Windows Live team has released new betas for several Windows Live applications over the weekend: Windows Live Messenger 8.5, Windows Live Mail and Windows Live Writer. All three are now available for download.
Windows Live Messenger 8.5
Windows Live Messenger 8.5 presents a brand new look-and-feel that's more in tone with Windows Vista, featuring new Windows Live UI that complete with Aero support, Messenger 8.5 beta also includes improved compatibility for Windows Vista. While this update largely affects the back-end, it also adds several new emoticons.
As was discovered from the leaked build a few days back, there is some hidden Windows Live Folders promotion within Messenger 8.5.
Another change is that Messenger 8.5 features Windows Live OneCare Family Safety integration. This allows parents to control their children's access to Windows Live Messenger, both signing in and adding new contacts. Parents wanting to give this a try can access this functionality by logging into OneCare Family Safety, clicking the "Edit Settings" button and scrolling to the bottom of the page for the Allowed applications (Beta) section.
You can expect performance enhancements in there as well.
Windows Live Mail
As mentioned before, Windows Live Mail is the successor to Windows Mail in Windows Vista (and Outlook Express on Windows XP). Windows Live Mail is also the successor to previous betas of Windows Live Mail desktop. It sports a brand new UI that more aligned with what's being adopted across Windows Live. Windows Live Mail will allow syncing with Windows Live Hotmail, serving as a client-to-service bridge. The first beta of Windows Live Mail will offer:
- Offline mail
- Windows Live Hotmail account aggregation
- Additional account aggregation for POP3 and IMAP mail accounts
- RSS feed aggregation
- More advanced photo-sharing capabilities
- More advanced search via integration with Windows Desktop Search
- Additional safety measures (AV scanning, anti-phishing, anti-spam protection across aggregated accounts for customers who do not have an AV product)
- Additional integration with Windows Live services including Windows Live Spaces
And, there will not be any graphical advertisements in Windows Live Mail at this time.
The main changes include:
- Updated UI - Windows Live Mail adopts the new Windows Live "Wave 2" UI with Aero support if you are running Windows Vista. If you are not using Aero or are using Windows XP, you get the non-glass UI. Weirdly though, of the two UIs it is the non-glass one that more closely matches the Messenger 8.5 beta glass UI (no product name or orb in the glass UI and the standard Windows border cannot be hidden).
- No forced signin - Users can choose to add a Windows Live ID to the application for sign-in however this is optional. Some advanced features such as Photo Email and Windows Live Contacts cannot be used unless you are signed in to the application. (Tools - Options - Connection to enable/disable this feature)
- No advertising - ActiveSearch contextual ads continue to be tested for US users but can be disabled
- Improved performance and stability - always nice 🙂
Overall its a nice update from the last Windows Live Mail desktop beta build, performance is much better and there are less freezes when you use the application. However if you are thinking about trying the RSS reader again and have anymore than a handful of feeds, let me save you the trouble.
Windows Live Writer
Windows Live Writer is a tool for composing blog posts and publishing them on several of the web's biggest blogging platforms (such as Windows Live Spaces, Community Server, WordPress, and TypePad). Windows Live Writer allows for custom plug-ins to be installed from Windows Live Gallery that extend its publishing abilities amongst blogging platforms. Today's new beta of Windows Live Writer comes with features like inline spell checking, the ability to add categories, table editing and easier image insertion. Windows Live Writer’s new beta will be available in the following markets: US (English), US (Spanish), India (English), UK, Spain, Germany, Japan, China and France.
Remember, these applications being released today are betas and not final versions. You can submit feedback on any of the betas at feedback.live.com.
Today saw the much anticipated release of the next version of Windows Live Writer having seen no new builds since November. This new release comes as part of three Windows Live updates, which are Messenger, Mail and Writer, which means not only the new Windows Live UI that we saw in previous screenshots, but also an attempt to give it a more Vista feel to it, as shown straight away with the transparent splash screen:
Once the program has loaded we get the first view of the new UI, and if you haven't seen any of the previous screenshots, the new UI is quite different to the original beta:
The new features includes:
- Adding new categories/tags;
- Inline spell checking;
- Support for creating tables;
- Support for excerpts and extended entries (unfortunately not in Community Server though)
- Sharepoint 2007 support
- Plugins become automatically enabled after installation, even if Writer is running
- Service specific features within the UI (a button to take you to your Windows Live Spaces' Stats page, for example):
- Probably the biggest new "feature" this time round is it's available in 6 different languages: English, Spanish, German, French, Japanese and Chinese.
- A nice easy way to get to Windows Live Gallery to add more plugins (if you get an error when going to gallery, or can't see the writer section as an option, read instructions on how to get them enabled).
What Else Is New?
- Post synchronisation - this is where you post using Writer, then edit the post using your blog form, then re-open the post in Writer. Writer will synchronize the updated content so you aren't overwriting the edits you made online;
- Link Glossary - A place you can put your most regularly used links. You get this from the options window and clicking on Link Glossary, once you have some in there, access them in your blog entry by clicking the hyperlink button, then Link to, Glossary entry, then choose your entry;
- Preferences for window management:
- You can now have more than just 5 plugins showing in the Insert section, in fact, you're only limit for how many you can have is the size of your screen;
- High DPI / High Contrast support;
- The team have also tried to ensure that you see less of those "Temporary posts" for getting the blog style.
So what about problems that have been reported? What bug fixes are there? These include:
- When posting images to Windows Live Spaces, Writer no longer overwrites images with the same name, each blog entry has its own folder (on the MS servers) like how the other blog providers are done;
- Hyperlink dialog now works for images;
- Images are no longer re-upload every time you edit your post (only if the image changes).
These are things that I'm hoping will be in the next version:
- The ability to rename images within the blog entry (for example if you paste a screenshot in, I might want to give it a meaningful filename);
- A British spell checker (ok, a spell checker for other markets too);
- More APIs;
- Support for podcasting (think on10.net);
- More support for inline stylesheets;
- Reduce blurring in images when pasting an image (like a screenshot) straight into Writer.