28. Windows Live Messenger
Microsoft's instant messaging tool has come of age – the 2011 version is designed to be the social hub of your online life, giving you access to social networking sites and your Windows Live account. Behind all of this is the same great chat tool, perfect for staying in touch via text, voice and video.
29. Windows Live Writer
One of the drawbacks of blogging is that it usually has to be done through your browser while you're online. Windows Live Writer changes that – you can access your page through a more civilised interface, composing posts offline and publishing them when you're good and ready.
30. Windows Live Movie Maker
You'll be surprised at how easy transforming a collection of video clips and photos into a movie can be. Windows Live Movie Maker ensures it's a breeze without compromising on quality – with just a few clicks, your movie can be burned to DVD or distributed over the internet via YouTube. And with HD support, you can really make the most of your camera's capabilities.
31. Yule Log Visualisation
Warm your cockles – virtually speaking – with this visualisation of a roaring fire, designed for Windows Media Player. Access it by switching to the Now Playing mode, then right-click to the left of the playback controls and select Visualizations ➜ Yule Log ➜ Yule Log. Perfect for Christmas time.
32. Kodu Game Lab
Why get frustrated playing other people's games when you can design your own from scratch? Kodu Game Lab employs a simple point-and-click interface – it's aimed at children, but adults will appreciate the efforts made to make programming more enjoyable. We recommend checking out the video tutorial before you begin.
33. Windows Media Player 11
If you're still running Windows XP, upgrading to Media Player 11 is a must. The interface is slicker and friendlier, burning CDs is less troublesome and a new Sync tab ensures that sharing music with your portable device is easy.
34. Windows Live Photo Gallery
Import, organise and edit your photo collection without hassle using this powerful cataloguing tool. Windows Live Photo Gallery also boasts some nifty ways of sharing your photos, with tools for creating panoramas, slideshows and even movies. Once complete, you can upload your pictures to various online services, or send them in a photo email.
35. Microsoft Image Composite Editor
Stitch together several overlapping photos to create a widescreen panorama. It can be saved as a single file or shared through the PhotoSynth website.
36. Microsoft Silverlight
Many interactive websites and several applications require the free Microsoft Silverlight plug-in to be installed before you can enjoy their content. Get it from the web address above or install it as part of Windows Live Essentials.
37. Microsoft Zune Player
This online music and video store has expanded to include unlimited music streaming as well as sales of songs and movies. All of this is accessible through the sleek Zune Player, which is worth looking at as an alternative to Media Player, even if you don't plan on using the service.
38. Games For Windows - Live
This program puts you in touch with millions of other gamers, offering in-game chat and messaging to boost the atmosphere and add an extra edge to your experience. After you've signed in you'll be able to download a game, Tinker, for free.
39. Bing Maps 3D
Use Bing Maps 3D to make it easier to find and locate the information you're after. You can navigate with your mouse and keyboard to pan, tilt and move around the landscape, and even create your own 3D objects.
40. Worldwide Telescope
Enjoy the best imagery from the world's ground- and space-based telescopes, including Hubble, with Worldwide Telescope. Look out for the Guided Tours tab – a great place to get started.
41. Microsoft Photosynth
Photosynth goes one step further than Microsoft ICE, enabling you to create a 360° panorama from photos quickly and easily. You'll need to sign up for free access with your Windows Live ID, and your finished results are uploaded to the same site, either for public consumption or private sharing.
42. Server Quest II
Indulge in some retro gaming with these re-imaginings of classic games, such as King's Quest. The graphics are old-school, but Server Quest II is a great way to spend a quiet afternoon.
43. Microsoft Photo Story 3
It may only create a photo slideshow, but Photo Story 3 does it exceptionally well. Import your photos, then follow the wizard to create your sequence, adding captions, transition effects, minor corrections and a soundtrack. The finished collection can be shared online or burned to DVD using Windows DVD Maker.
44. Team Crossword
This game is designed to enable you and a group of friends to tackle puzzles on a daily basis, with the aim of posting the fastest time for completion. Team Crossword works through your Facebook account, making it easy to share with other people.
45. Bing Twitter Maps
Another Silverlight plug-in, this enables you to view tweets geographically, letting you see who's posting nearby.
46. Microsoft Expression Encoder 4
Although this tool is targeted at web developers, Expression Encoder 4 has a powerful feature set for video enthusiasts, too. Import clips, edit, de-interlace, crop and add overlay effects, then output the finished result to a WMV file, perfect for sharing over the internet. There's even a handy screen-capture tool built-in, too. You need to install .NET Framework 4.0 to run this program.
47. Microsoft Flight
Microsoft's Flight Simulator was long considered the de facto program for those wishing to experience the joys of virtual flight. Now you can download the basic version of the game for free, which provides you with one 'mission', based around the Big Island of Hawaii. While additional missions and planes will cost you, you'll find a number of free preview versions are available to give you a taster of what's to come.