Hotmail Gets Hotter

Windows Live Hotmail (Wave 4 Beta)

Hotmail remains the second most popular webmail service after Yahoo Mail (with
Gmail nipping at Microsoft’s heels), according to the latest numbers from Hitwise. But Microsoft isn’t content to maintain the status quo; Redmond has added a number of big changes aimed at giving Hotmail a competitive edge. Windows Live Hotmail (Wave 4 Beta) now has new ways to share and view content like photos and video easily within the mail reader, connect with social networks, and clean out the clutter. It’s a slick, fast e-mail solution that does a good job of keeping your inbox free from junk. Hotmail’s new design is somewhere in between that of Yahoo’s rich application, complete with buttons and resizable columns, and Gmail’s minimalist aesthetic. Hotmail now offers a Conversation view similar to Gmail. But Gmail’s inbox has one nifty trick that’s still missing in Hotmail—live updating without the need to hit “Refresh.” Hotmail does have a nice new Quick Views feature, which lets you view only e-mails containing photos, Office docs, shipping dates, or messages you’ve flagged—and beats having to search your inbox. To use the new photo, video, and Office doc-viewing features, I had to install Silverlight, Microsoft’s lightweight Flash-like plug-in. When I clicked the Office docs icon, the doc was saved to my SkyDrive. From here, I viewed and edited the document in the new Office Web apps—pretty slick. I also watched You-Tube clips in my inbox. In my testing, I configured my Hotmail account to receive a lot of dubious notices, and Microsoft’s SmartScreen spam blocker did an excellent job keeping my inbox clean. It caught more spam than did Yahoo, and takes you right to your messages without adding an extra click to get past news and updates. As for speed, Hotmail is snappy and desktop-like, but Gmail is a tad faster. I could read e-mail in any of the current browsers (Chrome, Safari, Firefox, and IE), but the calendar didn’t work in Chrome. Though there are still some snags in this version and Yahoo still wins on interface, Hotmail’s handling of inbox clutter, photo and document attachments, and integration with social networks make a strong argument to switch.

Source of Information : PC Magazine July 2010


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