“Windows Live” is an umbrella term for Microsoft’s service offerings of three types — browser-based web applications like Live Hotmail and SkyDrive, various desktop applications packaged as Live Essentials, and mobile applications for access through mobile phones. You can sign up at Windows Live for free and get access to all of the Live applications and services. Here at MakeUseOf, we have previously covered Windows Live Writer and SkyDrive, as well as Live Sync and Live Mesh.
With 500 million users, Windows Live is ranked the 5th most popular site by Alexa. In the UK, it is the 2nd most popular site after Facebook. With many innovations in recent times, there is something in it for everyone. Here are 5 tips to maximize your Windows Live experience.
Tip #1. Link Multiple Live IDs
If you have multiple Live IDs, you might find yourself signing out from one ID to use the other ID. You can avoid this by linking your multiple IDs. After you’ve link multiple IDs to your primary ID, you only need to sign in once using your primary ID. You can then “switch to” other IDs without signing out, and thus can check email or shared photos of other IDs. The active ID is selected easily from a drop-down menu.
Thus, you can use one Live ID for your professional network, another for your personal circle, and easily switch between the two. Or, if you’re often helping Mom to use any of the plethora of Windows Live services, you can link her account to yours to speed things up, by seeing exactly what she sees in her browser.
On the Live homepage, click Options, select More Options. In the General section, click Linked IDs under the Account category. Now, you can add other Live accounts to easily switch between them, without having to sign out.
Simply click the drop-down menu in the upper-right corner to choose your current active ID.
Tip #2. Import your Social Contacts
You can now add all your Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn and Hi5 contacts to your Windows Live Network. On the Live homepage, click Add People. Select the network from which to add your contacts, and click the right arrow.
You will need to sign in to your other network and allow access. Facebook Connect works both ways as seen below.
Similarly, incorporating LinkedIn within Windows Live allows you to view your LinkedIn network updates from within Windows Live, and broadcast your updates from LinkedIn to Windows Live automatically.
Tip #3. Get Social with Web Activities
Stay up-to-date with your friends and let them know what you’re up to, automatically. Like Friendfeed, Windows Live automatically aggregates your updates from 20 web services that you can share with your network. So your updates to Digg, Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, Flickr, etc. are broadcasted automatically for you.
Click Profile in the top header on the Live homepage. In the Web Activities section in the left side-bar, you can add and manage your feeds. You can individually choose the privacy setting of each feed. So for example, you can restrict your Facebook updates to your network, and make your WordPress blog updates publicly visible to everyone.
Tip #4. Use SkyDrive as a Virtual Drive
Anyone having a (free) Windows Live ID has a free SkyDrive account with 25 GB cloud storage free. Check our previous coverage of SkyDrive to get started (note that the free storage has since been increased to 25 GB). To enhance SkyDrive’s usability, you can use it as a virtual drive on your desktop with Gladinet. Gladinet is now in Release Candidate, and you can check out our previous coverage of Gladinet to get started.
Tip #5. Use Hotmail for your Custom Domain
If you have registered your own custom domain, you can use Hotmail to provide email hosting services. Note that Windows Live does not provide a free domain – this is only for users who have already purchased their own domain.
Just like Gmail with Google Apps, you can use Live Hotmail for your own domain. You can customize Hotmail with your organization logo and use it for up to 500 email accounts. This allows you to have email addresses of the type firstname.lastname@example.org, but using the familiar Hotmail interface. To get started, visit the Windows Live Admin Center.
Why would anyone want to use Live Hotmail? For starters, millions of users are familiar with the Hotmail interface. This might also be a preferable option if your organization uses MS Office, or if your users prefer traditional email folders to Gmail’s labels.
These are some of the ways to get the most out of Windows Live. Do you know any other great tips? Share them with us in the comments!