But we can already do most of this stuff in ways that are familiar, comfortable, and convenient.
The suite delivers a group of applications that lets you access Hotmail and other e-mail accounts. It also includes a messenger application and photo sharing. It's got an elaborate search engine, blogging tools, and free password-protected online storage.
The free storage is a nice touch. But other than that, don't we already have most of this stuff neatly arranged on our desktops?
To take a test drive you'll need to download and install the app from get.live.com/wl/all, then get a Windows Live ID (or use an existing one), which also functions as an email address. (If you already have a Hotmail, MSN or Messenger email address, this serves as your Windows Live ID.)
Now let's look at the integrated instant messaging client in the suite, Windows Live Messenger, which was recently re-released to mesh comfortably with the WindowS Vista OS. The new version includes spiffed-up emoticons and a new look for application images. A "roaming identity" capability carries the user's name and personal image from one computer to another. Users can send messages to a friend's mobile phone
Messenger also has button linking users to a seemingly random array of services. Xbox updates, eBay, online dating, GoPets' digital puppy farm ? all these buttons and more are unobtrusively displayed via a thin bar down the left side of the screen, so that's okay. Then again, why exactly are they here at all?
Then there is Windows Live Mail, which has a simultaneity feature that we like. Hotmail is available in the same window as our Yahoo! account, so that switching from one account to another is effortless.
But in testing we experienced issues with using our Yahoo! account through Windows Live Mail. We were able to see our Inbox, junk, and trash folders, but the Saved folder and all of our other custom folders were mysteriously absent. If they are available through Live Mail, they are extremely well concealed.
Worth playing around with is the Windows Live Mail photo email option. Composing in this mode (accessed through the New button) will bring up a visual catalog of My Pictures virtually instantaneously. Click on a photo, and it's immediately placed in the email. No waiting for an attachment to attach itself, even with multiple pictures.
This is what we like to see ? a formerly time-consuming function steamlined ? but something not seen often enough in the Windows Live Suite.
One quick note on this function, though; in use your recipient will see a discreet one-line plug for Windows Live Mail at the bottom of the message. Well, nothing is ever really free.
Next page: More Windows Live Features