The Window Live Essentials 2011 suite by Microsoft includes free products for mail, photos, instant messaging, movies, writing and more. It was in beta for the last few months but now it has been released officially, and Microsoft started pushing it through Windows update recently.
This article will give an overview of what’s there to explore in this latest edition of Live Essentials and how to install the programs. In the coming weeks, we’ll publish various guides and tutorials related to these programs in order to make the most out of this suite of free tools.
Note: Windows Live Essentials 2011 requires that you have Vista service pack 2 or a higher version of Windows. There are also some other system requirements which we have mentioned at the end of this article.
How to Install Windows Live Essentials 2011
So, lets start with the installation. There are two ways to install this tool.
1. Using Windows Update
By now, Live essentials should have appeared as one of the automatic updates that Windows installs regularly on your computer. If you have your Windows updates set to automatic download and install then you might already have this program installed on your PC. You can check it by going to the start search bar and typing Windows Live Essentials, Windows Mail etc. If you find them there, it means you have it.
2. Using the Live Essentials Website
You can of course download it from the Live Essentials site. And the good thing about doing it this way is that you can choose the products you want to install. In case of installation through Windows updates, I found that it doesn’t let you choose and just installs all of them at one go.
Once you download and the run the tool, you’ll get the following window.
It will then let you select the programs you want to install. You could uncheck the ones you don’t need. If you already have a previous version of any of those programs installed, the installer would update them.
Clicking on install would start the process. It takes a few minutes to get everything up and running.
That was about the installation. After you are through with it, you should find the products you selected in the “All Programs” list in your start menu.
What does Live Essentials 2011 include?
Now lets talk about the various products in the Live Essentials 2011 suite. It’s a great collection of programs really. Each serves a different purpose and is useful in its own right. Lets check them out.
Windows Live Messenger
Windows Live Messenger is the instant messaging tool that lets you connect with people and chat with them online. It’s an advanced IM tool that combines social networking and HD (high definition) video chat. You could also share photos and videos while chatting, send video messages and do much more.
Windows Live Photo Gallery
The Windows Live Photo Gallery 2011 is a powerful photo organization tool that can help you effortlessly import photos from all kinds of devices and then organize them efficiently. Edit photos, add various effects, create slideshows, panoramic photos and movies out of them and quickly publish them on sites like Facebook and Flickr.
Windows Live Movie Maker
Windows Live Movie Maker, as the name suggests, helps you make movies. You can add your photos and videos and create a nice movie complete with sounds, special effects, captions etc. Editing the movies is not that difficult either, and sharing your movies across social sites like Facebook and YouTube is an option too.
Windows Live Mesh
Windows Live Mesh 2011 is a useful backup and sync tool for Windows PCs that can keep your important files and folders in sync with your online SkyDrive account. You get free 5 GB storage on SkyDrive, which isn’t much but enough to backup a large number of word documents, text files and images.
Windows Live Writer
Let me start by saying that I am not a big fan of the latest version of Live Writer included in Live Essentials 2011. Being a long time user of this tool (I am writing this article in Live Writer), I expected something better. Having said that, I want to mention that no other tool comes close to the capabilities and features of Windows Live Writer as an offline blog editor. So, if you are a blogger and use Windows, this is a must-have tool.
Windows Live Mail is a great tool for those who want to use a desktop email client but don’t have Outlook, and don’t like Thunderbird. You can use this tool to manage multiple email accounts, organize conversations and do a lot more.
Outlook Connector Pack
The Outlook Connector Pack in Windows Live Essentials Suite has the Hotmail connector for Outlook and social connector for Live messenger. It makes things easier if you use a Hotmail/Windows Live email account as your primary email address.
Bing Bar is the toolbar for your browser that incorporates some key features of Bing, Microsoft’s flagship search engine (and the second most popular too). It’s a must-have for those who prefer Bing to Google for their searching needs.
And finally, the Windows Live Essentials 2011 installer will also install Microsoft Silverlight, the platform required for a lot of web based tools (most of them being Microsoft’s) to run. It’s like Adobe Flash, which, as most of you know, is used to run web videos (most of them).
That was about what Windows Live Essential 2011 suite from Microsoft had to offer. As mentioned earlier, we’ll talk more about each of them in the coming weeks, so stay tuned!