You can get the latest Windows Live Messenger bits here. For info on what's new in WL Messenger, check the WL Messenger team's blog. It seems that it is mostly look & feel polishing to the UI that has changed in this beta. Not much new here that I can offer commentary on. For the many folks who already use Messenger, the UI updates will be pleasant on the eye.
There probably aren't as many people using Windows Live Mail. And that's something that I think should change. I think WL Mail is an application that many folks will find useful. There are a bunch of improvements here since the previous betas too.
First off, Windows Live Mail dropped the "Desktop" from the end of its name in previous betas. (Thank goodness... shortening ridiculously long and esoteric product names is always a good thing!) Simply put, WL Mail is a desktop e-mail client. But WL Mail is about more than just e-mail. It's also is an RSS reader, Newsgroup viewer, and Contact manager. All that's left to do is add Calendaring to it! (WL Mail team... are you listening? 🙂
I've been using WL Mail since the early betas last year. It is one of my favorite desktop applications. WL Mail was originally designed to be a desktop client for Hotmail. However, its mission in life has expanded beyond that. It is now a full replacement for Outlook Express in XP and Windows Mail in Vista.
This is a good thing! When I first started using WL Mail, I liked a lot of the features that its predecessors didn't have, but I thought it was very confusing that there were two free e-mail clients from Microsoft (WL Mail Desktop and Windows Mail or Outlook Express depending on whether you use XP or Vista). I always thought WL Mail was a superset of the other two. What's the point of having both? Now that's all straightened out. When you install WL Mail, it replaces Windows Mail on your Vista machine. I haven't tested it yet, but I assume it does the same with Outlook Express on XP.
So why do I think WL Mail is so great? There are a bunch of reasons.
Reason #1: It lets you easily manage multiple e-mail accounts. Okay, that doesn't seem too impressive, Outlook's been able to do that forever! In Outlook, when you have multiple accounts, it sends all of the messages to the same Inbox folder. It's up to the user to set up rules to sort the messages into different folders for each account (assuming that's what most people want to do). The difference is that WL Mail gives each new account you add its own set of folders (Inbox, Sent Items, etc, etc.) So with one view on the left, I can see color coded sets of folders for my 3 Hotmail accounts, my G-Mail, my old Va Tech account, and my ISP account.
Reason #2: It's lightening fast. Previously, if you had a premium Hotmail account (one of my 3 is premium), you could access it via Office Outlook or Outlook Express. If you ever used either of those to access your Hotmail account, you'd know that it was painfully slow. Navigating between messages would trigger annoying waits. Going between folders was even more painful. And switching between your Hotmail account and your Exchange or POP account was a disaster. Sometimes the UI would hang or Outlook would even crash. I'm completely psyched that in WL Mail, those problems appear to be history. Navigating between messages, folders, and accounts is all instant!
Reason #3: Great search built in. Now, just like Office Outlook, the new online Hotmail, and G-Mail, you can search right within the UI to find any message in your folders. This is great for digging out those old messages you want to reference.
Reason #4: Syncs with Common RSS feed store on Windows. The RSS Reader functionality is decent. The nice thing is that uses the Common RSS feed store on Windows. That means that if you subscribe to a feed in Internet Explorer, it automatically shows up in WL Mail and vice versa! It is lacking one killer feature though to make it my primary feed reader: A "river of news" view. Like RSS Bandit or IE7, when I click on a feeds folder in the Folder pane, I want to see all of the unread 'posts' show up in one long list that I can scroll through as I read. In the current beta, you need to click on each post in the message pane to read its contents.
Reason #5: It's now commercial free! In the earlier betas, if you didn't have a premium Hotmail account, you would be graced with a big ugly vertical ad on the right side. I actually didn't realize this at first because I have a premium account. It wasn't until I saw others install it that I realized that the ads couldn't be turned off. When you install WL Mail now, you still get what are called "Active Search" Ads on the right side by default. Active Search Ads displays text-based ads that are relevant to the content of your messages. (This is similar to the ads in G-Mail) These ads are less annoying than the flashy banner ad types, however, they're still ads. The good news is that you can now turn them off in this beta, even if you don't have a premium Hotmail account!
Reason #6: All of the other little features listed on the web site. (Spell checking, phishing filters, offline access to your web mail accounts, etc, etc.)
Great work WL Mail team on another great release!