Windows Live–Free Productivity Tools for the Home

In my role at Microsoft I spend the majority of my time presenting and discussing enterprise productivity solutions to state and local government entities.  These solutions enable users to easily collaborate, share, and communicate with each other across vast distances.  Products in these solutions include Microsoft Office, Microsoft SharePoint Server, Microsoft Exchange, Office Web Apps, Lync, and Office 365.

At the conclusion of each presentation I ask the attendees if they are aware of Windows Live and the Windows Live Essentials suite; unfortunately the majority of the attendees answer no.  This is a bit disappointing since Windows Live and Windows Live Essentials provide consumers with a great suite of free productivity tools for the home.  I believe that Windows Live and Windows Live Essentials is one of the best kept secrets… and I want to break the silence!

I believe that Microsoft is the only company that is offering complete productivity solutions for both consumers and the enterprise.  We are not trying to shoehorn enterprise users into a consumer product and we are not taking our enterprise solutions and trying to strip them down for consumer use.

So what exactly is Windows Live Essentials and Windows Live?   Windows Live Essentials is a suite of productivity applications that can be downloaded and used for free.  Windows Live is a set of free online services to compliment the Windows Live Essentials suite.

Windows Live Essentials contains:

  • Messenger – A full featured instant messenger client that offers the ability to do web and voice chat.  Messenger is also integrated with your favorite social networking sites, including Facebook, so you can easily keep up on the latest updates from your friends.   You can also video chat with Xbox Kinect users!
  • Photo Gallery – A tool for organizing, touching up, and sharing your photos.  You can create stunning panoramas,movies and slideshows… and then publish them online.
  • Move Maker – Turn your photos and videos into polished movies that are easy to share.
  • Windows Live Mesh – Keep your photos,documents, internet favorites, office settings, and files in sync between computers and on SkyDrive.
  • Writer – A full featured authoring tool for writing blog posts.  Easily embed photos, videos and maps into your posts.  Works with all popular blogging engines.
  • Family Safety – Provides parents the ability to control and monitor what their children are doing on the computer.  Parents can enable web site filtering / blocking and can also decide what programs a child can run on the computer.
  • Mail – Manage multiple email accounts, calendars and contacts even when you are offline
  • Messenger Companion – See and comment on links your friends have shared as you visit websites with Internet Explorer
  • Bing Bar – Get search results from Bing without leaving the website you’re on
  • Outlook Connector Pack – Enables Microsoft Outlook to connect to Hotmail.
  • Microsoft Silverlight – Access rich, interactive websites that use the Silverlight browser plug-in

When you install Windows Live Essentials you choose which of the features above you wish to install.  You are not required to install the whole package and can pick and choose which features you want.  Visit the Windows Live Essentials 2011 site to download the installer.

Windows Live consists of the following free services:

  • Hotmail – Free personal email system that starts with 5GB of storage and grows as you need it.  Hotmail provides many tools that users come to expect including spam filtering, inbox organizers, conversation view, ability to view and edit office files, and enhanced security features.
  • Messenger Web – Chat with your friends using only a web browser.  Whenever you enter Hotmail you can see who is online and initiate a chat session right from your inbox.
  • SkyDrive – Your free storage place in the cloud.  Upload your files and photos so you can access them from anywhere at anytime.  You can also share and collaborate on files within your SkyDrive by setting permissions on individual files or folders.  SkyDrive provides you 25GB of free storage.  The Windows Live Mesh application which is part of the Windows Live Essentials suite can also automatically sync files from your local computer to your SkyDrive so you can have a safe backup and quick access to your files from any internet connected device.
  • Office Web Apps – This is a feature built into SkyDrive that allows you to create and edit Microsoft Office documents using only a web browser.  You can create or edit Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote files using Office Web Apps in SkyDrive.    Need to read or edit an Office document but don’t have Office installed?  Simply upload the file to SkyDrive and then you will be able to view and edit the file.   Also Office Web Apps on SkyDrive enables co-authoring of documents!   Quickly collaborate and create documents with your friends using the co-authoring features.
  • Profile – Windows Live Profile displays the latest information from your friends all in one location.  Profile is also the one place for everything about you.  It allows you to keep your personal information up to date while controlling your privacy.
  • Contacts – A full featured online address book that allows you to manage all of your Messenger and Hotmail contacts in one place.
  • Hotmail Calendar – Keep track of your busy days!  You can schedule appointments, meetings and special events.   You can also set reminders, sync multiple calendars and let others know when you will be available and when you will be busy.

Not only is Windows Live and Windows Live Essentials available on your PC and in a web browser, most of the functionality can also be used on your mobile devices! The new Windows Phone natively supports many of the Windows Live services including Calendaring, Hotmail and Instant Messaging.   If you don’t have a Windows Phone you can also get Messenger or Hotmail on your iPhone, BlackBerry, Android and Nokia devices

So with Windows Live and Windows Live Essentials you have a full set of free productivity tools for use in your home and personal life. If you haven’t tried Windows Live or Windows Live Essentials, try them now and let us know what you think!

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