What is Windows Live Essentials?
Do I need Windows Live Essentials? I was reading a page on the Microsoft website that recommends installing this package of add-ons, but for most of them I either don't understand it or can't see why I would need it. Can you explain what each of the Essential tools will do for me?
Do You Need Windows Live Essentials?
Windows Live Essentials is a suite of free applications developed by Microsoft, which includes software for parental controls, email handling, cloud storage, instant messaging, video editing, photo management, blogging and more.
Essentials can be downloaded in one archive package from the Windows Live Essentials website.
But are these tools really "essential" for all users? Read my description of each one below, then you can select which components to install, which to skip, and other alternatives to consider. Available components in Windows Live Essentials include:
Windows Live Family Safety: A parental controls program that includes Web site filtering, browser activity logging, "safe-search" filtering for Google, Bing, Yahoo! and other search engines; time limits; game restrictions based on industry rating systems; contact management to prevent children from communicating with unknown parties online; and an image filter that blurs images which seem inappropriate.
- Do You Need It? Probably not. Some parental control features are already present in Windows Vista and Windows 7. Click Start, Control Panel, User Accounts, then click "Set up Parental Controls" to see what's available. You can also find these monitoring, filtering and blocking options in your security suite (Norton, McAfee, etc.) or in products such as CyberSitter, NetNanny and CyberPatrol.
Windows Live Mail: The successor to Outlook Express and Windows Mail. This free email client works only with Windows Vista and Windows 7. Windows Live Mail supports non-Microsoft Webmail services; synchronization with Windows Live Contacts; RSS feeds; separate inboxes for different POP accounts; a calendar function; and other modern features.
- Do You Need It? No. Desktop email clients are so 1995. Web-based email services like Gmail, Yahoo Mail, and Hotmail make it easy to get your email without being tied on one computer, operating system, or hardware platform. They include contact management and calendaring features too. See my article Why You Should Dump Outlook and Windows Live Mail for more details on why you should use webmail.
Windows Live Mesh: A synchronization application for Vista, Windows 7 and Mac OS X 10.5 or later running on Intel platforms. Mesh allows synchronization of files between computers; sync with Microsoft's SkyDrive online storage service; remote access via the Windows Live Devices Web service; computer-to-computer synchronization of Internet Explorer and Microsoft Office settings.
- Do You Need It? Probably not. I find Microsoft's "cloud" offerings to be unnecessarily complicated. Something like the free DropBox service lets you share and sync files online with a simple drag and drop interface. Unless the browser and Office sync is important to you, skip this one.
Windows Live Messenger: Formerly MSN Messenger, this Microsoft instant messaging client works with Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows Mobile, Windows CE, Xbox 360, Blackberry OS, iOS, Java ME, S60 on Symbian OS 9.x and Zune HD. It uses Micrsoft's .NET Messenger Service.
- Do You Need It? No. Do people really still use dedicatd instant messaging clients? They're built into Gmail, Skype, Facebook and many other popular apps. And with all the tweets and texts flying around, I'm ready to declare this technology obsolete. (Oh, and can we please kill .NET soon, too?)
Windows Live Movie Maker: A video creation/editing platform intended to replace Windows Movie Maker. It is compatible with Vista and Windows 7. Windows Live Movie Maker is a slimmed-down video editor that eliminates many features that most consumers never use. It allows users to publish videos to Windows Live SkyDrive, Facebook, Youtube, and Flickr.
- Do You Need It? Yes, if you want a basic video editor that's easy to use. Windows Live Movie Maker is a great free alternative to some of the more expensive and complicated offerings out there.
Windows Live Photo Gallery: A photo management and sharing application. The latest version includes features such as facial recognition, geotagging, batch people tagging, blemish remover and noise reduction.
- Do You Need It? Maybe. Comparisons of Windows Live Photo Gallery with Google's Picasa show that both are popular and full featured. Some find one more intuitive than the other. I suggest trying both and seeing which you like best.
Windows Live Writer: A desktop blog publishing system. It is compatible with Windows Live Spaces, SharePoint blogs, Blogger, LiveJournal, TypePad, WordPress, Telligent Community, PBlogs.gr, JournalHome, the MetaWeblog API, the Movable Type API, Blogengine, Squarespace and other blogging platforms.
- Do You Need It? No. There are plenty of simple blogging platforms on the Web. See my article Five Free Blogging Tools to learn more about Blogger, WordPress, LiveJournal, Tumblr and Posterous.
Silverlight: Yet another Microsoft product created for the sole purpose of muddying the waters and trying to grab market share from established players. Silverlight is a tool that enables multimedia applications, and competes with Flash, Adobe Air, and the HTML5 standard.
- Do You Need It? No. Two years ago I wrote What Is Silverlight And Do I Need It? It's been two years, and there have only been a few times when I was confronted with a website that said "You must install Silverlight to view this content." Usually on Microsoft websites. I've resisted the urge, and I recommend you do the same.
In summary, there are a few bright spots in Microsoft's "Windows Live Essentials" package. The Family Safety, Movie Maker, Photo Gallery, and perhaps Mesh components are worth a look, if you don't already have a solution you like. I'd pass on all the others.
Your thoughts are welcome on this topic. Post your comment or question below...
Posted by Bob Rankin on 12 Oct 2011
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