My thoughts on the new Windows Live Essentials

My thoughts on the new Windows Live Essentials

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Just like I did with the new Hotmail, I thought in spirit of us releasing the new Windows Live Essentials Beta today that I would offer some thoughts on how I’m using the new Windows Live Essentials.

Let me first talk about Windows Live Photo Gallery. I take a lot of photos. I love taking photos. And I use Photo Gallery to manage all my photos – dating back all the way to when I first starting taking digital photos in 2001. A lot of those photos contain friends and family. The previous version of Photo Gallery introduced the People Tagging feature. However, going through almost 10 years of photos to tag people looked to be a tedious process. One I’ve actually avoided until recently. The new Photo Gallery introduces facial recognition technology where Photo Gallery will now go through your photos, detect photos with people in them (their faces) and then based on people you have already tagged in photos; try to figure out who is in your photos automatically. You can see in the below screenshot that Photo Gallery was able to detect the face off a photo of a Beetlejuice action-figure I recently purchased. Of course, I hadn’t tagged anyone previously that looked like Beetlejuice so Photo Gallery couldn’t determine who it was that was in this photo. But in moving my mouse over the photo, it asked me “Who is this?” and I was able to quickly tag Beetlejuice in this photo.

wlpg_face_tag

Ok I admit – I’m a huge geek. But I’m really not in the habit of people-tagging my collectibles. Honest. I felt that without the permission of the many friends and family that are in my photos, it wouldn’t be appropriate to use those photos as examples for this blog post. I figured Beetlejuice wouldn’t have a problem with it. As you can see, he’s all smiles. In going through my photos and tagging people assisted by the new Photo Gallery’s facial recognition technology, the new Photo Gallery also comes with a new “Batch people tag” feature where you can add people tags to large groups of photos all at once. This feature has also saved me quite a bit of time going through my photos and adding people tags. After adding people tags to my photos, I found that the new Photo Gallery’s “Quick find” feature in the new ribbon UI incredibly useful for going through photos of specific people.

I’m also getting into taking photos that support “geotags” where photos you take are tagged with GPS coordinates. The new Windows Live Photo Gallery now supports geotagging so when I import photos from my camera that have geotags, Photo Gallery will show the location based on the GPS coordinates. This should work with most devices that add GPS coordinates to photos.

wlpg_geotagging

And lastly, one feature I think will come out as a feature as hot as Panoramic Stitch is Photo Fuse. The Photo Fuse feature lets you take a group of photos and combine them into one photo – literally “fusing” together the best parts of each of the photos you’re combining.

Windows Live Photo Gallery is a must-have for folks wanting to efficiently manage their photos as well as easily share them with friends and family (Photo Gallery lets you upload photos to SkyDrive, Facebook, or Flickr).

Next up is Windows Live Movie Maker. Windows Live Movie Maker introduces new things like AutoMovie themes and more precise video and audio editing as well as several new publishing options including. This makes it easier for consumers to edit their videos to their liking and quickly share those videos with friends and family. Movie Maker also supports a wider variety of settings allowing you to save a video as 720p or 1080p HD video or video formatting specifically for a mobile device like a Zune HD or Windows Phone. But for me, my favorite new feature of Movie Maker is the ability to create custom settings.

wlmm_custom_settings

Custom settings allow me to choose the width and height for the video, the bitrate, and frame rate, and the audio format. I heavily rely on this feature to properly format videos for publishing to Microsoft Showcase to embed videos into blog posts here on The Windows Blog. For those of you out there want to format videos specific to a certain format for online – this feature is great.

Another great new feature in the new Movie Maker that’s a favorite of mine is the ability to record video from a webcam. This works great with the Microsoft LifeCam Cinema which does 720p HD video. You can quickly record and edit video from your webcam and share it or publish it out to a desired video format. Absolutely fantastic for shooting quick video podcasts!

