Mary Branscombe (marypcb) wrote,
Mary Branscombe
marypcb

How essential are Live Essentials and Hotmail?

Windows Live Essentials are all the extra apps Microsoft is no longer allowed to bundle with Windows; you can include Paint and WordPad but not Photo Gallery and Writer - or a mail client. And the name is odd; on the one hand, Microsoft needs a home for all the extra tools that co-ordinate with the Live services (Hotmail, Messenger, Spaces, SkyDrive, MSN and to a lesser extend, Bing) - but on the other no-one is going to claim that the Bing Bar is an essential tool when just about every browser has a search tool you can set to use any search engine you want. The Family Safety tool ought to be essential, but it's still too complex (link all the users to Live accounts by hand) for what it does. Writer would be great but it still doesn't understand LiveJournal properly.

But Live Mail and Movie Maker are excellent at what they do (I maded a funny cat video in Movie Maker but luckily for you I ated it). The new social pane in Messenger is now how I read Facebook (and I wish Twitter would get its head out of its policy so I could read Twitter through it). I set up Sync and forgot about it and now my IE favourites and my Outook signatures are the same on both machines (I want it to do ribbon corrections and AutoCorrect settings and other customisations as well though) - and if I wanted to, I could remote desktop into any machine with Sync on. I do miss the 5GB of sync space from when it was Mesh; 2GB is mean so I'm only doing peer-to-peer syncing, but I'll use that to migrate everything to a new PC any time I get a new PC to work on because it's blissfully simple.

And Photo Gallery is great; it doesn't make me import all the images into another library, it just indexes them. All my favourite bugs are fixed (when I import photos I can pick tags from the existing database rather than typing them in wrong by hand, I can pick and choose which things are fixed when I use the automatic fix tools (contrast yes, straightening no) and I can open any image folder, not just the ones I've told Photo Gallery about). And the nifty 'combine the heads' tool that Bill Gates previewed back at CES 2007 (!) is finally available. This is me, making all the Google Wave team look happy at the same time...

For a more considered review with details and images that show the features in action, check out my piece on Tom's Guide. There's a companion piece about Five ways Hotmail beats Gmail - it's interesting to watch Google add in as many of the features Microsoft has put into the new Hotmail in Gmail since the announcement, but with a much more Google interface (ie ugly) - if Apple UI makes Microsoft UI look bad, Google UI makes Microsoft UI look amazingly friendly and smooth; if only Microsoft could put this consistently into all the products and not fall back to its own butt-ugly old-fashioned dialog boxes.

Also, if I see one more dialog asking me to make MSN my home page there are going to be consequences!

Tags: articles, microsoft, technology, tom's guide, windows live, writing
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