Windows Live Essentials Beta 2: All the good stuff (FB chat, geotag to Bing Maps, more)

Explanation:  This post was written under embargo, before the links to what was apparently the Beta Refresh became available earlier today.  According to a Microsoft spokesperson, those links point to a download that “is not the right build; the Beta Refresh is still to come”. Of course this begs the question as to why an internal build was/is available publically, however we recommend checking on the official word/build number to make sure you have the latest/correct bits.

(Update)  The build numbers for what you were able to get to earlier are apparently the same as the “official” ones, corrected the download link below from the link we were given (thanks, Kristopher!).  Sorry we’re a bit stuck at work to be able to dig in to all these issues, you guys are doing a great job of “crowdsourcing” in the comments, keep it up!

Today Microsoft is announcing the availability of Windows Live Essentials “Beta Refresh”, available for download from http://explore.live.com/windows-live-essentials-beta

Right off the bat, we get improvements with the addition of Windows Live Essentials “Startup”, which joins the full default install (download and install everything), or custom install.  Windows Live Essentials Startup will allow users to install the clients they wish to use, and customize the language of their programs during the install process.

From there, it looks like we got most of what you all have been hoping for, starting with Facebook Chat in Windows Live Messenger (available initially in 6 countries: US, UK, France, Brazil, Germany and Russia):

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Windows Live Photo Gallery gets a number of improvements:

· Facial Recognition: Photo Gallery’s facial recognition technology has been refreshed to ensure better recognition accuracy. Smart facial recognition makes suggestions based on previous tags and uses logic to deduce who is in the picture to for more intuitive future tagging.

· Find Gallery Live Preview: Find capabilities using multiple filters have been enhanced to allow consumers to better organize and find photos. Consumers now have a live preview by hovering on a Find gallery to see the results instantly.

· Bing Maps Integration: Photo Gallery integrates Bing Maps with a feature (Map it with Bing) that integrates with Photo Gallery’s geo-tagging feature providing consumers the ability to view a map of where a specific photo was taken for a rich photo management experience.

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Windows Live Movie Maker is updated too, with at least an attempt at a video timeline (can’t wait to see what this is like):

Create a stunning movie faster with Movie Maker’s precision editing with enhanced file scrubbing. File scrubbing enables the ability to browse through the video timeline allowing consumers to get to that video sweet spot, down to the second.

(Note:  We were able to spend some time with Windows Live Director Dharmesh Mehta who was kind enough to demo a number of these new features, however we weren’t able to get our hands on the bits early, so we’re as excited as you to dig in!)

Movie Maker now also supports 640×480 video upload resolution to SkyDrive, upload to Flickr, and “Snapshot” allowing to to screenshot a video.

Windows Live Mail sports improved management of Gmail folders (including Sent, Drafts, SPAM, and Trash), the ability to set SkyDrive PhotoMail albums not to expire, and “keep formatting” support:

Write emails from Word and other Office products and easily import in to Mail with copy/past support, consumers can now write emails from their Office program of choice with formatting transferred “as-is” from Word.

Windows Live Writer includes an upgraded Recent Posts/Drafts selection UX (including Windows 7 Jump List support), “keep formatting” support, and an improved spell check,

and finally, Windows Live Family Safety has improved Alerts management and Activity reporting, with a new single daily email digest and improved filtering for Activity reports.