Windows Live Messenger is now the official face of Microsoft instant messaging. It takes over from MSN Messenger, but it doesn’t alleviate the confusion between it and the messenger program built into Windows XP. (I routinely remove the built-in program – look under Control Panel / Add-Remove Programs / Add-Remove Windows Components.)

Windows Live Messenger is nicely designed – a clean layout with a minimal advertisement tucked at the bottom. It’s easy to set up voice and webcam conversations (try the Logitech QuickCam Fusion, easily the leading webcam right now, well worth a little extra money). Microsoft claims it will be able to reach Yahoo Messenger users soon, but AOL is still holding on to its closed format.

I’m fascinated by the integration of “shared folders.” In a clear, intuitive way, you can open a “shared folder” with someone on your IM list. Drop a file into the folder and the file will shortly appear in the same folder on the other end. There’s never been an easier way to share large files. Try it!

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