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Near-final Windows Live Essentials suite released

Windows Live Essentials has, um, essentially arrived.

Don’t be confused by other sites: This is not a beta release. What you’re seeing is the near-final version of virtually every Windows Live Essentials application and service being released today. (The big exception is Windows Live Movie Maker, which has been dramatically updated but will be in beta for several more months; yes, it’s now usable.)

To download the suite, visit the Windows Live Essentials Download site. If you’ve already got the beta version of the suite installed, good news: it will simply update everything that needs updating. (I was originally told you’d have to uninstall the beta version first.)

This version of the suite includes some old standbys, such as Windows Live Messenger, Windows Live Mail, Windows Live Writer, Windows Live Photo Gallery, Windows Live Movie Maker, Windows Live Toolbar, Office Outlook Connector, and Windows Live Family Safety. But there are some new additions, too, including Windows Live Sync (installed if you have also chosen Windows Live Photo Gallery, so you can do PC-to-PC photo library sync, which is awesome), Office Live Add-In, and Silverlight.

New icons can be seen across the suite, which is, well, sweet. And Messenger, especially, has been significantly refined.

I’ll be using Windows Live Essentials a lot this week and will have a review ready soon.

UPDATE: Apparently Microsoft is referring to this release as a “beta refresh” which has caused a bit of silliness like this. I want to be clear here. I note above that this is not a beta release because that is what Microsoft told me. But you can see for yourself that the beta tags are gone from the About boxes as well. You know, whatever. :) People do love to be pedantic.

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