Back in May, I posted about how the new Hotmail “makes me happy” and that I traditionally am an email client guy but that the new Hotmail was luring me more and more to the Web. I still rely on the client quite a bit still and Windows Live Mail is my one and only email client on my home PC (at work and on my work laptop I use Outlook 2010 for Exchange – but also have Windows Live Mail running too). The new Windows Live Mail brings some pretty sweet enhancements that make it an excellent email client for people at home.

mail

Windows Live Mail supports multiple email accounts (Hotmail, or others like Gmail) and also brings calendar and RSS feed reading through the Windows RSS Platform. I currently have 2 Hotmail accounts and a Gmail account I use for Junk mail configured in Windows Live Mail. The new Windows Live Mail supports setting “account colors” for each account – my main Hotmail account is red, my second Hotmail is violet (or purple) and my Gmail account is orange. And like the new Hotmail, the new Windows Live Mail also brings conversations to email to capture conversations I might have back in forth via email with people. There is also a new “SlimCal” view where I can check the latest events coming up without leaving my inbox. And of Windows Live Mail has the Photo Mail feature where I can create personalized albums within an email which stores the photos privately in SkyDrive so whomever I send the email to can view the photos but without taking up space in their email account or taking a long time to download. I actually use this quite a bit when sharing photos with my family.

Of course Windows Live Mail is integrated with the new Messenger too where you can start IM conversations with your friends directly from Windows Live Mail.

Speaking of the new Windows Live Messenger – there is so much in the new Messenger I think it deserves its own post at a later time. But my one of my favorite things about Messenger is the ability to update my status for both Windows Live and Facebook all through Messenger and to view and comment my friend’s Facebook activities right through Messenger. Oh and tabbed IM in Messenger is simply awesome. Oh and with my LifeCam Cinema – HD video chatting is crazy cool.

As you know, I’m a heavy blogger. Every post for at least the last 2 years has been published using Windows Live Writer. Matter a fact, I recommend all bloggers that are publishing blog posts here on The Windows Blog use and become very acquainted with Windows Live Writer. The new Writer, just like with Photo Gallery and Movie Maker, the ribbon making direct access to many of its features much easier – at least to me. And in the ribbon, Writer now displays HTML styles that I can use in my blog posts that match our new blog theme.

writer_ribbon

Other than the ribbon, there are a few other new things in Writer worth noting that I absolutely love. One of those is Autorecovery (or crash recovery). If you are writing a post and Writer somehow crashes for some reason, the new Writer will now automatically recover the blog post you were writing – very much like what Word does if Word crashes. Honestly, I’ve not had Writer crash on me in a long time. But the one time it did when using the Writer beta – it recovered the blog post as expected which was great.

writer_squares

Another of my favorite features in Writer (seen first in the last version or Wave 3) is the ability to embed albums from Windows Live. The new Writer introduces a new album template called “Squares”.

And finally – we get to the new Windows Live Sync. For me – the new Sync is a mission-critical app that I need to have running on any and all of my PCs. It is what I use to sync together all my important Word documents and other files I use daily for work and for personal stuff.

sync

I currently have 5 PCs connected and syncing together with Sync. I have 2 folders I am syncing – one for work documents and another for personal stuff. I keep them separate. I am able to choose to have each of these folders sync with “SkyDrive synced storage” which is 2GB of free online cloud storage for my files. Everyone gets this today with Sync. For work, I sync between all my PCs and the cloud but for my personal stuff, I am only doing PC-to-PC sync as I am syncing a couple gigabytes (yes, gigabytes) of data between my PCs for personal stuff like videos and photos.

So what happens if I am at work or on the road traveling and I forgot a file at home that isn’t in one of the folders I’m syncing to my PC? The new Sync enables remote access to any of your PCs you allow and enable remote access for. For me, I have this enabled on several of my PCs here at home and whenever I forget something at home not in any of my folders I am syncing with – I just remotely login and grab the files I need. Oh – this works great if you happen to be traveling and you forget to have Windows Media Center record a show. I did this a few weekends ago and used Sync to login remotely and configure Windows Media Center to record an episode of Family Guy.

The new Sync also syncs your Internet Explorer favorites and your Office settings too!

One last thing…

The new Windows Live Essentials comes with a little add-on for Internet Explorer called Messenger Companion.

messenger_companion

Messenger Companion is something I’ve come really love as I like to share links to websites I read throughout the day. What Messenger Companion does is let you quickly share a link of a website to Windows Live and your Messenger Social. If you have your Messenger Social connected to Facebook, your links will also be shared to Facebook for your friends to see there as well!. I really love this and find myself sharing more links now than ever before thanks to Messenger Companion.

