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How the Windows Live Apps Have Changed in Windows 8.1

While Windows Live Essentials were hyped as one of the great reasons to buy Windows 7, in Windows 8.1 they’re going the way of the do-do.

Several of the Windows Live programs are considerably better than their Windows 8.1 Metro tiled counterparts, in many respects, at least for now. Windows Live programs aren’t going away. If you don’t mind running orphaned programs on your desktop, a handful of Windows Live programs, in particular, are worth picking up.

The two new (well, only 1-year-old) Windows Live programs — Photo Gallery and Movie Maker — are worth considering. Many people think that Windows Live Photo Gallery runs rings around the Metro Photo app. Windows Movie Maker isn’t anything at all like the videos-for-sale Metro Video app.

Here’s what happened to the old Windows Live apps:

  • Windows Live ID (formerly known as Microsoft Wallet, Microsoft Passport, .Net Passport, and Microsoft Passport Network) has been rebranded Microsoft Your Account and referred to informally as your Microsoft Account. Your old Microsoft Live ID, typically an e-mail address that ends in @hotmail.com or @live.com, will still work, as will one of the new @outlook.com e-mail addresses. In addition, Microsoft now accepts any e-mail address as a Microsoft Account.

  • Windows Live Hotmail (formerly Hotmail, Microsoft Hotmail, and MSN Hotmail) turned into Hotmail, once again, and then it got a Metro style interface and became Outlook.com. Everybody still calls it Hotmail.

  • Windows Live SkyDrive turned into SkyDrive for Windows and now is known as Microsoft SkyDrive. It’s baked into Windows 8.1; highly unlikely you’ll want to install the program in Windows 8.1, but you may well want to install it on your other Windows machines, Mac, iPad, iPhone, Windows Phone, Android tablet or phone — and a Linux version is on its way.

    Windows Live Mesh (formerly Live Mesh, Windows Live Sync, and Windows Live FolderShare) have been folded into SkyDrive, although Microsoft has squashed PC-to-PC sync. In Windows 8.1, you can access your SkyDrive folder directly from File Manager, you can use the tiled SkyDrive app.

  • Windows Live Messenger was absorbed into Skype. Although plenty of copies of Messenger are still floating around, if you want to install it on a machine that hasn’t had it before, you need to get Skype. Microsoft wants you to move up to full video calls, instead of just plunking on a keyboard.

  • Windows Live Photo Gallery gained a couple of minor features and is now known as Windows Photo Gallery. While Microsoft would love it if everyone would use its Windows 8.1, tiled Metro Photos app, there’s absolutely no question that Windows Photo Gallery runs rings around Metro Photos, if you want to do anything at all with your photos besides just look at them.

  • Windows Live Movie Maker, quite surprisingly, received a major upgrade to become Windows Movie Maker. Microsoft cut many important features and just didn’t bother to put them back in as it “upgraded” the product. The new, improved, Windows Movie Maker 2012 has all its old features back and several impressive new ones to boot.

    If you ever work with video — even if you only string together clips of your summer vacation — this new Windows Movie Maker is worth a look. In case you were wondering, the Windows 8.1 tiled Video app lets you play videos and encourages you to buy more. It doesn’t lift a finger to help you make videos.

  • Some of the old Windows Live apps that are slowly (and in some cases, not very successfully) morphing into tiled apps. Windows Mail (formerly Windows Live Mail, not to be confused with Vista’s Windows Mail) gets neglected because its younger cousin the Windows 8.1, tiled Metro Mail app needs all the attention. Windows Live Calendar becomes, more or less, the tiled Metro Calendar; Windows Live Contacts turns into the tiled Metro People program.

Windows Essentials apps are still around and available for download from Microsoft, and they’re going to be running for many years. That leaves you, the Windows 8.1 customer, in an enviable position: You can pick and choose which apps you want to use and which to let stew until Microsoft makes them better.

Microsoft likely will keep improving its tiled Metro apps until they approach, and then supersede, the Windows Essentials apps in terms of functions. But you get to decide if you prefer the Windows Essentials way of doing things or if you’re ready to jump to the Metro side.

Three Windows Essentials apps are still appealing, in spite of the tiled app candy:

  • Windows Mail: The tiled Metro Mail app still won’t do much of what advanced Windows Live Mail users want. Windows Mail, nee Windows Live Mail, is very similar to Outlook Express, if you’ve been around the block with that one.

  • Windows Photo Gallery: Windows 8.1’s tiled Metro Photos is getting better, but it still doesn’t have a small fraction of the tools or the user interface that good old Windows Photo Gallery has.

  • Windows Movie Maker: Never one of the most popular Live apps, Windows Movie Maker occupies a unique niche. The tiled Metro Video app is all about selling videos to Windows users. Movie Maker concentrates on letting you build your own.

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