Well it's taken a while to get here, but it looks like Windows Live is becoming a better defined and somewhat unified set of services. Of course there's still a lot of work left to do, but today's debut of the Windows Live Suite and unified installer is definitely a big step in the right direction. So lets jump right in:
Finding and installing Windows Live Services is the first improvement noticeable in the Windows Live suite. This Jump into Windows Live page, at http://get.live.com/wl/all, offers links to many of the Windows Live offerings, and most importantly, a link to the unified installer. From there, you'll be able to select which products you want to install, and load them all up with one installation:
WLInstaller.exe (Build 1320.0823) is a 1.72mb download, that then checks your computer for previous installations of Windows Live programs, and then updates or installs the ones you've selected. On my main computer, with the sign-in Assistant, Live Mail, Writer, and Messenger installed already with earlier versions, from start to finish the installation took 15 minutes over a broadband connection. For my newly paved laptop with no Windows Live services installed, the installation time was just a bit shorter. Of course these times will vary greatly depending on your machine and your connection.
What's new: All of the main Windows Live applications are upgraded to previously unavailable new builds, although it depends on which programs you use as to how much the applications have changed. Windows Live Messenger is now 8.5.1228.816, and not much has changed in terms of UI, according to the MessengerSays blog:
If you downloaded our Beta 1 build, you may not think that much has changed. While the look and feel is almost the same, we listened to your feedback and fixed many of the top issues reported by our customers. THANK YOU to all of our beta testers who reported issues.
Windows Live Mail (Build 12.00.1365) looks much the same, as well, with a few UI improvements. The Live Mail blog has quite a list of improvements, however, including:
- List View for contacts, and contacts import/export improvements
- Toolbar customization
- Quick Views
- Improved Layout Dialog options
- Change your sign in account
- Photo E-Mail updates
- Newsgroup updates
- ..and bug fixes
see the Windows Live Mail blog for more details.
Windows Live Writer (12.0.1277.816) has made bigger improvements from beta 2, with a number of the photo manipulation issues (fuzzy pictures, placing photos into the previous blog entry in short blog posts) seem to have been resolved. According to the Live Writer blog:
Some highlights of this release:
- Insert videos using our new 'Insert Video' dialog
- Upload images to Picasaweb when publishing to your Blogger blog
- Publish XHTML-style markup
- Use Writer in 28 additional languages
- Print your posts
- Justify-align post text
- Better image handling (fewer blurry images)
- Resolved installation issues from last release
- Many other bug fixes and enhancements
For those of you using the managed beta only Windows Live Photo Gallery, the improvements there are much more noticeable. Of course the first thing to notice is that WL Photo Gallery is now available as a public beta. Brandon LeBlanc has a nice post on Windows Live Photo Gallery, I'll let him work through the details.
Since I haven't been using the Windows Live Toolbar, and they don't have a blog (do they?), I'll just say for now that it's build 3.01.0000.0130, and since I installed it with the suite we'll get back to it :).
First Impressions: Overall, we're making progress here. So far the biggest complaint has been lack of 64bit support, a common complaint about a lot of software, and a legitimate one. 64 bit support is coming, however, according to the release notes:
64-bit is not supported for Beta 2 — “Beta 2 does not support a 64-bit installation; however the final version of Windows Live will support 64-bit (with the exception of Family Safety). You have the choice of either continuing to run the Beta 1 versions of Windows Live or you can uninstall all Windows Live applications and reinstall the released versions. For more information see KB Article 938275.”
A thoroughly unscientific observation is that both Live Mail and Messenger load quite a bit faster than the previous versions I was using, and faster is always better.
There is also a somewhat unified approach to pointing to pointing to feedback.live.com for feedback, and while actually getting any response to your feedback there is spotty at best, at least it shows there is some unified strategy among the teams to coordinate efforts, which we applaud. There's also a new managed beta for the new stuff, for those that have access at Connect.Microsoft, Windows Live, Windows Live Installer, Windows Live Suite, Windows Live 2008, Beta, Features, Review