So there you have it – that’s how I’m using the new Windows Live Essentials and as you can see, it’s making things a whole lot easier for me and productive on many levels. The new Windows Live Essentials is an absolute must-have for any Windows 7 PC. I recommend giving the beta a try. And I also recommend reading the Inside Windows Live Blog. The Windows Live Team has been doing an impressive amount of blogging on the new Windows Live stuff – from Hotmail to Messenger and the rest of Windows Live Essentials like Photo Gallery. Everything I talked about above you can do today with the new Windows Live Essentials.

45 Comments
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  • @William Porto if you right-click on the "left-panel" you should be able to choose "Group by" and then "Date taken" - which is the same behavior as the last release. I use the Date Taken view myself as well.

  • All - you can leave feedback and report bugs through the following links - thanks!

    Give general feedback > http://feedback.live.com

    Report a bug > http://windowslivehelp.com

  • @Joe Sales - I get your point, but you have to understand that Windows XP is 9 years old and will be 10 years soon. Microsoft want to stop using XP. XP is outdated. Everyone is going to stop supporting XP soon. Vista and 7 are most recent. XP has had it's time.

    That's like Microsoft still selling and providing games as well as XBOX Live for the original XBOX which they have all discontinued as everyone has a 360 now. And same with other companies... you don't see many PS1 games getting sold these days do you?

    It's been 10 years now... It'll be the same in another 10 years... 7 will stop getting supported with the new Windows OS. Everyone is upgrading slowly, but soon XP will just be out of the world...

  • Great seeing all the interest in Live Essentials Beta. If you are interested about how the new Live Photo Gallery handles more than 100.000 photos and if the "batch people tagging" function works, follow me on mihailcretu.spaces.live.com/blog

    my "real live" test is running since 24.06.

    please feel free to share your experience.

  • Why microsoft is not providing a standalone version of Windows Live with all the application in it. Everyone want to install the softwares offine and when required they will connect to internet and update that softwares if any updates found. I'm using Windows Live Writer for my blog (bcdalai.spaces.live.com) and want to use this tool wherever I go, but the problem is that you have to install that software before posting to blog. I want this software near me in CD/Pen drive so that I can install this in any computer and post my articles on the blog instantly. Also the stand alone version for other application is also too much important.

    bcdalai

    bcdalai.spaces.live.com

  • I hope you all are enjoying the new beta. It's great to have new things. For those people who have windows vista or windows 7, you must be excited. I am happy for you all. I have the last version of WLM before Microsoft dropped compatibility, and i only have windows xp, I wish i could have access to the new beta and the features that will come down the road. I guess i will just have to deal with it. I've shared my concerns many times on various blog postings on this blog. It just seems like ive just been told to shut up and deal with it . maybe not in those words, but it pretty much tells what ive been told. It also seems like whenever people have answered especially from microsoft, they've jumped around the issues and not answering myself or other customers. I've written an article for 3 big name newspapers about me not being pleased with the whole compatibility issue. I may not get anywhere but at least i have a voice and am willing to stand up. After thinking about this, ive decided to not post anything for a while. I've realized that people are probably getting tired of reading my replies.  I will wait a while before i post again. I just hope that there are people out there who share the same concerns as i.   May you all enjoy your new features.

  • It's all great, excluding the errors and bugs there is but you know its a beta..it's expected :-D

  • DFox
    1 Posts

    This version of Messenger broke functionality with my Philips Live Messenger Phone (VOIP 4332). Alerts display correctly, but pushing on the Messenger button states "Not able to sign in to Windows Live Messenger" even though it is.

  • iWater
    2 Posts

    I don´t like the nickname solution.

  • ilwp
    3 Posts

    i just got my new laptop day before yesterday. today i installed Windows Live wave 4 beta. Messanger crashes when i click to compact view. its also freez my IE and then whole computer. i was super excited about  Live....where do i file bug.

  • One features that seems to have been removed in the beta is the "Date Taken" view in the left side panel.  That feature alone sold me on Photo Gallary and made me reconsider how I've been organizing my photos and videos.

