Work around these Windows Live Messenger 2011 annoyances

Greg Shultz fixes some minor annoyances with Windows Live Messenger 2011 and its icon and default view.

If you are a Windows Live Messenger user, you know that Microsoft recently released the 2011 version of Messenger and that the product has been expanded beyond the Windows Live network to become a social networking portal. Well, almost. Windows Live Messenger 2011 will allow you to connect to your Facebook and MySpace accounts as well as to LinkedIn, but it won't allow you to tap into Twitter.

In addition to these main social networking connections, there are connections to all kinds of sites that allow you to share content with your contacts. For example, there are connections to Pandora, Hulu, Newsvine, StumbleUpon, Flicker, and many, many more. Surprisingly, considering the rivalry, you can even tap into Google's Picasa.

All these great new features aside, there are a couple of things that really annoy me about Windows Messenger in Windows 7. The first is that the Windows Live Messenger icon no longer appears in the Notification Area -- instead it resides on the Taskbar, where it takes up valuable space even when you are not using it. The second is that by default Windows Live Messenger opens in an almost full-screen view.

In this edition of the Windows Desktop Report, I'll show you how to move the Windows Live Messenger icon and compact the default view.

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

Moving the icon to the Notification Area

As I mentioned, having the Windows Live Messenger icon on the taskbar, as shown in Figure A, takes up valuable space and is more than a bit annoying to those of us who have been using this app from the Notification Area for years. And, the fix, which is officially supported by Microsoft, is really an odd one, but it works. To put the icon back in the Notification Area, you must configure Windows Live Messenger to run in Compatibility Mode.

Figure A

In Windows 7, Windows Live Messenger's icon stays on the Taskbar, not in the Notification Area.
To begin, close Windows Live Messenger. Then, track down the Windows Live Messenger icon on the Start menu by clicking the Start button and typing Messenger in the Start Search box. Once you see the Windows Live Messenger icon, right-click and select the Properties command. When you see the Properties dialog box, select the Compatibility tab. Then, in the Compatibility Mode panel, select the check box and choose Windows Vista (Service Pack 2) from the drop-down list, as shown in Figure B.

Figure B

You'll configure Windows Live Messenger to run in Compatibility Mode as Windows Vista (Service Pack 2).

To continue, click OK. Now, locate the Windows Live Messenger icon on the Start menu as described above and launch the application. When you do, you'll see the Sign In dialog box and an icon on the Taskbar. You will see an icon in the Notification Area momentarily, and then it will disappear.

To make the icon always appear in the Notification Area, you'll click the Show Hidden Icons button and then click the Customize command. When you see the Notification Area Icons dialog box, locate the Windows Live Messenger icon and choose Show Icon and Notifications from the drop-down menu, as shown in Figure C.

Figure C

Choose the Show Icon and Notifications setting.

To continue, click OK. When you do, you'll see the Windows Live Messenger icon in the Notification Area. Once you are signed in, you can close the main Windows Live Messenger window. The Taskbar icon will go away, and the icon will remain in the Notification Area just like it used to in previous version of Windows. Of course, when you are using Windows Live Messenger, you will see an icon on the Taskbar as well.

(Keep in mind that this trick will also work with Windows Live Messenger 2009 in Windows 7.)

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Getting the Compact view

When you launch Windows Live Messenger 2011, it will open in Full view, which can be annoying if all you wish to do at the moment is chat with a friend. After enduring this for a while during my first use, I discovered a miniscule button in the top-right corner, as shown in Figure D, which will allow you to switch to Compact view, as shown in Figure E.

Figure D

The button you use to switch from Full to Compact view is almost hidden in the top-right corner.

Figure E

You can switch to Compact view.

And best of all, once you switch to Compact view, Windows Live Messenger will always launch in Compact view -- you will have to manually switch back to Full view if you so desire.

What's your take?

Are you using Windows Live Messenger 2011? Have you been annoyed by these same oddities? As always, if you have comments or information to share about this topic, please take a moment to drop by the TechRepublic Community Forums and let us hear from you.

By Greg Shultz

Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.