Windows Live Messenger full or compact view—you decide

Windows Live Messenger full or compact view—you decide

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For over ten years now, instant messaging applications have shared a common user interface pattern – a slim window with your contact list in it that you can keep docked on the side of your screen. This makes it easy to keep the window open without taking up too much screen space. Because really, all you’ve ever needed from instant messaging is a list of friends, which allows you to launch popup conversation windows.

With the new Windows Live Messenger, we are expanding that paradigm and introducing what we call “full view” – an expanded mode of Messenger that allows you to access rich media and updates from your social networks, MSN, and more. This view doesn't replace the more traditional “compact view” of your contacts. Rather, it is available in addition to that view, and you can switch between views at any time using the view switch control:

view switch control
Switch views with this button

Full view – designed for social networking users

Introduction of the new "full view" acknowledges the growing importance of social networking for many users. We believe people want an always-available “social dashboard” at their fingertips, to help them stay in touch with the people they care about most. This is a window that we expect you'll want to come back to several times a day. In fact, for those of you who choose to automatically start Messenger when you log into Windows, this may become the first window you see each day.

Full view

Messenger in full view

As you can see, we’ve also incorporated the latest headlines and news from MSN (see “MSN” next to “Social” at upper-left), so you can start your day with the news or weather if you like. And soon we’ll be adding social games from Xbox LIVE here as well.

Compact view – designed for IM purists

We're very proud of the new Messenger full view, and we hope many of you will find a place for it in your lives. However, we know that this new view will not work for everyone. Some of us don’t care about social networking, don’t feel the need for a social networking “reader”, or simply don’t want any window to take up too much room unless summoned to do so.

So, we designed the new “compact view” with IM purists in mind. Our goal with this view was to remove distractions and focus purely on IM (and no, we could not afford to remove the ad, thanks for asking Smile). As you can see, this new design is very clean, and focuses on your list of contacts:

Compact view

Messenger in compact view

Compact view shows more friends than in the previous Messenger design, even when you choose to show user tiles. This is because we removed the Wave 3 “social ticker” that used to sit below the contact list, in order to focus this view on what it is really good at – seeing your friends.

As a bonus feature, we’ve made it so that if you drag the edge of the compact view window horizontally, you can make the compact view wider, so you see multiple columns of contacts. This is super handy for those of us with very large contact lists. If you maximize the window on a large monitor you can see five or more columns of friends!*

Compact view, two columns

Compact view, scaled up to 2 columns

Combined with tabbed conversation windows, compact view is designed to ensure that the new Messenger meets the needs of hard-core IM users, even if they are not interested in the new full view.

You are always in control

Of course, you have complete control over which view you use, and can switch views at any time.

Messenger will not only remember which view you prefer, but also whether you were looking at the Social, MSN, or Xbox LIVE page in full view, and where you like each view to sit on your screen. So for example, you might want to start your day by catching up on the latest from MSN in full view, with the window centered on your screen, but then you might want to collapse it down to compact view and move it to the corner of your screen as you work on other things throughout your day. Messenger will remember these positions independently, so you can arrange your setup just the way you like it.

We've designed the new Messenger to be flexible enough to fit your daily routine, and we're excited to hear what you think as you try it out in the coming weeks.

- Piero Sierra
Group Program Manager, Windows Live Messenger & Mail

* Did you know? Our data shows that 30% of current Messenger users run it with the Messenger window maximized! Wave 3 Messenger doesn’t look very good when maximized, which is why we decided to add multi-column support for these users.

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  • Debbie
    3 Posts

    this is so great and awesomw but it don't surprise me that the Windows Live team would come out with something great. thanks!

  • I still don't understand why they remove such a feature as one-way webcam viewing

    I use one way webcam EXTENSIVELY and with multiple frenz as Video calls jus eat my band width, and i can't have two different calls going at the same time. If I could, I still wouldn't want to as it eats my bandwidth too much.

    This move is forcing us to compromise our once very happy time using Live messenger where multiple frenz could see my webcam; to know they have to stand in queue and wait to see if they get a chance to see the webcam.

    One way webcam is an excellent feature, and I suggest it be but back - if someone can relay that message - into the new version.

    I think it may have been taken out for different reasons, but I think it would be good to keep us happy and put the webcam feature back.

    I really wish to see what is going to happen when all users are given the instruction (that we always get) to upgrade before we can login. When that happens and the millions discover that their favourite feature is gone, I'm anticipating an uproar. Given, I bet large portion of them don't know how to log a complaint, and another portion may be comfortable with porting to Skype or something while ignoring Live, but there will be some to make it known that removing that feature is a mistake that grieves us.

