Microsoft’s MSN.com site has a new look.  The nearly 20-year old web portal has been completely re-designed. And it’s also making some Windows 8.1 apps available for Windows 7 users. 

According to Brian MacDonald, Microsoft’s Corporate VP of Information and Content Experiences for Microsoft,  “We have rebuilt MSN from the ground up for a mobile-first, cloud-first world.”

The site will still feature links to news and sports as well as to food and travel and other special interest topics. But it will now also serve as a platform to link you to Microsoft’s other services.

The new look relies heavily on tiles and does bring to mind the Windows 8.1  metro/modern screen, but the look is sparser.

Users will notice a service stripe at the top that can connect you instantly to your Outlook.com e-mail, Microsoft Office account, OneDrive, Facebook, Twitter, Skype, Maps and your Xbox Music account.

If you mouse over the icon for the service, you’ll see information like your recent e-mails in Outlook.com and access to your calender, plus you can compose a new e-mail.

Hovering over Office will show me my recent documents in OneDrive and give me access to the online Office apps. That mean I can access my documents to read and edit from any computer, not just one that has Office installed on the hard drive.

Choosing Facebook or Twitter will bring up the most recent posts in my feed. Plus, you’ll also receive notifications of new posts.

Xbox Music will allow me to listen to music from the streaming service.

MSN will now also feature productivity tools like shopping list creators, symptom checkers and savings calculators.

Microsoft is hoping that if you feel the need to check a symptom, you’ll do it with the MSN Symptom Checker instead of heading to a site like Web MD.

I haven’t used a web portal for years. My homepage has been Facebook for a long time. But I was impressed with some things on the re-designed MSN such as an exercise section that allowed me to pick a yoga workout based on difficulty  and duration.

Then offered me a video to watch.

The Food and Drink section is the same as the Bing Food and Drink App on Windows 8.1. It offers you a chance to connect with poplar food sites, browse recipes, make recipe collections and create a shopping list.

In fact, many of the tools on the redesigned site are actually the same Bing apps you can use in Windows 8.1. And that’s certainly not a bad thing, some of those apps are marvelous. This makes these apps available to those who are still using Windows 7.

With the access  to the Microsoft services and apps via a browser this could turn nearly any computer with browser access in a sort of Windows 8 “Chromebook.”  I even tested it out in Ubuntu and I was able to use the Word Apps and the Bing Apps. I have to wonder if this isn’t also a preview into the future of Windows.

Right now the new look is still in preview, but you can check it out by following this link to preview.msn.com.

~ Cynthia