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How do you view your photos on Windows? What app do you use if you want to make simple edits to a video? And which app are you relying on for your desktop email client? For lots of you, the answer will be one of the Windows Essentials programs.

The package has been a staple of Microsoft’s operating system for a decade — but it’s coming to an end. On the Windows Essentials download page, the company has announced support for the suite will be stopped on January 10, 2017.

In this piece, I take a look at what’s missing from Windows 10, what the future holds for the remaining apps, and what you can use instead.

A Brief History

Windows Essentials first hit our screens back in August 2006. It was designed to be a suite of apps and services that completed the Windows experience with some important utilities.

Several apps have come and gone in the intervening ten years (who remembers Windows Live Dashboard, Microsoft Office Outlook Connector, Mesh, Windows Live Messenger, or Messenger Companion?!).

We’re now on the fifth version of the suite, and we’re left with six simple programs:

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  • Photo Gallery
  • Movie Maker
  • Mail
  • Writer
  • OneDrive
  • Family Safety

Windows Essential Edition

What Currently Works on Windows 10?

Only four of those six apps will work if you’re running Windows 10.

Since Windows 8.1, OneDrive has been integrated with the operating system and is no longer a standalone app. It now sits in your system tray and is constantly syncing the files and folders you select.

Family Safety only works with the rapidly-aging Windows 7. Microsoft Family Features replaced it on Windows 10. You can set up your account by visiting account.microsoft.com/family and following the onscreen instructions.

Microsoft Family Features

What Does the Future Hold?

Microsoft’s announcement that support will be ended at the start of 2017 is the death-knell for the service, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you cannot keep using the individual apps — at least for now.

However, much like Windows XP, continuing to use them beyond the cut-off is not a sensible idea. Bugs will appear as Microsoft continues to upgrade the Windows operating system, no new features will be added, and they’ll become a magnet for hackers and cyber-criminals who are looking for new weak points to exploit.

So what should you do?

The Universal Apps

The Windows Store has become infinitely better over the last couple of years. It’s easier than ever to identify worthwhile content How to Find Apps You Can Trust in the Windows Store How to Find Apps You Can Trust in the Windows Store Microsoft's app store is better than its reputation, but you'll still run into scam, fake, and insecure apps. We'll show you how to identify an app's trustworthiness. Read More and the security issues How Secure Is the Windows App Store? How Secure Is the Windows App Store? The Windows Store took a hammering when it first launched in early-2012, criticized for poor apps and security issues. Four years on, is the Windows Store now a reliable and secure service? Read More have been mostly fixed. Best of all, developers will now be able to offer their desktop apps through the portal for the first time — a move that brings the Windows offering into line with the Apple equivalent.

However, Microsoft’s replacement products are not desktop apps — they’re Universal Apps Desktop vs. Windows Store Apps: Which Should You Download? Desktop vs. Windows Store Apps: Which Should You Download? On Windows 10 and 8.1, you can either download and install a Desktop applications from the web, or you can get an app from the Windows Store. We explore the differences between Desktop and Store... Read More . It means they’re lacking a lot of the features and ease-of-use that the Essentials apps provided.

The Photos app is cumbersome to use and slow to open, the Skype apps are a poor imitation of the desktop equivalents, Outlook isn’t as slick as Mail, and Microsoft simply hasn’t released a replacement for Movie Maker or Writer.

Microsoft Photos App

The demise of Writer is somewhat understandable, but the lack of a native video editor is a glaring omission.

Third-Party Alternatives

Faced with the end of Windows Essentials and poor alternative offerings from Microsoft, you don’t really have a choice. You’ll need to look to third-party solutions.

Here’s a very brief look at a couple of popular alternatives for the three most important Windows Essentials apps.

Replace Mail

Luckily, desktop email clients have undergone a resurgence You Should Ditch Webmail for a Desktop Email Client If... You Should Ditch Webmail for a Desktop Email Client If... A few years ago, webmail was all the rave. Wonder whether it's time to switch back to a desktop email client? Look no further. We show you the merits of a local mail service. Read More in the last few years, and there are now lots of great ones available 5 Of The Best Desktop Email Clients That Don't Cost a Dime [Windows] 5 Of The Best Desktop Email Clients That Don't Cost a Dime [Windows] Specialization is the key to efficiency, especially in the realm of software. Programs that try to "do it all" end up becoming bloated, messy, and subpar in most of what they do. On the other... Read More .

