Friday, 01 October 2010 09:33

Windows Live Essentials 2011 updates Microsoft's consumer S+S offering


Microsoft has released the 2011 version of Windows Live Essentials, the consumer embodiment of its 'software plus services' strategy.

Windows Live Essentials comprises Photo Gallery, Movie Maker, Messenger, Mesh, Mail, Family Safety, Writer, Messenger Companion, Bing Bar, and the Outlook Connector Pack.

New features in Photo Gallery include Photo Fuse to combine the best parts of multiple shots (eg, to work around the problem of people blinking in group portraits), and easy retouching. Photo Gallery also incorporates face recognition to help find and organise photos, and integration with Flickr, Facebook and SkyDrive.

Movie Maker is positioned as an easy to use video editor that can also turn a set of photos from Photo Gallery into a movie. The results can be sent to YouTube, FaceBook or SkyDrive, burned to DVD (requires Windows DVD Maker), or saved in formats suitable for a variety of devices.

"With Photo Gallery and Movie Maker, we focused on making advanced features easy for anybody," said Jamie Cannon, Microsoft's group product manager for Windows Live.

Messenger now features HD video chat, tabbed chat for multiple conversations, and Facebook chat. It also brings in messages and newsfeeds from sites such as Facebook and MySpace, and displays Facebook photo galleries and YouTube videos mentioned in messages.

"We didn't want to create another social network," said Cannon. "We really designed Messenger to help you stay in touch with the people that matter to you most, wherever they already are."

More Live Essentials components are described on page 2.

Mesh automatically syncs selected files between multiple Windows 7 PCs and the cloud (Mac OS X is also supported with a beta version of Live Sync for Mac). 5 GB of storage on SkyDrive is included. Mesh also provides remote desktop access to PCs.

Live Mail handles multiple email account (including Hotmail, Gmail, and Yahoo!@ Mail) and provides a conversation view. It also provides a way of sharing high-resolution photos via email without attaching the full-size images (they are stored in a SkyDrive album instead).

Writer 2011 works with blog services such as WordPress, Blogger, and TypePad to provide WYSIWYG editing of blog posts. It includes support for photos, videos, and Bing Maps.

Family Safety extends Windows' Parental Controls feature. It provides remote management; enforces the use of safe search in Google, Bing and other popular search engines; blocks inappropriate content; restricts Hotmail and Live Messenger communications to approved contacts; and reports on activity.

Messenger Companion provides a mechanism to attach shared notes to web pages. The notes are visible to your Messenger contacts, and only in Internet Explorer.

Outlook Connector allows the management of Hotmail email, calendar and contacts from within Outlook, and also links Outlook with Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace and Live Messenger.

Where can you get Live Essentials 2011? Find out on page 3.

The Bing Bar is a toolbar for Internet Explorer or Firefox that gives easy access to Bing features.

Windows Live Essentials can be downloaded here.


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Stephen Withers

Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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