Windows Live Essentials Beta Arrives Today

The highly anticipated upgrade to the Windows Live Essentials software is being made available today for public beta testing. This new version updates all of the add-on Windows programs collectively known as the Windows Live Essentials. This includes Windows Live Photo Gallery, Movie Maker, Mail, Writer, Messenger and the new Windows Live Sync.

TechCrunch’s Michael Arrington already reviewed the suite positively in early June, calling the enhancements “impressive” and “crowd pleasers.” He’s especially taken with (and who can blame him?) the new “Photo Fuse” feature, which he said just yesterday “makes the suite worth trying out.”

For those that don’t know, Photo Fuse is the Photoshop-esque feature in the new Windows Live Photo Gallery app that lets you take the best parts from a group of photos and merge them into one single great-looking picture. It’s perfect for group photo scenarios where you want just the one image where everyone is smiling.

We’ve looked at some of the Windows Live improvements here already, including the new Windows Live Photo Gallery, Live Sync, Live Movie Maker, and Live Messenger. But if you really want a comprehensive listing of everything that has changed (and there is a lot!), you should check out the Windows Live Essentails preview site instead.

To hit the highlights though, you can look forward to the above-mentioned Photo Fuse editing function in Photo Gallery which joins Retouch and Panoramic Stitch features, facial recognition in Photo Gallery, batch auto adjust features in Photo Gallery, tons more social sharing and mobile sharing options in Photo Gallery and Movie Maker, an Auto Movie mode in Movie Maker which includes themes, export to HD (720p or 1080p) in Movie Maker, “Photo Mail” slideshows in the Mail app, offline access and shared calendars in Mail, integrated calendaring and messaging in Mail, remote desktop and file syncing via Live Sync, and so much more.

When the beta goes live it will be available from here: http://explore.live.com/windows-live-essentials-beta. Feel free to keep hitting F5 until that page changes!

Live Essentials requires Vista or Windows 7 and is available in English, French, Dutch, Japanese, Portuguese, Simplified Chinese and Spanish.

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