Mailbird

I use Mailbird and can highly recommend it. It looks great, it comes with lots of integrated productivity apps, and it’s fully customizable.

Windows Mailbird App

Thunderbird

Mozilla has largely abandoned their much-loved software, but it’s been kept alive by the community. It offers multi-channel chat, tabbed emails, web search, and powerful security features.

Replace Photo Gallery

It’s easy to find desktop apps that are simple to use, but offer even more functionality than Photo Gallery.

IrfanView

IrfanView has been around since Windows 98 so has grown up alongside the operating system. A large number of image file formats are natively supported and the list can be extended with plugins. It can also play some video and audio formats.

Windows Irfanview

Imagine

The best thing about Imagine is its size — the app’s footprint is only 1 MB. As a result, it’s lightning fast, even though it’s not short of features.

(Warning — The website looks very basic, don’t be put off!)

Replace Movie Maker

It’s important to stress that if you’re a serious video editor, even the best free options The Best Free Video Editors For Windows The Best Free Video Editors For Windows Video has become a common part of everyday life. You'd think, then, that free video editors would be common. Turns out the selection is limited for Windows users. Here are our five top choices. Read More will probably not be sufficient. If you just want to edit the family Christmas video, they should be fine.

VideoLAN Movie Creator

Did you know that the guys behind the hugely popular VLC Media Player also make a free video editing app? Like the video player, it’ll read everything and export to most formats.

VLMC Video Editor

VirtualDub

VirtualDub has been designed to process AVI files, although it can also read MPEG-1 and sets of BMP images. The menu bar, info panel, and status bar are all easy to understand, even for beginners.

How Will You Deal With the End of Windows Essentials?

What’s your plan for when Microsoft ends its support of the Essentials suite?

Are you planning to keep using the most important apps? Are you keeping your fingers crossed that Microsoft will release some new desktop replacements between now and the end of the year? Or are you ready to take the plunge with third-party alternatives?

Let us know your ideas and thoughts in the comments below.

Image Credit: Iaroslav Neliubov/Shutterstock

  1. Carnufex G
    September 30, 2016 at 7:48 pm

    I have to take an exception to your Mailbird recommendation. I used it for a while but went back to Thunder due to Mailbird not having ANY mail filtering at all. You mark a mail as SPAM and all it does is move it to a SPAM folder... it doesn't filter later messages to the SPAM folder just marks it! If the same message arrives again you have to mark it as SPAM again. The developer(s) say that they will fix things but seem to only add bells and whistles that no one wants to the application and ignores the things that matter, like a SPAM filter. Keep your money and find another mail client.

  2. Anonymous
    September 30, 2016 at 3:23 pm

    Writer is now open source,

    http://openlivewriter.org/

  3. Mike
    September 30, 2016 at 12:51 pm

    Another free movie maker replacement to check out is shotcut. Lots of features and can edit any video file format. The site is shotcut.org

  4. karol
    September 30, 2016 at 6:05 am

    And what instead of Writer?

    • vb142857
      October 2, 2016 at 2:07 pm

      You can use Writer :-)
      Sources has been released (and the named changed a little bit) :
      http://openlivewriter.org/

    • Mark
      October 2, 2016 at 6:03 pm

      Windows Live Writer (blog editing) is now open source software. Search for "Open Live Writer" and replace the now non-functional Live Writer from Essentials.

    • Tina Sieber
      October 6, 2016 at 8:20 am
  5. Paul Harris
    September 29, 2016 at 11:37 pm

    VLMC states on website that it is not ready yet.
    VideoLAN Movie Creator is a non-linear editing software for video creation based on libVLC and running on Windows, Linux and Mac OS X! It is free software distributed under the terms of the GPLv2.

    Are you a student and looking for a summer internship? VLMC is part of Google Summer of Code! Find out more!

    Note that VLMC is still under development and therefore not ready for beta testing or production yet.

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