We know you’ve been waiting for this moment – today the new Windows Live has arrived! With today’s launch, you’re going to see a whole set of new products and services like Windows Live Groups, Photos, and Profile. Plus, some of the services that have been around before are now getting upgraded like Windows Live Home, Spaces, Events, and SkyDrive. Here’s what has changed:
Windows Live Spaces
As a part of the updates coming to the new Windows Live, Windows Live Spaces is also getting a refresh. The new version has an improved UI that aims for a cleaner look and feel. This is being accomplished, most importantly, by the removal of the horizontal ad from the top of your space (hooray!). The page header is simpler, too, featuring less text than the other pages on Windows Live.
The new header (below)
On the new Windows Live Spaces, you’ll also have more granular control over your Space. With the revamp, all the modules are optional – even the Title and Tagline. The titles of all the various modules are able to be removed or renamed at any time. You can change the themes, fonts, colors, and background images of your Space via the customize menu and you can select which photo albums display on your page. You can even customize what parts of the photos interface to display.
Other tweaks to Spaces include a newer, more readable font size and default font (Segoe UI). Here’s a look at the before and after:
The new font (right)
For photo bloggers, the new Live Spaces will be a better fit as it now supports inserting of images inline from all browsers and you won’t need the upload tool to do so. However, if you do choose to use the tool, you’ll be able to drag-and-drop the images into your blog from your computer or even from the new online Windows Live Photos service. Even better, there’s a new “photo preview” feature available which will pop up a preview of the original size image.
Windows Live SkyDrive
For Windows Live SkyDrive, today’s launch means you’ll finally have your storage space upgraded from a healthy 5 GB to an unheard-of 25 GB of free storage. In addition, SkyDrive has added the following:
What’s more exciting though, is that the new SkyDrive now allows you to copy and move files and folders around on your drive instead of having to delete and re-upload them. For organizing your online files, this is a huge improvement since it makes your SkyDrive function more like a drive on your PC.
You’ll notice some other changes upon login to the new SkyDrive too, like the “What’s New” stream that focuses on new additions to SkyDrives across your network of friends, including recently added Photos, which are found in the new service Windows Live Photos, a service powered by SkyDrive. When browsing your SkyDrive, you’ll find your photos are now there as well.
Windows Live Events
With the new Windows Live Events, you’ll notice of course, the new UI, which was based on user feedback. The site now also include new themes and it’s now easier to share photos with anyone invited to your event.
Windows Live Profile
Your new Windows Live Profile is the place where you can share information about yourself that you want broadcasted to your friends. Here, you can customize the services that pipe into the “What’s New” list. To do so, you can link your Windows Live profile to your accounts across the social web to be included into your personal activity stream, which is then included on your friends’ homepages similar to Facebook’s News Feed. Web activities you can add include your blog (or any site that supports standard RSS), iLike, Twitter, a WordPress blog, Yelp, Flickr, LinkedIn, Pandora, Photobucket, and more. Of course, you can also add or remove activities that take place across the Windows Live network.
Windows Live Photos
The new Windows Live Photos service is powered by SkyDrive, which means you now have 25 GB of free online storage for your photos (and files). This service lets you upload photos directly from your computer and create and manage online galleries of photos.
The online service mirrors some of the functions of the Windows Live Photo Gallery desktop software – for example, you can tag people in your photos, tag yourself, or rename the photo's title. However, the online gallery also provides new features like the ability to add comments to the photos or copy an embed code for posting your photos elsewhere on the web. There’s a photo URL provided, too, if you just want to link to the photo itself.
Through Live Photos’ privacy controls, you can specify who, if anyone, has access to your photos and what they can do – view, edit, delete, download, etc.
One of the best features in the new service is definitely the photo slideshow, which you can launch at anytime from the “More” menu. The slideshow is easy to click through with its navigation buttons at the bottom or you can let it auto-play. When you're finished viewing the images, you can easily return to your photo gallery either by clicking the link provided or just hitting “escape.”
Windows Live Groups
Windows Live Groups is another new service which makes it easier for groups to collaborate online. Groups are run by owners who can then add and remove members and each group gets its own online profile.
All Groups come with a calendar, SkyDrive folders, and a photo gallery. There are also discussion boards for Group communication. The pages can be customized using themes, too.
Another nice feature of Groups is its integration with Windows Live Messenger. Groups with up to 20 members can have group conversations using Live Messenger’s IM software. This service is turned on by default and if you shut it off, you aren’t able to turn it back on again, so you may as well leave it alone unless it’s important that your group members NOT see each other’s email address, which they can in WLM.
Windows Live People Pages
Windows Live People Pages are the central address books that contains all of the people that are in your Windows Live network including their Hotmail contacts, Messenger buddies, Spaces friends, and Groups.
Here, you can search your address book, star your favorites, add and remove contacts, and more. There’s also a quick link to send an email right from within the address book itself.
Windows Live Homepage
The new Windows Live Homepage is the central hub where all the Live Services are tied together. It’s the place where you can be notified of new Windows Live Hotmail email and where you can track updates on recent online activity by people in your Windows Live network. Similar to Facebook’s News Feed, the “What’s New Feed,” shows you what your friends and family have shared on Windows Live as well as on other 3rd party services.
There are also shortcuts to perform frequently used actions on other Live services. For example, with one click you can create a new create, add a contact, create a new photo album, write a blog post, and more.
You can customize the profile pics that display at the top right of your homepage. Add more than two photos, and the photos will slowly scroll to display the others every few seconds. You can also have the local weather show on the top left, skin the page with one of several themes and configure the page layout as well as other options.