    I check out the Beta and I gave my personal opinion about it @

    where I had posted this list


    - New Install interface

    - Sleek concept for main screen with the social integration

    - Video call seems to stream better( for me at least)

    - New sign in notification design (same old sounds)

    - Redesigned Emoticons (Winks are bundled under the same menu)

    - Tabbed messaging enabled by default

    - Selectively able to choose who can see u as online


    - The windows are wider

    - Some windows scale and stretch content

    - Message windows can’t be shrunk as far as the older version

    - Can’t “Share My Webcam.”  Video Call and Voice Call only

    - Pixel doubling in video calls are not as good as I expected

    - Message box disappears when someone calls me, then they have to send a message in order for me to see the type input field

    - Video over lays message box at times

    - Can’t personalise names and status messages (private messages) without affect your entire MSN Profile name

    - Can’t send offline messages if you are appearing offline

    - Can’t pull out tabs without going into the options menu

    although i mus add that the other programs in the suite are nice updates, Messenger is just going down the wrong road here in SOME regards.

    Give us back our Messenger we love please.

    Oh, and why isn't this update for XP. Do you know how many people,businesses, colleges and schools etc out there (esp. outside of U.S.) use XP? from what I can see (and i'm not Neilsen) alot more than I've seen of current versions of Windows.

  • I can't deal with your bad decision of deleting the option to prioritize views... 2010 and you can't let the user decide if they want a bigger contact list instead of a bigger updates feed? I loved that option in private betatesting phase and the wizard that asked me what WLM look I wanted the most the first time I sign in plus the option to toggle this everytime I want...

  • 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 ( 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.


  • kchiman
    3 Posts

    I have just tried new WLM, it should be WLM 2011 Beta.

    i found that i cannot change my display name since the name is attrached to Live Profile. I think it is really really bad... since i use my real name in my live profile but i am always using my nickname in msn (WLM) display name...

    Actually, this change made me system restore at once in order to get back my WLM 2010.

    I can say that... without custom display name, most of Hong Kong users will not upgrade to wlm 2011 once it releases.

    (OR I just miss something and dunno how to change it by myself?)

  • GBK
    38 Posts

    @Omar Yes exactly.  say I have 40 Messenger contacts but I only want 20 of them to see my Facebook social activity. Unless I missed it I was only seeing "Friends" under the privacy options that listed the original 40 contacts.

  • @GBK, I want to know if I'm understanding what you are asking for. You would like to limit the activities being imported into Windows Live from say Facebook to a subset of your friends on Windows Live?

  • GBK
    38 Posts

    Great Job on the software.  I do have a suggestion. In connecting to other social networks say facebook.  Currently the default (privacy settings) is to allow anyone in your network of friends to see whatever you want   the question or suggestion I have is if someone is in my messenger contact list that doesn't automatically make them a "Friend" that I wish to have visibility to all the social networks connected.  Is it possible to specify individual contacts rather than a blanket Friends when you connect to a social network like Facebook??  ie. I have messenger contacts but neither they nor I have the inclination to have them view my facebook posts and activities.

  • Kevin
    2 Posts

    Tried out the new Windows Live Messenger today. Love everything but want to point out two things. At least in my installation, there is no paste functionality in the posting window. And also, I agree it needs two way Twitter integration which I already saw addressed here. Other than that, great job!

  • hysonmb
    6 Posts

    I like the idea of different views and hopefully having the full view will get rid of the need for the pop-up window on launch. I personally the dislike pop-up window and disable it as soon as I log into a new system.

    One more view that I would like to see is a fully collapsed, desktop gadget sized view. Better yet, a desktop gadget that calls the view we have selected as default. The smaller view in my mind would have tabs for any active converstations that would light up when an unread message was in. Another tab for subscribed Alerts, and another for news and information. One final tab for social networks that would be configurable to light up when certain user defined criteria are met (like a post from a certain person or group). Something like this would have to have a ton of options so a Basic and Advanced setting view for different users too.

    This may be a lot to jam into a gadget, but, I think it would be a nice continuance of the multiple view options.

  • Features i would love:

    When someone sends me an IM and i am in another program i want a small preview box with the message text in it, like you get with outlook when a new email arrives.

    It drives me nuts have you click between apps when chatting. I have a 24inch monitor, what i would like is too be able to dock the chat window in the right side of the screen, then all other apps will not obscure it. This should be very easy in windows 7 as the snap feature does some of these things but its fiddly to arrange the windows.

    Can we please have tabbed chats? Msgplus has had this for years.

    Security with files transfer. I am an MS developer so not a complete idiot. It really annoys me when messenger blocks certain file types. And no i don't want to scan my files either. Please have a setting to overide these security options for users who know what they are doing.