    The old Date Taken view let you transcend folder locations and allowed you to view your media in a time-line - this is our life by date.  It also allowed you to quickly move from month to month with a single click rather than finding month by month.  In the beta it's been replaced with "View / Date" and "Find / Date"  which mitigates quickly scanning through years / months.  

    Now you're searching rather than seeing.

    Is there anyway to restore the Date Taken hierarchy in the left side panel?

  • I want my big red block sign back on my MSN contacts. It makes it EASIER for me to see who I have blocked.

    Instead of freaking out thinking they can see me online and having to stare it at to see their picture is "slightly less bright" than all the rest.

  • Impressed with most of the WL essential's apart from Sync. I'm having all sorts of problems with it. It doesn't appear to end syncing folders despite having exactly the same files on both devices. Also when syncing folders to skydrive that too seems to keep going on forever, even though when I check it online it appears to have uploaded all the files. Is anyone else having the same problems?  Its really annoying as it bring my internet to a crawl while appearing to do nothing ;(

  • JohnCz
    204 Posts

    Love it.  Quick question.  I'm looking to use Outlook 2010 instead of the Windows Live Mail client.  The only feature that Windows Live Mail client has that I don't see mentioned in Outlook 2010 is Picture Email.  If I'm not mistaken, this temporarily uploads the photos to SkyDrive and creates a HTML email template.  Would it be possible for a developer to create the same type of SkyDrive Upload/Email Template capability via a Outlook 2010 add-in ???

  • Dezzaz
    1 Posts

    Hey Brandon, I love the new Live Essentials. I cannot stop using all of the new features! Well done to the whole team and keep up the amazing. I esp love the companion tool :)

  • @Nater... umm, it's a blog post called "My thoughts on the new Windows Live Essentials"... it is in no way off topic for others to discuss those thoughts here as well.

  • TMH
    1 Posts

    I have the same gripes about Photo Gallery as before. It's slow to generate thumbnails and the tagging system is not properly implemented. The program should generate thumbnails while importing photos and there should be a one click access to apply user predefined tags.

  • Love it. Thanks for the great release. Waiting for the final version.

  • jaxim
    57 Posts

    In response to my previous comment about tag management, I found how to modify existing tags. Under the HOME tab, within the "tag and caption" section, you can click "descriptive tag" and choose the "Manage Tags..." option.

    That's nice! As I said, i am still getting familiar with the program.

  • Nik
    4 Posts

    And while I'm at it, the previous version let me install just those bits that I wanted, this version installed everything including the Bing searchbar in Firefox which I don't want.

  • Nik
    4 Posts

    So many missed opportunities to improve on previous version. For example, why aren't my contacts available from the taskbar in Messenger, and still no search & replace in Live Writer, these things seem like such obvious things to add.

  • jaxim
    57 Posts

    Here are some misc things that would improve Windows photo Gallery:

    1) The email button allowed to email photos using web mail programs. I don't use outlook. I only email using cloud based email clients like gmail, yahoo, hotmail, etc.

    2) I should be able to drag photos into a bin which I can then use to do a mass drag to the email button, flickr button, etc. CTRL clicking a bunch of photos is so inefficient, frustrating and bound to make mistakes.

  • Nater
    147 Posts

    Facebook status updates are working.  I don't know what your problems are.  I downloaded and installed around 3 CST and made an announcement about it on Facebook from my friends (from Live Messenger).  Checked it on the Facebook website three minutes later and it was there "from Windows Live Messenger" with the Messenger Icon.  disconnect and reconnect Facebook if you're having issues, that may fix them.

    The only issue I'm having (running Windows Vista) is Photo Gallery seemingly crashing if you double click on a photo album in Live Messenger Social view (causing it to open two windows, and crashing).

    Other than that, they seem to be working at around Beta 2 quality for me.  The Release Version should be quite nice.

    I find it quite disingenuous that the websites for issues and bugs have been given more than once, but people still feel the need to spam these blogs with bug report/issue comments.

    Grow up and follow protocol, or maybe they shouldn't have released it until it was out of Beta?

  • jaxim
    57 Posts

    I am a bit disappointed with the tagging management of the Photo Gallery beta.

    I use Windows Photo Gallery a lot and was excited to see what improvements were in the beta. I was dismayed to find that tagging photos seems to have gotten harder...

