Microsoft released new beta versions of Windows Live Mail, Windows Live Messenger, and Windows Live Writer. Liveside has reviews and screen captures of the new beta programs. Windows Live Mail is Microsoft's free e-mail client that is expected to replace Outlook Express in Windows XP and Windows Mail on Windows Vista. It succeeds the Windows Live Mail Desktop beta (a slight name change). Windows Live Mail features an improved user interface, including support for Aero if you are running Windows Vista, improved performance and text ads which can be disabled.
I installed Windows Live Mail and tested it out on a Windows XP SP2 machine. I found it very easy to use and noticed many similarities between it and Outlook Express, especially in the Options window. There was even an old message in my Storage Folders that said, "Welcome to Outlook Express 6," since Windows Live Mail apparently migrates the contents of your Outlook Express mailboxes. Users will notice that, much like Windows Media Player 11, the menu bar is gone. You can access the menu bar via a little icon (see screenshot) and you can even turn it back on if you wish. When setting up my Hotmail account, I had to tell Windows Live Mail to remember my password (something I am a little hesitant to do sometimes), otherwise it gave me an error when I tried to access my mail. After allowing Windows Live Mail to remember my password, I was able to synchronize my Hotmail mailbox, and then un-check the "Remember my password" option.
I found the text ads on the right-hand side very non-intrusive, and the best part of all is that they can be turned off with the click of a button. Props to Microsoft for this! Hopefully it will stay that way when the final version is released. When composing a new message, users will notice that automatic spell-checking is enabled and Windows Live Mail automatically completes e-mail addresses from your contacts in your Hotmail account.
Overall, I think Microsoft is heading in the right direction, and I look forward to future releases. What's cool is that you don't have to upgrade to Windows Vista to enjoy these products, although there are additional features available for Vista. While I still haven't used Windows Live Messenger (I use Google Talk and Gmail +talk) or Windows Live Writer (Blogger works great for me), I view Windows Live Mail as a welcomed improvement over Outlook Express.
Windows Live Mail beta homepage
Windows Live Mail download
Windows Live 8.5 Beta (Download) (Build 517)
Windows Live Messenger 8.5 Beta homepage
Windows Live Writer Betas