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Windows 7 users expecting to find Movie Maker on their computers as they had with Windows XP have been in for a rude disappointment—until today. Starting June 24 you can download a free upgrade called Windows Live Essentials, which not only includes Movie Maker but also some clever new photo-editing functions, plus enhanced mail and messenger features and the ability to access 25GB of free online storage, too.
Windows Live Essentials contains free programs from Microsoft that effectively take Windows 7 owners to a new plateau of creativity. Movie Maker automates the process of turning your videos, photos and audio into a movie. Using the AutoMovie routine, you're prompted to add a title, credits, transitions and effects. For more hands-on editing, you can customize your movie using simple tools that let you trim clips to show only the portions you want seen. Movies can be saved in high-definition formats (720p and 1080p).
You can publish your movie on YouTube directly from Movie Maker. Based on whether the version of Windows you have includes Windows DVD Maker, you may also be able to burn a DVD.
You can add more extensive titles, transitions, music and such effects as panning and zooming. You can also create a slickly produced slide show from your still photos using Movie Maker's editing tools. As the music plays, your images glide across the screen and zoom in to show close-ups (aka "Ken Burns Effect," after the famous documentary filmmaker's technique).
Photo Gallery enables you to automatically find people in your photos so you can add names to the faces. Later, you simply type in someone's name to see all the photos of that person. Facial recognition technology allows Photo Gallery to find pictures that have people in them and deduce who is in those pictures based on who you've tagged in past pictures.
A Retouch feature enables you to correct a blemish, scratch, bruise or stain. Another function called Batch Auto Adjust lets you correct your photos' exposure, color balance and sharpness simultaneously.
See new photos from people you've added to your Windows Live network. You can share your own photos with a few clicks, adding them to an online album, e-mailing them or ordering prints.
In terms of editing, there's a new function called Photo Fuse that lets you create a more perfect image from the best parts of two or more images. For example, suppose you have a bunch of group shots in which someone's tongue is exposed in one and someone's eyes are closed in another. You can derive a more perfect group photo from the best heads in the series. See below:
Beyond video and photos, Windows Live Essentials upgrades messenger, mail, family safety and blogging tool features. Online services include 25GB of free storage for your content, though Microsoft wants you registered to a Hotmail account.