  • @jcafarley - I'll follow up with the Hotmail team.

  • >> 30% of current Messenger users run it with the Messenger window maximized!

    So it's not just a saying that most PC users are stupid. Sometimes I wonder how people are able to connect to the internet.

  • @Piero Sierra  My Hotmail account hasn't lapsed or expired and my credit card is up to date, it's not due for renewal until September this year.  I'm seeing ads on the right hand side and on the bottom left.  They appeared recently when Wave 4 was supposed to be being rolled out for Hotmail.  However, the only change I've experienced is the addition of adverts but no Wave 4 features :(

  • Personally I'd like to see support for Multi-user login, so I can be signed in with both my work and private account (but able to turn one of the other off when needed - like sign out of work profile when not working).

    I'd still like to have more customizatoin of the UI. I'd like to get rido if the search bar and the gunk right on top of it, as well as the icons below the contacts. I never use them, and its a waste of space, and makes the layout too noisy.

    As you said, the compact view is for IM purists, so I just need quick access to the user, so all I need is to be able to dbl click the name.

    Actually why don't you allow us to skin it? We could share skins online and people could download skins and rearrange stuff to their content (a shame it's not a WPF app, since the templating support there would have been awesome)

  • ANC
    3 Posts

    @Piero Sierra

    Are there any updates regarding the 'call' function?


  • mbadsey
    9 Posts

    a few days sounds better, i do hope the tabs have been "elegantly" done and not just hammered into place to shut users up, also, how come Windows Live Essentials does not use the OS element library , maybe its "WPF" as stated in the comments, because this don't add consistency if you don't use the Operating System elements.

  • Nater
    147 Posts

    @ Piero:  RE: WPF, no, Messenger is not built in WPF.

    Why not?  It would actually look better, and it may give you guys a chance to actually get rid of that ad frame.

  • sunco
    26 Posts

    @Pierro sorry, i was thinking on new releases (Wave 5..) with WPF.. is about time. Since Wave 3 (where some of us were butteflies) we think about Wave 4 on WPF. And thanks about the Jabber/XMPP news

  • imgif
    2 Posts

    can't want

    when is the public beta roll out in Hong Kong?

  • @mbadsey - I should have said "in the next few days" :)

    @sunco - You can of course maximize the conversation window.  But many users do in fact maximize the contact list.  RE: WPF, no, Messenger is not built in WPF.

    @mbadsey - the tab visuals are improved from that screenshot, but still a very simple and unpretentious design.  One change we made from this picture is that if you only have one conversation open, you do not see a tab.  Tabs only appear when you open the second conversation, which keeps things very clear in the default case.  We have also consolidated *all* chat commands into one toolbar near the text field, which we think is a lot more elegant and intutive.

    @Asade / James Manes - the point of this post is to point out that the new social features are not for everyone.  Your comments make it clear that you agree.  :)  We do think that many users will find the social features of the new Messenger compelling, but of course whenever you try something new there is a chance that it will not resonate with everyone - hence the options described in this post.

    @Oscar - It is very surprising to us that users run Wave 3 Messenger full-screen, yet we have telemetry and anectodal data that says this is true, especially in certain markets.  As you say, it's mostly whitespace.  Hopefully the new design, when maximized, will feel better.

    @Hugh - Any specific features you would like to see that Google / GMail / GTalk have?  Wave 4 is a super comprehensive release with tons of features, some flashy and some very practical.  We think we stack up well vs. the competition but of course until you guys try it out for yourselves, it's hard to know.

    @jcafarley - We support pushing your Twitter activities out to your friends, so you will in fact see Twitter updates in the experience.  We are talking to Twitter and several other partners about deeper two-way integration.  Nothing to report at this time.  About your Hotmail Plus account, where excctly are you seeing ads, and are your sure your account hasn't expired?

    @MarcoIsAFool - The beta will be available in a few days, and when it is will not have a scale limit and will scale very fast (if history is any indication.)  So your prediction should be off by a few million users right off the bat.  As for Jabber/XMPP - as previously announced we are working on Facebook chat integration, which we do via XMPP.  This feature will not be on for the Beta, but will be turned on shortly afterwards.  Once this is working we can work on connecting to other partners via this mechanism.

  • ... if you roll out Messenger as slow as the new Hotmail... (how many users have the new interface? 5? 6?). You guys should have added real Jabber/XMPP support. But I think Microsoft will never listen to its users (just like Google and Yahoo)... glad there's (still) AOL out there.

  • Thom
    31 Posts

    I'm loving the two different views and it's great to see you respecting the different needs of users. I can see myself starting off in social view and then switching to compact after my initial scan of what's new.

