When you download Windows Live Essentials, you won’t find a calendar application or even an address book application. What you will find, however, is Windows Live Mail, which covers not only your e-mailing needs, but also comes with calendar and contacts functionality. To switch between Mail, Calendar and Contacts you can select which function you wish to use in the bottom left hand corner of the screen. If you open Calendar, it opens in the current window, but Contacts opens its own window, which I found a little strange and inconsistent.
The mail section of the application provides you with a consistent and familiar layout similar to other mail clients. On the left, you’re presented with a sidebar containing three categories: “Quick Views” where you can view all unread e-mail and feeds; all the mailboxes of the linked account and the “Outbox” section. You can also add another e-mail account from here, as well as select different functions from Mail, Calendar and Contacts.
In the middle of the window, you can view all the messages in the mailbox you’ve selected to view, and when you select a message, it appears on the right hand side of the window, making it simple to use and easy to read. If you want to compose a new message, you can do so by selecting “New” from the menu bar at the top of the window. You can create a standard e-mail, photo e-mail and even events and news messages.
Also, Windows Live Mail isn’t just limited to Hotmail accounts – it can handle any e-mail server with POP3 or IMAP capabilities. I tested the application with a Hotmail account, a GMail account and my e-mail account given to me by my ISP, all of which worked a treat.
The calendar section of the application does what it says on the tin, and it does a good job of it. You can have various calendars on the application, and give each calendar a separate colour to distinguish it from the others, although some of the colours are rather similar to each other, so if you have a lot of calendars to organise, you may not know at a glance which is which. You can choose to view your calendar in 3 different views: day, week or month and to create a new event, like in the mail section, you just have to select “New” from the menu list and select “Event” from the drop down list that’s presented to you.
The contacts section of the application opens in a separate window, which I thought was quite strange considering the other sections open in the same window…The contacts window is split into 3 sections. On the left hand section, you can view your contact groups, and your individual contacts appear in the middle section of the window. If you select a contact, you’ll see a more detailed view of their information. If you use a Windows Live account, you can import your contacts from your account which is a big time saver, especially if you have a lot of contacts!
Overall, I like the layout of Live Mail, although the way it integrates your e-mails, calendars and contacts in to one application seems a bit annoying to me, as I like to use Thunderbird for my desktop e-mail client, so if I want to use the calendar or contacts, I’ll have email on two applications. Despite this, I find the application easy to use and navigate around, and it’s a welcome change from the old Address Book found in Windows XP!