A couple of days ago, Microsoft released the betas of the latest versions of its Windows Live Suite – dubbed “Wave 3”, which will also encompass a huge redesign of all the entire Windows Live product line, online and offline.
Part of the new beta were Windows Live Messenger 9, Windows Live Mail, Windows Live Writer, Windows Live Toolbar, Windows Live Photo Gallery and Windows Live Movie Maker. All of them have had a redesign, but the biggest has had to be Windows Live Messenger 9.
And now, TECHGEEK.com.au is now presenting the first review out of the Windows Live Betas, with the review of the beta version Windows Live Messenger 9 Beta.
The biggest out of the redesign is the contact list (see left). The entire thing has gotten a massive redesign, but still has not departed from the original idea that there should not be any menu bars. The major redesign has also included some brand new features, and the default background (not seen on the left) is, again, like the same design that Windows Live’s “Wave 3” will be incorporating in all of its online services.
The background is now customisable, like it has been in 8.5; but this time, you can add a preset theme, or “scenes”, or create your own with an image of your choice. As well, you have also the choice to mix and match the colours, with one can be the colour for the header, and another can be for the colour of the bottom part of Messenger. We suggest you stick with the same colour for both, but this feature is pretty interesting.
The bad side of this is that, if you have a huge widescreen monitor, is that the image can get overstretched and get pixelated. While it is not that bad looking if you use one of their default ones, but it would be ugly if you use, lets say, an image of a recent holiday trip to Lakes Entrance in Victoria.
But then, again, who would want to see their holiday snapshots anyway, it’s just another way of saying this is how I’m going to embarrass myself in front of everyone.
Also, the activity indicators have been redesigned to look similar to that of Windows Vista. I like the way that the colour changes to tell you if you are online (green), busy (red), away (orange) or just goes translucent if you are offline, or appear offline.
But that’s not all, the activity indicators have also changed throughout Messenger, and you can also customise them to be like icons (which are really coloured boxes), or just similar to the one at the top with their display picture. As well, if you want to do show their display picture, you can now show it in three sizes. The images are below.
Another big change is the message conversation box. The changes include that the “medium” size for the display pictures have been increased, and that you can now rearrange many parts – like your message box, to hide or show your display pictures or menu bar, or to reduce or enlarged the size of the header. However, many things have relatively stayed the same.
A thing I have to get use to is that now messages are now grouped together, which is a long departure from messages have the timestamp and “I said:” thing added to it.
But to the features now. The contact card is still there, but does not hover but you now have to click on the option “View Contact Card” to see it. As well, it has dropped integration with Windows Live Spaces, and it has also dropped Sharing Folders, which was hardly used by anyone.
A brand new feature is that you can now sign in from more than one location, which is a huge plus – but you must have Windows Live Messenger 9 to do this. This means that you can sign in at an internet cafe or at school and still be logged in at home.
As well, the new latest thing is “Groups”, which are like categories but have special features. I haven’t really tested this thing out because I think this feature is rubbish, but it is supposed to be a good way of collaborating.
Another brand new thing is “Favourites”, which allow you to make a list of “favourite” contacts. This, effectively, is not a new category, but just a section where you can drag and drop friends or family members that you like. As well, the Favourites section is given a different activity indicator setting, but you can change that as well.
Finally, another thing has made it onto the beta is the “What’s New” section (above). This is basically like Facebook’s Feed, where it indicates that your friend change their personal message, or that he/she changed their display picture or display name, or that they blogged about something on Windows Live Spaces. It is pretty much a useless accessory, but you can also disable it if you go to the options.
All in all, this has to be the best attempt to gain market share, and with the fact that you can now customise it even more is a great thing, but also adding small features can be a huge annoyance, because some people like the classic look. If only they could have an option of switching designs from Wave 2 to Wave 3…
You can download the software at the Windows Live Download site, as part of the Windows Live Suite beta – which includes Windows Live Toolbar (which we will not review).