Windows Essentials has never been essential to my experience on Windows. When it comes to photo editing or video creation software, I always go with freeware or third-party software like Adobe. Regardless, lots of people love the simplicity of Windows Movie Maker and Microsoft is making it easier than ever with the release of Windows Essential 2012.
Microsoft has released Windows Essential 2012 for both Windows 8 and Windows 7. While you can grab the software now for Windows 7 or the customer preview of Windows 8, it will also ship with the full retail version of Windows 8 coming out on October 26. Before you go download the new software, you should take a look at all the improvements Microsoft has made.
Windows Movie Maker has always been kind of like a stepping stone into more advanced video creation software. It's always been pretty simplistic and doesn't allow for all the fancy tricks that software from Adobe or Sony allows. Unfortunately, that remains the case with the new version of Windows Movie Maker. It's still best for quick editing of family videos, not for large projects with lots of post-processing.
Despite its simplistic nature, Microsoft has added a couple of great new features to Windows Movie Maker. The most helpful is the addition of anti-shake feature. They use the example of a mountain biker with a camera strapped to his helmet. The software will now be able to turn the bumpy video into something much smoother.
For those who like adding music to your videos, Microsoft has a new feature that will help users avoid the YouTube censors that block songs over copyright. They have partnered with AudioMicro, Free Music Archive and Vimeo Music Store to help users find the right music that won't be stripped once its published on the Web.
Speaking of music, Microsoft has added waveform visualizations to both the music and the video's audio in WMM. This helps users make sure the music will never interfere with the video's audio and vice versa. Users can also strip their narration from the video and add it as an audio file so that the two are separate.
On a final audio note, they have added software that lets you emphasize audio streams. This allows you to make sure the music is always heard over the other audio in the video vying for the viewer's attention.
Text has always been a mainstay of videos made with WMM. To make the text easier to read, users can now add dark outlines around the text to highlight it against backgrounds.
In what may be the biggest news for WMM, the software will now publish videos in h.264 by default. It's quickly becoming the standard and it's nice to see Microsoft embracing standards. Now if only we could convince them to publish videos in .mkv instead of .mov or .wmv.
Unlike WMM, Microsoft is only adding one new feature to Photo Gallery. It's called Auto Collage and it does what it sounds like. The software takes seven or more of your photos and creates a collage based on them.
Finally, Microsoft announced a partnership with Vimeo. Users can now publish their videos straight to Vimeo from Windows Movie Maker or Photo Gallery. The Vimeo options are built into the software so it doesn't even require you to open a browser during the process.
If you want to try out the new Windows Movie Maker or Photo Gallery, it's part of Windows Essential 2012. It's a free download from Microsoft and includes other software like the new Outlook 2012 and SkyDrive.