Windows Vista ships with Windows Contacts which consists of contact management features that are built into the Windows Shell. It stores your contacts as .contact files. If you go to your Start Menu and All Programs, you will see it listed there. The default behavior in Windows Vista is that if you are using Windows Mail as your email client, you can add contacts into your Windows Contacts directly from Windows Mail.
With Windows Live, your contacts between Windows Live Messenger, Windows Live Hotmail and the upcoming Windows Live Mail email client are all synced together and stored in the Windows Live “cloud”. Your Windows Live Contacts are your Messenger Buddies. You can subscribe to your Messenger Buddies contact information within Windows Live Messenger like a RSS feed where if they change their profile (and contact information) in Windows Live – you receive those changes automatically. Those changes are synced across Hotmail, Messenger and even on your Mobile Phone.
NOTE: I plan to cover the synchronization of data across the Windows Live services more in depth in a later post.
One of the questions I get is how can Windows Live Contacts work with Windows Contacts in Windows Vista?
All you need to do is log on to Windows Live Messenger. Go to “Options” and then click on “Security”. There you will see an option to “Encrypt contact list data so that it is not accessible outside Windows Live Messenger”. Uncheck it. You will probably need to log off and log back in.
Under Windows Contacts in Windows Vista, a new folder will appear under the name of the email address of your Windows Live ID you use to sign-in to Windows Live Messenger. So if you use email@example.com as your Windows Live ID – a folder called “firstname.lastname@example.org” will appear. Within that folder, your contacts from Windows Live will appear and the data for those contacts will be filled in. If you are getting automatic updates from many of your contacts, that information will be synced up into Windows Contacts from Windows Live Messenger. You might get contacts listed as “Name missing”. That means their name has not been entered under their contact information and you can go into Windows Live Messenger and manually enter their name yourself to correct the problem.
By default, Windows Live Messenger will be configured to encrypt your contact list for your safety. If you are using a public PC or a friend’s PC I highly recommend keeping your contact list encrypted. This is also not a supported scenario by the Windows Live Messenger Team and I cannot guarantee this will work correctly or not cause any problems with your Windows Live contact list. Please try at your own risk.