Instant messaging usually means watching written messages appear in real time on a computer screen and then responding to them. Windows Live Messenger offers that type of traditional chat, but you can also connect with people through voice calls or video. The calls make use of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). Here's more about how each of these Windows Messenger features work.
Making PC to PC calls is easy and inexpensive, but you'll have to invest in a compatible microphone and speakers or a headset. Both you and your contact will need Windows Instant Messenger downloaded, and you'll need to complete the sign-up process for a Windows Live ID. Note, too, that while the call is free, you'll need to pay for Internet service.
To make a call, start by clicking the phone icon and then selecting "Call Computer." When your call invitation is sent, your contact's computer will ring. When the invitation is accepted, you're ready to start the conversation.
High-definition video calls also are easy, but you need the right equipment -- compatible Web cameras, microphones, speakers or a headset and high-speed Internet access. You and the person you're calling also need to be signed on to Windows Instant Messenger. As with PC to PC calls, the call is free, but you'll need to pay an Internet service provider for the Web access.
To make a call, start by clicking on the Video icon or right clicking on a contact, clicking on Video and then selecting "Start Video Call." A video invitation to talk is then sent to your contact. You can start your conversation as soon as your contact accepts the invitation.
Windows Live Messenger works in even more ways, allowing you to communicate via smartphones and other mobile devices -- and even with the Xbox 360 gaming platform. Keep reading to learn more.