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Monday, January 3, 2011

Windows Live Essentials

     So, its not often when I find a free product from Microsoft where they have actually applied some effort and made something decent.  Now, not to say that I don't find Live Essentials bloated and and over featured, but I do find that it seems to work better in conjunction with all of its different pieces than most 'social productivity' suites.  Everything the budding young socialite needs is right there, at the click of a button.
     First on my line of discussion is windows live mail.  Now, I have been a user of hotmail.com for over a decade now, and I have found that over the years it has deteriorated to the point of being almost unusable.  That said, the application of windows live mail has made the process of using hotmail bearable again.  I still can't stand the bad layout hotmail uses, but live mail makes it more usable.  That gets live mail serious points.
     Second one in line is windows live messenger.  Yet another progression of a service I have used for years, though this one was never as disappointing.  I've always liked MSN messenger, and some of the features Microsoft added when they shifted the service over to Live Messenger earlier in this decade worked really well for me, and some of the additions they have started with the latest edition of Live Messenger work out even more.  One such item is how much easier it is to organize your contacts into groups, and that you can set priorities within those groups.  I hate to say it, but there are some people in my messenger account that I have a lot more reason to talk to (like my wife).
     The service also adds in a social buzz feature, where you can have a stream of recent conversation blips from your friends appear when you're not logged in, then you can respond back at your own pace.  Not necessarily a feature I'm too keen on, but it is convenient to be able to respond to a question I've missed while I'm away from my computer.
     Now, for the really fun but often under-estimated feature of Live Essentials:  Movie Maker.  Now, this program in the suite is really for the die-hard computer geeks.  I'm just surprised it has survived so long.  Originally bundled with copies of Windows XP, Movie Maker has always been an easy way to collect together all those video clips and snippets of media that you took on your vacation, or the snippets of cartoon shows you gathered to turn into an AMV, and make them into something coherent for others to watch.  I used it just today to splice together a video file I downloaded with a new audio track.  It made all the difference.  Where before the video was nearly unbearable to watch because the audio sounded like nails on a chalkboard, now it sounds as full and vibrant as it should.  The whole suite is worth it in my opinion for this program alone.
    Another one of the packages I've recently found to be amazingly useful is Live Writer.  This post was even written with it.  This program is a convenient way to work on blog posts offline or outside of a web browser.  Its compatible with most of the major blog platforms, like Blogger and Wordpress, and automatically logs in to your blog to post.
     Overall I've been really impressed with how nice Windows Live Essentials has worked, and I've certainly integrated it into my daily workflow.  So, if your looking for a free suite of semi-essential programs(I mean, does everyone edit video? No, so it isn't really essential), this one fits the bill quite nicely.