Check out the Windows 7 applet replacements in Windows Live Essentials

Greg Shultz takes an introductory look at Windows Live Mail, Windows Live Photo Gallery, and Windows Live Movie Maker.

When Microsoft was designing Windows 7, they decided to strip out some of the applets that have been a part of the Windows operating system for quite some time. The four applets that are no longer part of the operating system are Windows Mail, Windows Calendar, Windows Photo Gallery, and Windows Movie Maker. Instead, Microsoft moved these applets to the cloud and rebranded them as Windows Live Essentials.

When I first learned about this new direction back in the early Beta days, I was both surprised and elated. I was surprised because as you'll remember, in the days of old, Microsoft was bound and determined to throw just about everything you could possibly want, including the kitchen sink, so to speak, into the operating system. I was elated because it marked a turning point where the developers at Microsoft were obviously deciding to jettison unnecessary tools in favor of refocusing on the core operating system.

It didn't really hurt Microsoft much anyway, since they already had a burgeoning cloud, made successful by Windows Live Messenger and Hotmail, into which they could plug these four applets.

In any case, the plan seemed to have worked. Without the overhead of these and other MIA applets, such as Windows Meeting Space, Microsoft has been able to create one very solid operating system. Now, don't get me wrong. Of course, I realize that there are many other factors that came into play in order to make Windows 7 what it is today, but not having to worry about extra applets almost certainly helped.

So, how well do the Windows 7 applet replacements work? Actually, very well! In this edition of the Windows Vista and Windows 7 report, I'll take an introductory look at Windows Live Mail, Windows Live Photo Gallery, and Windows Live Movie Maker.

(Keep in mind that in addition to the four MIA applets, the Windows Live Essentials package includes other applets, such as Windows Live Messenger, Windows Live Writer, Windows Live Toolbar, and Windows Live Family Safety.)

This blog post is also available in PDF format in a free TechRepublic download.

Getting the programs

Getting the Windows Live programs is easy. Just point your browser to the Windows Live site and click on any of the Download Now links. When you do, you'll see the Windows Live screen shown in Figure A and can choose which programs you want to install.

Figure A

You can pick which Windows Live programs you want to install.

Windows Live Mail + Calendar

Windows Live Mail, shown in Figure B, is a full-featured e-mail program that provides you with a host of advanced features. For example, when it comes e-mail, the obvious use for this e-mail client is to use the Windows Live e-mail service; however, you can also use it to send and receive e-mail from standard POP3 or other IMAP e-mail accounts, such as Gmail or Yahoo! just to name a few.

Figure B

Windows Live Mail is a full-featured e-mail program that provides you with a contact manager, a newsreader, and a calendar.

It also comes with a contact manager, a newsreader, and a calendar. Because it is integrated with Windows Live, your e-mail contacts and your Windows Live Messenger contacts are one and the same. Your calendar is also available online and can be configured to send reminders to you via e-mail or to Windows Live Messenger.

Sent and received messages, as well as calendar events, are even accessible when you're offline.

Windows Live Photo Gallery

Windows Live Photo Gallery, shown in Figure C, is surprisingly easy to use and provides the average home photographer with everything needed to manage/organize, view, and edit your photos. For example, with a few clicks you can fix red-eye, crop out unnecessary background, adjust light levels, and correct colors. There's even an Auto Adjust for quick, one-click editing. You can even stitch photos together into panoramas.

Figure C

Windows Live Photo Gallery provides you with everything you need to manage/organize, view, and edit your photos.

In addition to running impromptu slideshows on your computer, Windows Live Photo Gallery allows you to easily configure a photo screen saver, create online photo albums, send photos via e-mail, burn them to a DVD, or create a movie.

Windows Live Movie Maker

Windows Live Movie Maker, shown in Figure D, combines the same familiar features from previous versions with a new ribbon-based interface and makes it extremely easy to add and arrange video clips and photos; add titles, special effects transitions, or a soundtrack; and then publish your movie to videos sites, such as YouTube.

Figure D

Windows Live Movie Maker combines familiar features with a new ribbon-based interface.

From the other news department

In a recent blog post, "Get Access to Windows XP Mode via Windows Anytime Upgrade," I told you that taking advantage of the Windows Anytime Upgrade wasn't a bad way to get your hands on Windows XP Mode. Well, soon after that post was published, Microsoft announced new information about both the Windows Anytime Upgrade and Windows XP Mode.

Get a special deal on the Windows Anytime Upgrade

Beginning April 4 and running until July 3, Microsoft has arranged with many of its retail partners to offer a package deal that will provide new PC buyers a price cut on the Windows Anytime Upgrade. Under this program, when you purchase a new PC with Windows 7 Starter, you can get the Windows Anytime Upgrade to Windows 7 Home Premium for only $49.99 (estimated retail price). That's a $30 price break.

If you purchase a new PC with Windows 7 Home Premium, you can get the Windows Anytime Upgrade to Windows 7 Professional for $79.99 (estimated retail price). While not quite as big a price break as the other, $10 off is still a good deal.

Keep in mind that this is a limited-time offer and not all retailers are participating in this program.

Hardware-assisted virtualization support no longer required

In the blog post, I discussed hardware-assisted virtualization, which at that time was a requirement in order to run Windows XP Mode. Well, because of the demand for access to Windows XP Mode and the number of PCs that lack the hardware-assisted virtualization, Microsoft decided to remove that requirement. In other words, as long as you have Windows 7 Professional or higher, you can now download and install Windows XP Mode regardless of whether the CPU in your PC provides hardware-assisted virtualization support. For more information, check out the Windows Virtual PC page. (Of course, if your PC's CPU supports hardware-assisted virtualization, then all the better.)

What's your take?

Have you used Windows Live Mail, Windows Live Photo Gallery, or Windows Live Movie Maker? In your opinion, how do they compare to their predecessors?

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