share a page or link with your friends)
- skydrive (not a download or part of essentials, but with your Windows Live ID, you get 25 GB of free storage—this is great and you can access your files from anywhere)
- web apps in your browser (not a part of essentials either, but this is free access to word, excel, ppt & onenote from your browser and part of your 25 GB of free storage on-line
My Top 5 and Why
Movie Maker—I used to dread the thought of pulling pictures together into a movie for a presentation or for a family member. It always seemed too complicated and I couldn’t remember how to do certain things. But with Movie Maker, you really can make a simple, yet elegant movie in five minutes.When it’s finished, upload it to YouTube right from Movie Maker. There are options to save in different formats, depending on your use. It’s quite user friendly.
Photo Gallery—Before I found photo gallery, I had a Flickr, Picasa and several other picture sharing accounts. But now I use photo gallery because I use so many other Microsoft products and it really is one of the best with facial recognition, easy touchup of your photos and it’s easy to import from a camera or SD card. Pictures can be viewed by date or sorted by identity. There is a batch identifying and labeling command. I can quickly back my pictures up my publishing from my desktop to skydrive. I can also send to a photo printing service or put them on Facebook. Send friends an attractive email invitation to view your photos on your skydrive – no more sending bulky attachments.
Live Mail –This desktop client has had many improvements and although not as robust as Outlook, it has many of the features and it’s free. It’s possible to bring in email accounts from your other Live/Hotmail accounts, Gmail and Yahoo mail (if you have the premium yahoo mail). It has new spam-prevention features and it integrates well with photo gallery (for sending albums). You can access your mail from any computer using the web interface. It’s a great program.
Live Writer – I use this software every week to compose my blog article. It’s a Word-like interface with a beautiful look and feel to it. It’s so much nicer than trying to compose using the WordPress back end. When I used that, I felt confined in the little WordPress supplied black and white box. It didn’t do much for creativity. With Live Writer, it’s like composing on a full ‘sheet of paper’. I have the ability to add plug-ins to make it even more functional. Setting up multiple blogs to post to my various sites is a snap. I can switch the view to see what it will look like before uploading. I can pull a published article down from the clouds to work on it again. It’s just wonderful and it works with all the popular blogging platforms
Live Mesh – I’m still figuring this one out. I used it when it was Live Mesh Beta a couple years ago and back then I could use it to log in and see a computer screen and access my computer like Gotoassist or Logmein. I heard that feature was gone, but I think they were wrong as I used it and it worked! Then came Live Sync. I downloaded and installed that – it uninstalled my live mesh and I was syncing. I synced between 2 computers and it was working pretty well, but only 2 GB of storage . Then they changed it to mesh again and increased the storage to 5 GB. I just started up my mesh with the 2011 version and it now says Mesh and it’s syncing with my other computer, so it looks like it’s working pretty well. I think this can be really useful – when I get the hang of it.
There You Are
My top 5 Essentials and why. Microsoft has done a great job for the most part with this suite of products – then you add in skydrive and web apps plus all the ‘social’ things you can do and see in your space and it does make for a satisfying user experience. Things integrate well with my desktop and cloud in an easy and intuitive manner. It’s nice having everything I do under one umbrella instead of having a service here and there and trying to remember where everything is. Now I’ve got my photos, mail, documents in the same place and all backed up. That’s peace of mind and less I have to remember.