In keeping with my recent theme of praising Microsoft, I bring you Windows Live Essentials. Windows Live seems to be an initiative by Microsoft to help you establish your online presence while bringing you new/updated applications to make the experience richer than ever before. From mail, to blogging, to social networking, Windows Live brings some nice tools to table that you may want to check out. All of these items are available for free, right now.
Follow me as we break down and discuss some of these must-have tools and services…
Windows Live Essentials is currently comprised of the following tools:
- Windows Live Mail – An Outlook/Exchange themed desktop client that can receive and manage e-mail from a plethora of different vendors and sources.
- Windows Live Messenger – A feature-rich instant messaging (IM) client that includes easy to use video and voice communications.
- Windows Live Writer – A blog editing client that makes writing and managing your posts a breeze.
- Windows Live Photo Gallery – Desktop client that allows you to manage and organize your photos.
- Windows Movie Maker – Desktop client that makes it easy for you to create videos using a variety of different media options.
- Windows Family Safety – Control and restrict what websites your children can browse to on the Internet.
- Windows Toolbar – Bring the Windows Live search feature to your desktop.
You may download any or all of the tools at once, giving you complete control of what you get and what you don’t get. You can always add or remove applications at your leisure, so there should be no download remorse to contend with.
Live Mail is my top choice for access to personal e-mail and newsgroup needs. When not using the browser interface for my GMail and Hotmail accounts, I turn to Live Mail. Similar in appearance and use to Outlook, Live Mail offers a much lighter weight client with the ability to integrate with any IMAP or POP messaging service. Live Mail allows you to corral all of your e-mail account into one place and it extends browser based mail to the desktop. This client offers you the ability to read and respond to mail even when you are not connected to the Internet. This is the cleanest, most reliable client that I have found to date. (Yes, including Thunderbird which has some major stability issues in my experience.)
Live Messenger is a solid choice for your instant messaging needs. It is an up-to-date feature rich client with audio/video capabilities and integrates nicely with the Microsoft Live services.
This is by far my favorite Live application. Live Writer is a clean, easy way to write and manage your blog posts. Writer is a client that you download and install on your PC, so that means that you can now compose, edit, and manage your blog content. It integrates nicely with WordPress, Windows Live, Google Blogger, and TypePad, and it just seems like a better experience versus using the browser based editing screens.
Writer stays in sync with your blog, so you have complete control over your blog even while you are on the road and not connected to the web.
I manage the pelokee blog that are reading with Live Writer. Complete with spell check, better table editing features, and an MS-Word feel to it, this is a top product in its space.
Live Photo Gallery
The photo manager included with the Live suite is to your photos like Windows Media Player is to you audio and video files. It is an adequate way to manage and edit your photos, but it is very handy for resizing photos and e-mailing to friends or posting to sites like Facebook.
I prefer Google’s Picassa for managing and editing my photos. It is the slickest package for sharing photo albums and managing them online.
Movie Maker is a free application that allows you to make movies from photos or video clips. If you have a webcam, this is all you need to make and publish your own productions!
All in all, I think these tools from Windows Live rank high on the lists of ease of use and ability to be a primary tool for a given task. The best part is that they are free. It also helps that they integrate so beautifully with other Microsoft Office products and Windows operating systems. You have no idea how smooth and effectively all of these tools work with each other until you have seen it for yourself.
In the new year, challenge yourself to spend some time testing these new tools. They just might be exactly what you are looking for to have a little fun while helping you do your job more effectively along the way.