Great News! If you run Windows 7 or Windows Vista then you need to download Windows Live Essentials 2011. I’ve been running it in beta for quite some time now and it’s an essential add-on for Windows that connects you to the essential services you use on the internet everyday. In Windows 7 we removed the applications that are now in Windows Live Essentials 2011. Why? Windows has a longer development cycle than the Windows Live applications which allows us to release updates to these more often. Plus it brings them all under the Windows Live banner as well. So what do you get? Here’s the list and how I use them everyday. In fact I’m writing this post from Live Writer which is the blogging application that comes with Live Essentials.
The first thing you will notice about all the applications is they were designed from the ground up to work with Windows 7 and in particular you’ll see tight integration into the the taskbar and a consistent ribbon interface throughout the applications. Windows Live Essentials takes advantage of pinning your applications to the taskbar or start menu and jump lists which gives you easy access to common tasks you do everyday in your applications. The examples to the right give you an idea.
Windows Live Family Safety
As a parent my kids are increasingly wanting to get online to do assignments and play games. Windows Live Family Safety extends the built in Parental Controls in Windows 7 to give much more flexible access to the settings you want to monitor. You just have to logon to the Family Safety website to monitor settings. You don’t have to logon to your child's PC each time you want to view activity reports or change a setting. You can make all the necessary changes from the Family Safety website.
Windows Live Messenger 2011
Windows Live Messenger has been around for about 15 years and this update is one of the most significant. Not only can you stay in touch with family and friends easily but it connects to all your services such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. What I like about this is the Social view that has all your updates in the one place.
Windows Live Mesh 2011
Now this is a program I use a lot and it’s gone through quite a few name changes. During the Beta is was called Live Sync and prior to that Mesh was a project from the Microsoft Research team. It’s now Windows Live Mesh 2011 and simply put allows you to sync data such as documents and pictures between PC’s. It’s very simple and you get 5GB or storage to sync your most important files.
Windows Live Photo Gallery
This is another program I use a lot and for a free program it’s pretty powerful for touching up photos and organising them so they are easy to find. With new more powerful features, easy publishing to Facebook, SkyDrive, YouTube and more. But two of the coolest features with this new version is Panorama view and Photo Fuse. Panorama allows you to take a series of photos say of a sunset that are close together and create one panorama view. Below is an example of some photos I took when I was recently in Hobart, Tasmania.
So these 3 photos are from the same spot but I’ve just moved my camera from left to right and snapped 3 photos. Now to make a panorama of these photos I just select them all in Photo Gallery then go to the Create ribbon and select Panorama. At this point some pretty cool magic happens and Photo Gallery takes all 3 photos and attempts to stitch them together into a panoramic photo from the photos selected. And this is the result.
When you think about what’s it doing the software does a pretty darn good job considering it’s a free program. The next really cool feature in Photo Gallery is Photo Fuse. This always happens when trying to get group shots at a party or something like that. How many times have you taken a photo and everyone expect one person is smiling or that one person has their eyes closed or is looking away. This why we always take more than one photo just in case. So photo fuse takes the 2 photos and attempts to make a composite photo that has the best of each photo in it. In the 2 photos below my son is not smiling in one and the other he is ok but my wife’s not the best in the other. So in the video below I show you how to take those 2 photos and make one.
Windows Live Movie Maker
Now if I want to create a movie from these photos or any video I have it’s really easy to do with Windows Live Movie Maker. All I have to do is add the photo’s, choose and Auto-Movie theme, add some music and I’m good to go. I can publish the same way I did in Photo Gallery to services such as YouTube, Facebook or SkyDrive. The interfaces are consistent so it makes them really easy to use. Sure there are more powerful video editing tools but if you are looking for something simple and easy then Movie Maker is a good option.
Windows Live Writer
The other application I use a lot of course is Windows Live Writer. I’ve used it since it first came out and its really improved with this version. Making blog posts look good is very easy to do. It’s easy to insert pictures and videos and one of my favourites is inserting a photo album directly into the post and have that available on your SkyDrive. You’ve heard me mention Windows Live SkyDrive a few times in this post. SkyDrive is not part of Windows Live Essentials but essential for storing documents. You get 25GB of free storage space for free! So make sure you sign up. So back to the photo album insert. What I like is I get to choose a bunch of different ways to display which is very cool.
Yep there are more applications in Windows Live Essentials such as Windows Live Mail, Bing Bar and others but I wanted to share how I use them and not just everything that’s in there. Otherwise I wouldn’t get this post done! And finally Live Writer allows you to insert a map. So below is the final location I was in when I posted this.