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Product: MSN 8
Company: Microsoft
Estimated Street Price:

Broadband $39.95-49.95/mo
Dial-up $21.95/mo
 Software Only $9.95/mo or $79.95/yr

Review By: Paul Britton

User Interface

Table Of Contents
1: Introduction & Installation
2: User Interface
3: Communications
4: Productivity Part I
5: Productivity Part II

The first thing that stands out when you access MSN 8 is how elegant and sleek it looks and feels.  The sign-in interface structure hasn’t changed…click your account’s representative picture and type in your password.  If you use MSN Explorer 6 or 7, the user interface has no learning curve whatsoever, the basics remain.  A single paying MSN 8 account supports up to 8 sub-accounts and one guest sign-in account.  Below the toolbar exists the navigation bar that contain (big) back and forth buttons, and icons to the main MSN sites & services.  You can click a small down arrow next to each of these icons to drill down through each typeset of services available.  Under the MSN Entertainment drop down, for example, lists links to Movies, Music, TV, News, Celebs, and Gossip.

An exciting innovation in the client’s navigation bar is how you can dynamically adjust how big you want it to be.  You can click and “drag” the bottom of the navigation bar up, and watch as all the icons and text dynamically change in size. (via DirectX)  This allows the user to quickly gain access to more screen real estate if they need it; it also allows more savvy people who are insulted by massive icons to reduce their impact.  I like this feature, and I hope it shows up in future versions of Internet Explorer!

Another widely reported new feature is the replacement of the usability impediment ‘My Stuff’ bar in earlier MSN clients with the more user friendly MSN Dashboard.  The Dashboard builds on work done by Microsoft Research over the last couple of years in what they term as “pervasive computing”.  The Dashboard is a vertical bar replete with up to the minute displays of information ‘parts’ that you can add from upcoming appointments to MSN headlines and a completely self-contained media player (Windows Media Player 9 must be resident on the system).  There are fairly customizable; you can even add a picture of a loved one for example so that he/she/it is always but a quick glance away.

MSN 8 can offer all the plethora of features and glossed over goodies in the world, but without a decent browsing experience…MSN can’t expect to keep many new subscribers.  I am pleased to report that the browsing experience is just as solid as it is for Internet Explorer, and finally brings a useable history bar to MSN subscribers for the first time.

 « Introduction & Installation User Interface »


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