Microsoft made its new Windows Live Essentials 2011 available for download Sept. 30. The software suite offers services for photo sharing, blogging, e-mail and document productivity. However, it is available only for Windows 7 and Vista users.
Windows Live Essentials 2011 can be downloaded here. In addition to updated versions of Messenger, Photo Gallery, Movie Maker and Mail, the suite includes features such as "Family Safety" parental controls and Windows Live Mesh, which allows users to access and synchronize files on different computers. Windows Live Photo Gallery lets users share photos on SkyDrive, Flickr, SmugMug, Facebook and similar services; it also incorporates new facial recognition technology that allows the program to tag people in photos.
The Windows Live Mail 2011 e-mail client supports multiple e-mail accounts, and brings calendar and RSS feeds to the platform. E-mail accounts can be color-coded for easier management. Users can also take advantage of Windows Live SkyDrive to send albums' worth of high-resolution photos to others.
Messenger incorporates feeds, photos and updates from social-networking services such as Facebook and LinkedIn; it also offers Hotmail notifications, and the ability to add comments to others' social-networking updates without needing to leave Messenger.
Microsoft originally rolled out its Windows Live Essentials beta June 24. The company has a tradition of launching software betas for millions of users, and then using the inevitable tsunami of feedback to adjust the product ahead of its final release. Microsoft has said its engineers used the Windows Live Essentials beta to weed out some 95 percent of reported bugs ahead of the final version's release.
With Windows Live Essentials 2011, Microsoft is also continuing its recent tradition of denying its newest products to Windows XP users. "If your computer is still running Windows XP you can, of course, continue to use the current Windows Live Essentials software, and then switch to Windows Live Essentials 2011 when you buy a new PC or upgrade to Windows 7," Chris Jones, vice president of Windows Live engineering, posted on The Windows Blog Sept. 30.
The recently released beta of Internet Explorer 9 is also incompatible with Windows XP.
Microsoft also recently updated Office Web Apps and Hotmail. "A few months ago, we released a reinvented Windows Live Hotmail designed around what people said they wanted," Dick Craddock, group program manager for Windows Live Hotmail, posted Sept. 23 on The Windows Blog. "We put a lot of time and effort into careful planning, but we also recognize that with any release, we can improve, so we do our best to listen closely and respond actively."
Updates to Hotmail include Facebook Chat integration, the ability to track packages from within an e-mail, a new e-mail attachment size of 25MB and subfolders for more precise mail management.