In the past, Microsoft has bundled quite a bit of software with Windows to give users the best experience. With Windows 7 however, the company changed tact and moved some useful but non-essential software into a downloadable package called Windows Live Essentials.
What’s In Windows Live Essentials?
As of the 2011 update, Windows Live Essentials contains 11 different pieces of software. Most are utilities that serve important, but not absolutely critical, functions. Messenger, Photo Gallery, Movie Maker, Live Mesh, Mail and Family Safety are examples of this.
Bing Bar, the Outlook Connector Pack and Microsoft Silverlight are also a part of the download. These pieces of software are not utilities on their own, but instead work alongside other Microsoft software, namely Internet Explorer (in the case of Bing Bar and Silverlight) and Outlook.
Windows Vista users may be looking at this list and thinking “Hey, but I had that on my computer by default!” That’s true. Many of these tools, most notably Windows Live Movie Maker and Mail, were included with Vista by default. They were subsequently removed from Windows 7, so you won’t have those software utilities unless you install those using Windows Live Essentials.
What Isn’t In Windows Live Essentials?
Not all of the basic software that comes with Windows was removed in Windows 7. You’ll still have access to classic tools like Paint, WordPad, and Sticky Notes. These are not a part of the Windows Live Essentials package and come on all Windows 7 systems by default.
Also not part of the package is Microsoft Office, including Microsoft Office Web Apps, which is free for anyone to use. It seems like it could be a part of the package, but since everything runs in your browser, there’s really nothing to install. The same goes for SkyDrive, which in my opinion really could use a native app with features similar to DropBox, but that’s not currently part of the service.
Customizing Windows Live Essentials
A decade ago, the introduction of a software pack from Microsoft wouldn’t be available for download. It’d just be there, in your face, and difficult to uninstall. I have to give Microsoft credit – they’ve learned from the days when they were branded an “evil empire”. Microsoft Windows Live Essentials is extremely easy to customize.
When you download the installer, you’re actually downloading a small package that gives you the option to choose what you’d like to install when you launch it. You’re able to select as much or as little as you’d like. Once you’ve made the choice, the installer downloads only what you’ve picked.
Removing software is also easy. Although you can uninstall one-by-one, the easier approach is to open Windows Live Essentials in the Programs and Features section of the Control Panel. You’ll be given the option to remove specific pieces of software, or everything that’s included in the bundle.
Windows Live Essentials is well named. Most users will find at least one of the programs that make up the Essentials bundle important, be it Messenger (used by my grandmother), Windows Live Movie Maker (used by myself) or Photo Gallery (used by several friends). The ease with which the software can be customized, leaving behind what’s not wanted, is a step in the right direction for Microsoft. Maybe the company will one day make it just as easy to customize other parts of the operating system.
Let us know in the comments what you like or dislike about Live Essentials. Is there a piece of Windows software currently missing which should be included in the package?