However, it would be foolhardy to abandon our objectivity and criticize all Microsoft products. Not only does Microsoft make some great products, but several of them are available for you to use completely free.
Here are my picks for the Top 5 free Microsoft software products and why they are the best.
Any blogger not using Windows Live Writer (WLW) is wasting time and being unproductive. Looking for a better alternative? There is none.
WLW makes blogging a breeze on popular platforms like WordPress, Blogger, Windows Live, LiveJournal and Typepad. True WYSIWYG editing shows you previews of how your post will look. Easily upload/embed photos/videos with borders, effects, alignment, and resizing. WLW also has an extensible framework of plugins, that let you customize and extend its functionality. Check out our previous coverage of WLW to get more out of this must-have tool for bloggers.
Microsoft Photosynth is a jaw-dropping technology that automatically stitches together your photos to create an immersive 3D view. You can explore hundreds of thousands of synths on the site, or upload your own photos to create your own synth. You can then embed your synth on your website to share with everyone. This can even be used for multiple people uploading pictures of an event. For example, here is the photosynth of Obama’s presidential inauguration made with hundreds of photographs contributed by multiple people. Below is a snapshot of a popular synth of the Statue of Liberty.
From NASA to National Geographic, you can explore fascinating 3D views of places all over the world. Photosynth uses the Seadragon technology that we’ve covered previously on MakeUseOf.
Photosynth is also integrated with Bing Maps. Over 14,000 geo-tagged photosynths comprising 1.4 million photos uploaded by users like you and me can be explored via the Photosynth Bing Maps application – easily one of the best free Microsoft software products.
Microsoft WorldWide Telescope (WWT) brings terabytes of imagery from the best ground telescopes and the Hubble Space Telescope to your desktop. It seamlessly combines the data from these multiple sources into a rich immersive world that you can explore from your home. Use the native Windows client for all features, or the web client for a smaller subset. Guided tours from experts are a great way to introduce the stars and galaxies to youngsters. Exploration is possible not only in the visible light spectrum, but also in non-visible wavelengths such as x-ray and infrared.
The user interface and imagery use Photosynth technology and is said to be significantly better than Google Sky.
Windows Live Skydrive offers 25 GB of free space to anyone with a free Live ID for uploading, storing, and sharing files and photos. Most online storage services do not provide anything above 2 GB for free, and Skydrive’s 25 GB remains unparalleled. You can choose to keep files private, share them with contacts, or make them public. People are uploading 4 million photos to Skydrive every day. With Office 2010, you’ll be able to directly save a document on your PC to Skydrive.
Check out MakeUseOf’s coverage of Windows Live to get the most out of Skydrive.
Bing is one of the best free Microsoft software products. While I still use Google almost exclusively myself, I have no hesitation in nominating Bing in this list of the best free Microsoft products. Why?
For starters, Bing is better than Google for certain kinds of queries. Natural language searches seem to be better in Bing. The categories and suggestions offered by Bing on the left are unique and not matched by Google. Check out these 10 Sites to Compare Google vs Bing Results Side by Side and judge for yourself.
But the real reason I love Bing is because it provides competition to Google. The past decade has seen Google become a monopoly in the search business. With Bing’s increasing popularity, Google is forced to innovate. Compare the rate of feature enhancements announced by Google before and after the arrival of Bing and you will agree that Bing makes Google better. That is certainly good for all of us and the web in general.
Which are your favorite free Microsoft products? Share with us in the comments! Don’t like Microsoft? You’d be interested to read Justin’s article on The Top 5 Free WORST Microsoft Products & Why They Suck and chime in!