Windows Live Messenger
In the last few years, Microsoft hasn’t made very many updates to the MSN Messenger in spite of it being a very popular IM client. Along with Yahoo! and AIM, MSN Messenger shares a huge chunk of the ever growing IM market. Keeping that in mind, it’s almost ridiculous that updates to the MSN Messenger have been few and far between. The most prominent update I can remember in the past few years is the ability to log in while appearing offline. Keeping all this history in mind, when Microsoft released the much anticipated Windows Live Messenger, a lot of hopes were raised.
Windows Live Messenger (WLM) is nothing but the new incarnation of MSN Messenger. The difference is that this time around, Microsoft has actually upgraded a lot and added new features. In fact, at a the first glace, the WLM doesn’t look anything like the old MSN Messenger. To start with, the requirements for Windows Live Messenger are pretty basic. It will run on all MS operating systems from Windows 98 to XP. You need 128 MB of RAM and Internet Explorer 6 installed on your machine for it to work. The installation is like any other Microsoft application; a pretty straight forward affair. Accept the EULA and click on Next a few times and you are done launching the new WLM. After the installation, you will surely be presented with a surprise. The new look is to Windows operating systems like a tall glass of cool iced tea is to a dry desert afternoon.
At least in terms of the interface, the Windows Live Messenger has scored a big one above most of the other popular IM clients. As you can see in the screenshot below, no matter what part of the main windows you look at, everything appears to be something new. WLM has incorporated many features, which have made many of the “add on” and third party applications so popular. The interface is sleek, clean and on top of that, it’s pure eye candy. It has support for changing themes, changing backgrounds and dragging and dropping pictures to the window and more.
So, with looks aside, what’s really new with this program?
It’s a little late, but nonetheless, MSN has jumped into this field too. While using WLM, you can call PC to PC, as well as, PC to phone. PC to PC calls are as expected with a free cost and PC to phone also doesn’t cost as much. The voice quality is not as good as Skype or Google Talk, but then again, not many people are going to use WLM just for the VoIP feature. You can make PC to phone calls using Verizon’s services, for which you need to sign up using a credit card. You can buy credit in the increments of $5, $10 and $25.
Similarly WLM has implemented a new video chat function too through a partnership with Logitech. This turned out surprisingly well with efficient results.
Shared folders simply let you synchronize a folder on your hard drive with another one on your friend’s hard drive. You can share all kinds of files and even when you or your friend are offline, both of you can still access those files.
To initiate this, you simply need to drag and drop the file you want to share on your friend’s name in the contacts list. If your friend deletes a file, it is automatically deleted from your folder too. This “shared folder” is easily accessible from your desktop and you don’t need to log into WLM to access the files.
This time around, MSN has licensed McAfee’s virus scanner. This is obviously a very thoughtful feature that is sure to make the WLM experience even more secure.
This is one new feature that most of you with huge contact lists are going to love. With Windows Live, whenever your contacts modify or update their contact information, it will automatically be updated in your Messenger, as well as, the Windows Live mail address book. Along with this, a real time search has been enabled, letting you search among your contact’s phone numbers and e-mail addresses.
If you efficiently organize all the contact information you have, you can also use the WLM as a contact information manager. For example, whenever you add a new contact, you also have the option of adding extra information about that person, such as a phone number, address, etc. This was designed so you can have an organized repository of your contacts, which will keep updating automatically right there in your Windows Live Messenger. Handy, huh?!
Connect to Yahoo!
Yes, that’s right! This is probably the most talked about WLM feature. When you log into your WLM account, it will surely nag you to access Yahoo! by using the WLM. You only need to sign up for this service once and the only catch to this great idea is that your contacts need to use the latest version of the clients. If one or more of your contacts are using an older version of either MSN or Yahoo!, the IM clients will simply appear offline to you. Another point to note is that although you will be able to chat with your Yahoo! buddies easily, all the features will not be available to you.
Has Microsoft finally delivered an ace? Yes, indeed, I think they have. WLM is a beautiful piece of software and although it takes a little time to adjust to the new interface, most people are absolutely going to love it. If you are a frequent user of the MSN Messenger, the basic feel and essential elements, like the conversation windows, will feel familiar. Also, the new features and the main window interface will only leave you admiring the “prettiness” of it all. To download the Windows Live Messenger, click here and enjoy!
~ Yogesh Bakshi