Microsoft tests more Windows Live services

Microsoft Corp. continues to test updates to its Windows Live online services, including a service launched last year that allows users to submit blog posts simultaneously to more than one blogging platform.

A new beta of that service, called Windows Live Writer, is now available from an internal blog. Windows Live Writer is a tool to compose blog posts and publish them on some of the Web's most popular blogging platforms -- such as Windows Live Spaces, Community Server, WordPress and TypePad. Microsoft released the first test version of the service last August, but hadn't updated the product since November 2006, according to the Liveside blog.

An entry by Nick White, a Microsoft product manager, on the Windows Vista team blog lays out the new features in Windows Live Writer. It enables in-line spell checking, the ability to add categories and table editing and allows for easier image insertion, he said.

The new Windows Live Writer beta is available in both English and Spanish in the U.S., as well as in English in India and the U.K. It also is available in Spain, Germany, Japan, China and France.

In addition to the Writer update, Microsoft also released new betas for its instant-messaging and Web-based mail services this week.

Windows Live Messenger 8.5 is now in official beta, though users got an early look when the release was leaked in Spanish on the Messenger Adictos blog earlier this week. The beta includes a user interface designed to look more like the revamped Aero interface of Windows Vista. Users can find the beta on its Windows Live site.

Windows Live Mail, the successor to Windows Mail that is included in Windows Vista and Outlook Express on Windows XP, also has a new beta release. The new version includes a new UI that is similar to other services in Windows Live, and also allows users to sync to their Windows Live Hotmail accounts.

Other features in the Windows Live Mail beta include offline mail, accounting aggregation for Windows Live Hotmail and other POP3 (Post Office Protocol 3) and IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol) mail accounts, and RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feed aggregation. Improvements in the service include better photo-sharing and search features, as well as more security, according to Microsoft.

Windows Live Mail also will feature integration with other Windows Live services, including Windows Live Spaces. For the time being, the service will not include advertisements, the company said. However, many of the Windows Live services have been created by Microsoft to drive online advertising revenue, so many of them already include advertising or will in the future if they do not already.

Microsoft revealed a new strategy to develop new online services in November 2005, and also unveiled the new Windows Live brand. Many of the services previously branded MSN are now called Windows Live. More information and a list of service can be found on the Windows Live home page.

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