This program improves on its predecessor, MSN Messenger, with the ability to share folders and files locally with fellow users. Windows Live Messenger also serves up the standard emoticons, multiplayer-only gaming, free PC-to-PC calling, mobile phone messaging, and video chatting in a full 640x480-pixel screen. VoIP capabilities allow you to call telephones around the world for a fee, although you can't receive inbound calls from landlines or cell phones.
During the quick installation, Windows Live Messenger offers optional shortcuts, a sign-in assistant, and Rhapsody music software, as well as the ability to change your Internet Explorer home page to MSN. You can store up to 600 contacts, integrated with your Windows Live Mail account. We found the integration a bit heavy-handed, especially when links opened in IE rather than our default browser. Also, like most dedicated chat clients, the program is a memory hog.
The Sharing Folders feature lets you and your buddy transfer files by displaying a mirror of each others' files. You can drag and drop files into the chat window or Sharing Folder. Microsoft includes a free scanner for checking files for viruses, but it didn't recognize our Symantec AntiVirus. It's unclear whether the shared files are stored on both computers or on Microsoft servers, but you can access the files offline. We wish help were offline, too, especially since the online help is so general. While Windows Live Messenger isn't yet the ultimate communications hub, it's a solid, fun, multimedia chatting tool.
Windows Live Messenger 8.1 includes support for the im Initiative! Every time you start a conversation using im, Microsoft shares a portion of the program's advertising revenue with some of the world's most effective organizations dedicated to social causes. So any time you have an im conversation using Windows Live Messenger 8.1, you help address the issues you feel most passionate about. It's simple. All you have to do is join and start an instant messaging conversation.
Key Features: Call your friends' PC (free), mobile or landline phones. Calls require a microphone and speakers or a headset and broadband connection. Make calls for less than $.02 a minute to most places around the world with Verizon Web Calling. Start a video conversation within minutes with a webcam. Drop in photos and other stuff for friends in a Sharing Folder, as many as your computer can handle. With Windows Live Messenger you can now connect with your Yahoo! IM contacts.