Our first complaint about MSN Messenger is its intrusiveness. To use MSN Messenger, you'll have to register for a free Microsoft .Net Passport account. A new account demands personal information such as gender, date of birth, and occupation. If you already have a Hotmail account, you just need to associate that account with .Net Passport. Once you've registered your new account, the 5MB download and installation process thankfully takes just a couple of minutes. MSN Messenger accounts won't work within other IM clients, unfortunately, but you can use software such as Trillian to mix messengers.
You can customize your MSN Messenger interface with themes or backgrounds. Extra features within MSN Messenger break into 10 main areas, each with its own tab. The messaging tab stays on top by default; others include alerts, extras (themes and greeting cards), stocks, travel, Xbox, shopping, games, MSNBC news, and local traffic. This basic interface is clean and well designed, but its proliferation of hyperlinks can be distracting. For example, clicking the Stocks tab opens a stock tracker, but clicking a link such as Pay My Bills opens a new Web page within your default Internet browser to an MSN bill-pay site involving paid access. There are many similar examples across MSN Messenger, making the utility seem more like an advertisement for paid Microsoft services than a handy IM tool.
Sending an instant message simply involves highlighting an online buddy and selecting "Send an instant message" from the command menu. When you receive a message, a system tray notification appears with the photo or avatar of the sender, so a quick look will help you decide whether to respond immediately (by clicking the tray notification) or wait till later. But IMs are just one of Messenger's many communication features. MSN Messenger can also access chat rooms, send voice messages (with your computer's microphone and speakers), videoconference with Webcams, and send e-mail (a premium service at $19.95 per year). MSN Messenger also supports some virtual collaboration tools, including application sharing and a whiteboard, which isn't available in AIM.
As with other IM products, including ICQ and Yahoo Messenger, MSN Messenger lets you manage your own photo or avatar; exchange files; send animated greetings (Yahoo calls these audibles); and personalize your messages with unique backgrounds, themes, and emoticons.
Support is clearly one of MSN Messenger's strengths. A comprehensive help page covers a suite of FAQs on downloading, installation, operation, and security. A detailed online manual outlines each feature, including common troubleshooting issues. You can also access the public MSN Messenger newsgroup or use a feedback form for direct e-mail assistance. You can even request remote assistance from other users.Download MSN Messenger 6.2