    1) There used to be a list of tags on the left side that you could drag one or multiple photos onto a tag, which would tag the photos with that tag. I've always thought it would be better if you could drag the tag onto the photos - like how many other photo management programs do.  But what the beta has done seems to have been worse. Gone is the left hand tag list. The only way to tag photos is to select the photo and start typing a descriptive tag.

    I like that the textfield is used as a search for previously assigned tags.  As you type a tag, old tags start showing up in a dropdown menu that you can select.: i.e. type "butter" and the existing tag "butterfly" would shown up. It would have been better if as soon as you place your text cursor in the "Add descriptive tags" textfield, ALL of your tags showed up to allow you to select from.

    2) I have no idea how to modify an existing tag. Let's say, I have tagged 1000 photos with the typo'd tag "gitl", but I really meant to name the tag "girl". Previously I could modify the tag in the tag list and that would modify ALL of the photos with that tag. Now I am hard pressed how to modify the tag w/o doing it in a round about way.

    3) I am also dismayed that there is no easy way to make a "descriptive tag" into a "people tag". I have 1000s of photos that I tagged before Photo Gallery allowed people tags. Now that there is a people tag feature, I wish there was an easy way to let the program know which descriptive tags are people tags.

    Perhaps there are ways to do what I want and I am just still unfamiliar with the software. I am still evaluating the software.

  • Eddie
    2 Posts

    I liked it a lot!!! You've done an excellent job!!  Perhaps the only thing I didn't like is that there's no integration with Twitter, which I use a lot. (And I guess a lot of people as well) Still, I found it good and it runs smoothly! Keep on surprising us ;)

  • PS--- One more Messenger grievance... ALWAYS REMEMBER WINDOW SIZE AND POSITION AND OPTIONS WHEN TRANSITIONING FROM basic conversation view to Webcam view and back again!! I am sick and tired of having to resize the window every time I restart a video call, and even more irritating is when I have to reshow the conversation view. Remember the last settings! PLEASE?!

  • So far I'm really liking Live Mail and Live Writer. I'm having no trouble with them thus far. Gallery improvements are really nice, but as others have said it could definitely use some spit and polish on the performance of it. Don't use Movie Maker much, to be honest and would prefer something along the lines of WavePad Sound Editor be added for 2012+.

    Anyway, Messenger... oh yes, Messenger. FB synced status updates are definitely NOT working right now, and I absolutely HATE HATE HATE the new webcam call having the conversation on the LEFT side of the video feeds. LOVE the new video feeds, EXCEPT the overlay controls for speaker/microphone mute should NOT be hidden. Make them always-visible buttons, because unless you're adventurous (like I am) and click everything, they're not discoverable. Also, you guys MUST create some "Themes" that don't look like they're designed for kids! Seriously. Quit hiding the conversation scroll bars! You don't do that anywhere else in the entire suite, why do it here? Everything you choose to hide for the sake of "clutter" you make more difficult for the users who are click-a-phobes. But that brings me to the last point... the Smartscreen Filter is an absolutely AWESOME idea... enable it by default, I completely support that. BUT... for the love of all things right in the world, give those of us with half a brain or more the option to shut it off so we aren't being treated like idiots.

    Thanks for listening, and in spite of my ranting about Messenger, I really really enjoy the entire suite! :) Great work so far! Keep it up!

  • Where on Windows Live Solutions Center should we repost thoughts on the Betas?

  • Michael
    3 Posts

    Still playing around with this, but there does seem to be a few problems.  The install was troublesome on 3 out of 4 computers I installed it on, all of them Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit.  Speaking of 64-bit, it's a shame Microsoft is not taking the lead in making their software 64-bit.  I cannot stand the Bing Tool Bar, the WL toolbar was better, and the Bing bar is using far too much memory (mswinext).  Please, don't lecture me on this being a "beta", I am well aware of that, and I have participated in so many Microsoft betas I have lost count of the projects.  But, there are some serious performance and memory issues with several of the programs.  I am very disappointed with Live Sync and what happened to Live Mesh, and it is absolutely nuts about the Live Sync limit of 2GB with SkyDrive, that makes no sense at all.... none.  You guys have some work to do, and better start with the install issues I have seen reported and experienced.  I appreciate the free software, but Microsoft can do better, and it must.

