Microsoft has announced its new release of Windows Live today, thanks to Mike for the news. So I took a look at some of their ideas, specifically Live.com Beta and Windows Live Favorites Beta. I would like to go over Live.com right now with you and maybe touch up on Windows Live Favorites tomorrow. Live is much like the excellent service, Netvibes, which allows you to create your own personalized page with content that you want. There are a few features that Live has that Netvibes does not though, such as inline searching, email integration, and gadgets. Lets take a look.

If you have seen Microsoft’s Start.com project, then you will notice that Live is very similar in looks and basic functionality. This is because the team working on Live are the ones who are also working on Start.com. But they have made some new features that makes Live worth a look. Live gives you a simple to use interface using Ajax technology with drag and drop style blocks. You can drag each block into different columns and above or below other blocks. Something new that I liked was that you can say how many columns you want on your page. At default, it is set to two, but I like to have three and was happy to be able to set that. At the top of the page is a search bar and below that are your blocks along with the sidebar and options. The sidebar provides you with preset feeds you can subscribe to, preset gadgets, and a selection called, “My Web,” which are items that you have created for the page. You can create blocks for feeds, weather, horoscopes, search results, and even better, the new gadget functionality (I will touch up on this below). I also want to note that Live only works in Internet Explorer at the time and they are working on Firefox compatibility.

The search functionality of Live has some nice features. When you make a search, it will come up with results from the web. But you can also select to search from news or feeds. It will not search the actual feed content itself though, just the name and description of feeds. Another feature that I liked was that when you make a search, on the top right of the results you will see a link that says, “add to my page.” When you click this, it will turn it into a block that will show the top results for that search term. If you want search results in a block on your page though, I recommend using the Multi-search Microsoft Gadget, which brings me to my next topic, gadgets.

Gadgets are small third-party applications that you can easily add to your page using the “Add Content” option located in the sidebar. I find these gadgets very interesting because anyone can develop their own using JavaScript/DHTML. There are some interesting gadgets already and I imagine there will be a lot more soon. To install a gadget, go to the Microsft Gadgets website and find a gadget of interest. When you are on that gadgets page, select the link, “Add this Gadget to Live.com.” It will then go to Live.com and provide you with a URL and some instructions telling you to go to “Add Content” and inserting the Gadget URL in the advanced area. You gadget should now appear in the left sidebar. When it does, click on it and you will see a message, like in the above screenshot, asking you to install the gadget. Once installed, you can then drag the gadget from the sidebar onto your page.

Personally, I feel the gadgets are the highlight of Live.com, and it looks like TechCrunch agrees. I have actually tried all the available gadgets at the time (eight so far) and they work rather well. Some acted buggy at times and some I just haven’t a use for. I really liked the gadget for Flickr and the Todo list, which you can see in the above screenshot. The Todo list is very basic and could use some design adjustments, but gets the job done. The Flickr gadget allows you to enter a tag and then it will create a slideshow of photos under that tag and change every five seconds or so. You can also find gadgets for Multi-searching, Microsoft Virtual Earth, and the fun Trackword that is a different scrambled word everyday. These all can be found at the Gadget Gallery.

Overall, I didn’t find Live.com all that great and think I am going to stick with Netvibes as my personal page for now. I know Live is still in early beta though and will give a some time. I found it a little buggy at times, some of the gadgets had troubles every now and then, and I just personally like the look and feel of Netvibes more. I also don’t really understand what the point of the “Hide” feature is. They say it is to make the page cleaner, but really, I just find it as a pointless addition. You can hide all of the blocks and the sidebar and still have the search bar visible. This is cool, but the thing that I didn’t like about it was that when you made a search, nothing happens or appears because it is all hidden. If I make a search, I want to see the results. I don’t want to fill in a term, click search, then click on the show link so I can see them. Other than that, no big issues. They are working on Firefox compatibility too, which is great to hear.

View Windows Live.


6 Comments on “Getting personal with Windows Live”

  1. Will says:

    Hi,

    Some small corrections of comments you made regarding netvibes:

    Netvibes DOES has email integration (for gmail), Live.com has hotmail …. hopefully someone will add a plain POP option. Netvibes also sort of has its own gadgets (although not 3rd party). Like its Writely module, price comparison, etc. FInally, Netvibes DOES have a search module and you can choose the search engine.

    Live.com looks more interesting than start.com but the fact that netvibes keeps adding features every week or so and is already great makes it my preferred service.

    Regards,

  2. Joe Anderson says:

    I like it how it says coming soon for Firefox. Microsoft has realised they can’t ignore us.

  3. Brian Benzinger says:

    Thanks Will, you are right. I should have been more specific when comparing to Netvibes. Netvibes does have searching, but it doesn’t seem that it has working inline searching like Windows Live does (where the results appear on the same page). Instead it directs you to the search engines results.

    Joe. I was definitely surprised to see that message as well. Gave me a good laugh. They know that Firefox is the real deal now and it definitely is beneficial for them to because I sure am not going to use IE just so I can use Windows Live, and others most likely feel the same way.

    Thanks for the comments.

  4. Ashish Bogawat says:

    Live.com is surely miles ahead of start.com. I actually spent a good hour with it today morning. But somehow I just feel much more comfortable with Netvibes, especially the way it opens the selected feed in a box on top. Besides, I use gmail, not hotmail!

    Live still has some way to go before I can think of using it as regularly as I use netvibes (it is my Firefox homepage on all computers I use).

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