Would you like to integrate Windows Live Messenger with social networks such as Facebook? With the new Messenger beta, you can do that and more quickly and easily.
To try out the new Live Messenger, you’ll need to install the new Windows Live Essentials beta. Download the Essentials installer (link below), and install as normal. Many users will already have Messenger installed, so it will be updated to the latest version; otherwise, make sure to check it in the installer.
We’ve already looked at an overview of the new Live Essentials, so if you’d like more information about the installation process and the other Essentials apps, check out our Screenshot Tour of the New Windows Live Essentials Beta.
Once setup is finished, launch Messenger from the Start menu. You’ll notice that the sign in screen has slightly changed, with a new setup progress indicator at the bottom of the window. Sign in with your standard Messenger account, and select Sign me in automatically if you want Messenger to automatically use this account each time you launch Messenger.
You can now add social services to Windows Live Messenger, including Facebook and Myspace. Currently these are the only supported networks, but others may be added before it is finally released. If you’ve already added social networks to your online Live account, you won’t need to configure anything else. Otherwise, click the social network’s icon to add its settings to Messenger.
We added Facebook to our account, and the setup should be similar for other networks. Select what you want to see in Messenger, and the click Connect with Facebook.
Now, select if you want to see highlights from your social networks, or news updates from MSN. We chose Social Highlights so we could see information from our Facebook friends and more, this is the best way to experience the new features in Messenger.
The New Social Messenger
Here’s the new Windows Live Messenger. The main screen has been entirely overhauled, and now shows updates from Windows Live, Facebook, and any other networks you may have added. You can update your status on all of your networks at the same time from the top, or just chat with your friends as before. Currently you can comment on friend’s Facebook posts, and in the upcoming final release you’ll be able to chat with Facebook friends directly.
While the interface may look plain at first, it actually incorporates nice text and photo animations, similar to “Metro” interface used in Zune for PC and previews of Windows Phone 7. You can switch your current social view from the text labels on top, similar to the menu system in Windows Phone 7.
Enter a new update and press Share to update your status on Facebook, Windows Live, and other connected networks.
Updates from your friends and fan pages on Facebook, Windows Live, and other networks show up directly in Messenger. You can comment on updates, and even view YouTube videos that your friends have shared directly in Messenger.
You can also click on your friends photos from Facebook, which will open them in a beautiful slideshow window. You can browse through their photos with your arrow keys, and comment on photos directly in the slideshow view. This was one of the nicest features in Messenger, and made the pictures look much nicer than they do on Facebook!
Unfortunately, some slideshows didn’t load correctly; hopefully this is something that will be improved before the final release.
Or, if you want to see what’s going on in the world around you, click the MSN link on the top left to see the latest news from MSNBC directly in Messenger.
Messenger is Still Messenger
With all the new changes, you might run Messenger and not even use the old Messenger chat itself. As noted above, your buddy list is still on the right, but if you prefer to use Messenger just for chat, then click the button on the top right corner to switch to compact view.
This makes Messenger look and work more like before, and makes Messenger more focused on just chat rather than social networks.
You can also still access the traditional file menu. Just press the Alt key, and the file menu will appear just like before.
For those who like to customize it, you can now use any of the new Live themes, most of which are based on the themes in Windows 7.
Power users will appreciate the new tabs in Messenger. Now you can chat with multiple friends without having a dozen Messenger windows open on your desktop.
Windows 7 Integration
Messenger offers several features that make it integrate nicely with your computer. It includes new toast notifications when new messages come in. If you have a Hotmail account on the same Live ID, you will receive similar messages when you receive a new email.
The taskbar icon also shows your current status, and you can change your online status in one click from the Windows 7 taskbar preview.
If you have multiple tabs open, you can select them individually from the thumbnail previews, just like you can select individual tabs from IE8 in the taskbar.
It also has a Jumplist, and you can start a chat or sign out of Messenger directly from it.
By default, clicking the exit button in the Messenger window only minimizes it to your taskbar. You can fully exit it by clicking Exit Messenger in the Jumplist or by clicking the exit button in the thumbnail preview. If you want it to behave the way it used to before Windows 7, check out our article on how to make the Live Messenger close to the System Tray.
Windows Live Messenger is one of the most popular instant messaging programs in the world, and the latest version tries to make sure it stays relevant in the age of social networks. If you’ve found yourself using Facebook more than Messenger lately, the new version may make it easier to stay connected both ways. We enjoyed the subtle animations and found the photo slideshows to be a much nicer way to enjoy Facebook pictures than the default Facebook interface.