Web 2.0 is considered to be 1 of the best things happened to the internet in a long time and yes its true, we had Gmail which rocked the free e-mail scenario and everyone had shifted loyalty from Hotmail actually a long time ago using yahoo and other services but Gmail was a wake up call for MS as far as their online business was concerned and they sure did wake up …

MS always made sure that 1 account which a person created on any of its sites be it technet, msdn where ever, you could use that same account to access any of these sites, this integration and I guess with Live they have brought everything together and that is what makes this experience really special …

Through this article I will be reviewing most of the Live features that are helpful for most users.

Introducing Windows Live – IMHO the next best thing happening online after Gmail!

Features Reviwed:

  1. Live Hotmail
  2. SkyDrive
  3. Live Spaces
  4. Live Home
  5. Live Search
  6. Live Writer
  7. Live Gallery

.::Windows Live Hotmail::.

Lets start with Hotmail we all know Hotmail a lot of us had our first email accounts there …. and I guess its time you guys re-activated your accounts ’cause Hotmail Live has just been given a complete make over.

First up:

  1. On a slow connection you can still access the classic version.
  2. 5 GB space.
  3. Auto Forwarding (something Hotmail should have added long ago).
  4. Reading Pane – preview your inbox emails.

Your Hotmail page now looks like this:

The things that make the experience more better and more ‘your own’:

You can place the reading pane where ever you want to.
Themes – Change the colors … personalization anyone!
Then there are more options that let you tweak your email settings a little more:

livemail-options

These are pretty much standard in most online email services but the new thing here worth a mention is that they have upgraded the Contact Management system giving you more flexibility and ease of use.

Now that email is aLive again, lets see what else is new.

.::SkyDrive::.

… no its no space age car made by MS but an online file storage and sharing system!!!

  1. 1 GB free storage space.
  2. A really cool and very very user friendly interface.
  3. Absolutely simple to understand and use.

This is the home page of your SkyDrive (after you are logged in)

  • Create personal, shared, and public folders — you decide who has access to each folder.
  • Folders work well on any Windows or Macintosh computer with Firefox 1.5 or higher, or Internet Explorer 6.0 or higher.

Protecting your files:

  • Your personal folders are password-protected with your Windows Live ID, so only you have access.
  • When you create a shared folder, the friends you’re sharing with need to sign in with their own Windows Live ID and password.
  • Just like at your online bank, all file transfers are protected using Secure Socket Layers (SSL).

Personal

  • Use personal folders to back up important files that are only for you.
  • Get to your files from any computer with Internet access by signing in with your Windows Live ID.

Shared

  • Shared folders make it easy to collaborate with coworkers or classmates.
  • You decide how much control each person has over each shared folder. Some can just read what’s there: others can add and delete files.
  • Everyone who is sharing uses their own Windows Live ID.

Public

  • With public folders, anyone on the Internet can view your files, but they can’t change them.
  • Want to show your public files to others? Just send them a link! Each folder and file has its own web address.

Now this is what all you can do on SkyDrive:

Folders have the following options on the top:

skydrive-options

and the files/folders have the following options at the bottom …

sky-drive-file-options
this is where u get the url of the file/folder which u want to share … 1 interesting feature that MS is providing is he embed option with a pre-generated code to simply copy-paste on blogs or other web pages …. pretty cool

The following are the sharing settings of a folder …. u can choose as per ur requirement …

skydrive-privacy

The above features are the ones that set it apart from most file sharing services and the fact that your same Hotmail account can be used and also it is free!!!!

.::Live Spaces::.

Microsoft’s blogging service, really good for any person – whether you just started blogging or ur a pro at blogging, Live Spaces is pretty simple to use and configure, customization options are available though some would argue that we don’t have access to the files for absolute customization but i guess what we get is better than decent by the best standards.

The Spaces Home Page:

As you can see easy access to almost everything is given on the top and updates to what your contacts have been doing on their blogs is also displayed on the page, any comments made on your blog are also shown.

Now lets go to your space and see what does the blog look like:

The customization options available:

As you can see you can customize it to the way you want it only difference here you do everything online.

  1. You have various templates to choose from.
  2. Change the theme of your blog.
  3. Change the layout.
  4. Add modules from a large collection and also re-arrange them.

Then you have Advanced Options which brings up this:

It is truly advanced customize options, these options wont make you feel the need to download the html/php/CSS files and edit them ’cause you can do most of that online itself. Also no issues of Inter-Browser compatibility.

You don’t need to be at ‘your’ PC do it, you can do it from any PC with a decent internet connection … damn you might even be able to use a Mac.

Then u have the following Options for your Space:

Change what ever you need to as you feel like.

There are loads of other settings under each category to truly customize Your Space to your taste, who can send you a message, make categories, view by date or category, no. of comments everything is customizable.

Space Settings:

.::Live Home::.

Now add all these up put ’em on 1 page and you get home.live.com

image

The weather gadget u see on the top I think will be on all the pages once they are out of beta.

Easy access to all live services: Your latest mails are shown, the latest comments on your blog are shown, updates made to blogs of your friends are shown.

live-home

.::Live Search::.

Then there is Live! Search which is better than other more famous search engines
Here’s how:

This is screenshot of the search results shown by Live Search:

Now the better part:

Take your mouse over an image and you get this:

live-search

Not only that u have a toolbar on top:

  1. The sidebar allows you to adjust the thumbnail size.
  2. The size of the image search can be chosen as per preference.

image

3. A scratch pad – a really cool feature.

image

4. Options

image

.::Windows Live Writer::.

A how-to & short review of Microsoft’s blogging software – Windows Live Writer can be found here.

.::Windows Live Gallery::.

A place where you can find every addon to enhance your Windows OS and Live experience a huge database of small gadgets made by users and its very well categorized and easy to use …

Windows Live Gallery

U have access to all this for free and with 1 account … and that is the best part … 1 really feel proud of not abandoning my Hotmail account contrary to what most of my friends said.

Hope you enjoyed the tour … have fun … Feel the Wow … make windows your own cyber home …

Peace.