Work around these Windows Live Messenger 2011 annoyances

If you are a Windows Live Messenger user, you know that Microsoft recently released the 2011 version of Messenger and that the product has been expanded beyond the Windows Live network to become a social networking portal. Well, almost. Windows Live Messenger 2011 will allow you to connect to your Facebook and MySpace accounts as well as to LinkedIn, but it won’t allow you to tap into Twitter.

In addition to these main social networking connections, there are connections to all kinds of sites that allow you to share content with your contacts. For example, there are connections to Pandora, Hulu, Newsvine, StumbleUpon, Flicker, and many, many more. Surprisingly, considering the rivalry, you can even tap into Google’s Picasa.

All these great new features aside, there are a couple of things that really annoy me about Windows Messenger in Windows 7. The first is that the Windows Live Messenger icon no longer appears in the Notification Area — instead it resides on the Taskbar, where it takes up valuable space even when you are not using it. The second is that by default Windows Live Messenger opens in an almost full-screen view.

Having the Windows Live Messenger icon on the taskbar,  takes up valuable space and is more than a bit annoying to those of us who have been using this app from the Notification Area for years. And, the fix, which is officially supported by Microsoft, is really an odd one, but it works. To put the icon back in the Notification Area, you must configure Windows Live Messenger to run in Compatibility Mode.

To begin, close Windows Live Messenger. Then, track down the Windows Live Messenger icon on the Start menu by clicking the Start button and typing Messenger in the Start Search box. Once you see the Windows Live Messenger icon, right-click and select the Properties command. When you see the Properties dialog box, select the Compatibility tab. Then, in the Compatibility Mode panel, select the check box and choose Windows Vista (Service Pack 2) from the drop-down list.

To continue, click OK. Now, locate the Windows Live Messenger icon on the Start menu as described above and launch the application. When you do, you’ll see the Sign In dialog box and an icon on the Taskbar. You will see an icon in the Notification Area momentarily, and then it will disappear.

To make the icon always appear in the Notification Area, you’ll click the Show Hidden Icons button and then click the Customize command. When you see the Notification Area Icons dialog box, locate the Windows Live Messenger icon and choose Show Icon and Notifications from the drop-down menu

To continue, click OK. When you do, you’ll see the Windows Live Messenger icon in the Notification Area. Once you are signed in, you can close the main Windows Live Messenger window. The Taskbar icon will go away, and the icon will remain in the Notification Area just like it used to in previous version of Windows. Of course, when you are using Windows Live Messenger, you will see an icon on the Taskbar as well.

(Keep in mind that this trick will also work with Windows Live Messenger 2009 in Windows 7.)

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