On Thursday, Microsoft and Yahoo will begin testing a link between their instant messaging programs, fulfilling a promise made nine months ago.

Windows Live Messenger is a nice product, and the “sharing folders” are implemented so smoothly that small businesses may finally have a reason to consider using IM as a business tool.

It takes a few clicks to turn off various annoying features of Windows Live Messenger, like other IM programs. It’s possible to get rid of the icons down the side, turn off the “emoticons” and “winks” and some of the advertising, if you look through the options. Most important, you can turn off the automatic display of a window full of celebrity gossip and crap – look in the options under “General” and turn off “Windows Live Today.”

There is one more odd thing about the Windows Live Messenger interface – by default, no menu is displayed. Look for a little button in the upper right to turn it on.

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