Ready-Set-Download! Windows Live Essentials 2011 Public Beta

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After revealing tantalizing details of its new release of Windows Live Essentials for Windows 7 (and Vista) earlier this month, Microsoft took the wraps off the public beta today.

Windows Live Essentials is a free collection of web-enabled programs for blogging (Writer), photo editing and management (Photo Gallery), video editing (Movie Maker), instant messaging (Messenger), email client (Mail), parental controls (Family Safety), and a new component for file synchronization and remote access (Sync). In this new version, originally known as Windows Live Essentials Wave 4, Windows Live Essentials loses Windows XP compatibility, but gains new features and better usability.

A few of the new features include:

  • Office 2007/2010-style ribbon bar for easier access to menu items in all components except Family Safety
  • Enhanced special effects and editing tools in Movie Maker and Photo Gallery
  • Better and easier connections to Microsoft and third-party sites like Facebook and YouTube
  • Easier access to information with Mail, Calendar, and Messenger on both PCs and mobile devices

A comparison chart (PDF download) on the Essentials preview website makes it clear that Microsoft's gunning for Apple's $79 iLife program, and, at least on paper, makes a strong case for itself.

The final version of Windows Live Essentials 2011 won't be available until August, but if you're using web-based Windows Live components, Wave 4 improvements similar to these are already present in Hotmail and other Windows Live components .

Note: if you already have Windows Live Essentials installed, the WLE 2011 Beta installer replaces existing WLE components on your system and brings over existing tags and other settings.

Note 2: Windows Live Essentials 2011 Beta also works on Windows Vista.

Check out the videos, download it, and give Windows Live Essentials 2011 Beta a try, then hit Comment and tell us what you think.

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