    I could see this replacing Tweetdeck for my Social reader. I love how the latest Windows Live profile features sync my facebook and messenger life

    @jcafarley You can connect twitter to your live profile and it will then show up in messenger. Just go to

  • I really like the idea of this, but it doesn't connect with Twitter, which makes it kind of useless to me.

    I'd also like to know why my Hotmail Plus account is suddenly showing ads all the time.

  • Hugh
    3 Posts

    Great improvements! However I'm also expecting some more not-cool but useful features so I don't need to use those Google stuff and don't need to switch amongst a lot of different client applications either.

  • Oscar
    1 Posts

    Yes! I don't understand why everybody I know use windows live messenger contact list in fullscreen and they get angry when I restore it. It's the same. But they just like to see that white empty space covering 3/4 of the screen.

  • @remain Thanks again for further feedback. We are reviewing our design for possible solutions with this issue. is where we collect and monitor user feedback about Windows Live and you can designate the feedback to specific team with the dropdown menu.

  • Also, I will pay money for messenger if you get rid of that ad. I kid you not.

  • fdm
    2 Posts

    when is the beta for this version gonna be out?


  • When will we be able to test/use the WLM-10?

  • Can't Wait!!!

  • Definitely the compact.

    If i wanted facebook i would just open my browser >.>

    I think live messenger should stop focusing so much on copying facebook and make something new. Or else you will lose to messenger plus again

  • mbadsey
    9 Posts

    also the tabbed browsing..  i have seen screenshots of them (maybe in leaked Screenshots) and have to say if they look like they did then its awful and looks like a massive UI failure as they seem like a amateurs job of integration and the last time i check you guys and girls are professional ................right ?

    screenshot of tab(s)

  • remain
    9 Posts


    In the previous blog entry entitied "Hotmail respects your inbox," I made a post to report a bug in the Web-based Messenger interface that is integrated into Windows Live pages.

    Here was a post:


    <<I approve, like I imagine pretty much all Hotmail users out there.

    By the way, I have a fairly major bug to report for the new Windows Live, particularly regarding the web-based Messenger that is now integrated into any Windows Live page.

    If you sign in on the web-based Messenger, and then you navigate away from the page, whether it be going to a non-Windows Live page or just plain closing the window, you will keep appearing online to others.

    And the worst is, if people send you messages while you're in this 'false' online state, you will NEVER get these messages. No, they will NOT be received by you when you get on Messenger (web-based or client) next time, unlike offline messages.

    This is fairly serious, I think, since this would mean people would see you as online, and send you messages, and expect that you actually received them. But you didn't and NEVER WILL.

    I know this is not the place to report bugs, and this is quite off-topic to this blog post, but I really do hope this will be fixed very soon, as I find it to be a very huge flaw.

    Thank you very much.

    P.S.: By the way, where would be the correct place to report such issues or bugs?>>


    Hisun Kim responded to my post with the following:

    <<@remain Thanks for your feedback. There's 2 minutes window we keep a user logged in when hethey just navigates away without explicitly signing out from Messenger, for the user's own error correction and smooth perf in short comeback. We will keep an eye on this issue for those unexpected side effects as you observed.>>

    Thank you for the reply.

    I understand the idea behind the 2-minute window. In fact, I suspected that this was the reason for it, since a user might keep navigating from page to page, so you'll see the user go online-offline-online-offline constantly.

    However, I do believe that 2 minutes is MUCH too long of a window. ESPECIALLY when the user has completely left Windows Live pages. This is worsened by the fact that this also means that for 2 minutes, this user's friends will be sending messages that will VANISH into thin air and never be received. EVER. And they will not know about it at all.

    I sincerely hope that the team that develops and maintains the online interface will try to fix this as soon as possible.

    The Web interface of Messenger is already live right now, and soon, it will be live in Hotmail as well, meaning millions of users will be using it.

    This issue could mean MILLIONS of unsent messages from MILLION of unaware people.

    Thank you for your time and attention.

    P.S.: I apologize once again for the slightly off-topic post. I really do not know where to submit this kind of feedback. If someone can tell me the appropriate place to submit this kind of feedback straight to the developers, please feel free to do so.

  • sunco
    26 Posts

    I think people want to maximize the conversation window, not the contact list. Is what i see on the few people that use that way. Hope new stuff uses WPF.. don't know why then is there since XP SP2

  • mbadsey
    9 Posts

    I thought this would be out on the 24th / 25th ?.. as you said "as you try it out in the coming weeks." is not true because i can wait to try it .. how ever i hope webcam works since the no one way webcam has now killed it on msn so i cannot use webcam at all,

  • Awesomeness :)