  • For anyone looking to report bugs with the new Windows Live Essentials betas - please do so via http://windowslivehelp.com.

  • I downloaded the apps again and so far all apps opening and the primary functions are working.  Not sure what the original download issues were.

  • mbadsey
    9 Posts

    while it great a few improvements could stil be done, one the MSN image viewer...the one that is loaded to view facebook photos should be the one that is used when viewing photos all round the OS not just on facebook, because its alot nicer and is brilliant because it works well with W7, but  if not its a waste other wise, next is the MSN tabs. there horrible, i think your wasting space on the title bar, how about the tabs go there, more focus on the convo and not the un-styled tabs that look like it has been added on via a plugin

  • can't open Live Writer as the app crashes before I can open it.  Is anyone else having the same issue?  I had to manually uninstall  the previous live sync before I could the new live sync.  I might try to re-install the beta.  I understand this is a beta, but the apps should at least operate their primary functions.

  • Jagannath
    11 Posts

    I understand that it's a Beta product. But, make sure that the performace improves dramatically by the time you release the final version. Right now, Photo gallery is a resource hog.

  • @Brandon LeBlanc - So it's working for you, when you enter something in the social box, it update your Facebook status. Just restarted and stuff. Still not changing :(

    Also, this has a big laggy thing. It does not pull many Facebook feeds. Like loads of friends just posted updates. And only a few fanpages were showing in Messenger -_-

  • Windows Live Sync Beta doesn't sync hidden folders. However this would be a great feature since we use Live Sync to share svn code archives within the developer group. Will this be implemented in the final version? ...or do we have to search for some alternative applications? ;-)

  • Drazick
    16 Posts

    I hope you'll implement an feature of Microsoft Pro Photo Tools into Live Photo Gallery.

    The Geotagging using Bing Maps, Full control over the EXIF, ITPC etc...

    The same fields we have there basically.

  • @barts2108 - the new Windows Live Essentials *are* betas at the moment. This is not the final release.

    @PcBoyGeorge - after connected Facebook to your Messenger Social, give it a before and try again. I'm on the beta and not seeing this behavior.

  • Grant.
    2 Posts

    Have you noticed that the message title font in the message list is larger than in previous versions? And that conservations are merely grouped if they have the same subject but not necessarily the same recipients?

  • I'm still playing around with it, but what I think if not in this one, then the next one (wave 5) would be to integrate the settings and options with in the same window.  Meaning you open up your settingfs for the program its in the same window. No need for a pop up or what have you

  • barts2108
    65 Posts

    BUGS ? and that's called a release ? .... must be some kind of beta version so that you guys can find the bugs for MSFT (again !!)

  • Raphzs
    12 Posts

    All the programs are had really great improvements! The only one that i'm facing some bugs is the Messenger, but as it is a Beta version, i can normally deal with it. Here is my opinion about Messenger for the next public realease:

    - Improve the visal interface: it's too white, the collor of the background in the bottom of the window could change when changing the main theme, as in the earlier version (2009); The pictures in the conversation windows are too next to the borders, it looks like it's missplaced;

    - Fix the "Share something new" baloon (at least I can't change it through Messenger);

    - Add the "Show what I'm listening to" option in the main window;

    - Add the possibility of easily changing the nickname throught the main Messenger windows as in any other version;

    - Include that little* red mark over the status icon of the people who are blocked. I'm really having some problems on distinguishing who are blocked and who are not...

  • I have a bug to report here. In Windows Live Photo Gallery.

    Once you start WLPG everything seems ok, but my fans started on high and I checked task manager to find out that it was using 50% of my CPU along with DLLHOST.EXE. This needs to be fixed before final release. Please pass it on?

  • just downloaded and installed it.  I can't create a new email or reply from an email in Windows Live Email as an error message pops up.  Also in Live Sync I can't sycn my favorites.  Not too sure on the stability of this beta.

  • The only bad thing about this is the bug. That when you update the social box at the top. It does NOT change your Facebook status even though you have Facebook Synced :(

    Also the main (Nickname) thing you have. Does not change/you can't change it. And everyone using the Stable 2009 version can see what it is and you can't change it :(