There was a time when I did not like Hotmail overly much. Cluttery interface, missing features, and competition being better was what contributed to my negative opinion. Since 2008 though, when Windows Live Wave 3 was introduced, I have actually started to like Hotmail. Gone was the clutter, and the user interface had become very lightweight and fast.
In the past two years, Microsoft has spent more energy in making Windows Live Hotmail even better. The result proves that these efforts were not in vain. But—what does “better” mean? What is important for a modern e-mail service in 2010 and beyond?
With considerable amounts of spam and phishing mails flooding your inbox each day, it is important that you stay secure. Trusting your mail provider is of essential importance. Hotmail now checks every link that you click within e-mail messages. Even before they reach your inbox, mails are scanned for potentially harmful contents. This is done by the Microsoft Smartscreen filter. When a message is filtered, you will get informed of the reason. Mail from trustworthy senders displays an icon so you can recognize them at first glance.
With the new Hotmail, you will also be able to run your complete session SSL-encrypted. Sign-in is possible not only with user name and password, but also with single-use codes that are delivered e.g. to your cell phone. This increases your account safety in public places, such as airports or Internet cafés.
Hotmail Highlights inform you about your friends and their messages to you, about social news, events and birthdays. One-click filters allow you to scan your Inbox for relevant items, and new Quick Views display messages with attachments, videos or photos.
Removing unwanted mail is about to get easier. Have you ever been irritated by the bunch of messages delivered to you by Social Networks—“John Doe wants to connect with you”? When you are in need to find a certain mail, even newsletters can get into your way easily. With the Sweep feature, you can sort out such mails with a single click, and only your really important correspondence is left over.
Viewing messages in conversations is an good way to read even older messages sent by the same sender—with a simple mouse-over. Unlike the same functionality in Google Mail, in Hotmail you can turn this feature on and off as you need.
Focusing on mail contents
Often, messages you receive request that you take an action. For example, a friend may send you a link to a video on YouTube. Or, you want to take a look at the vacation photos in the Flickr album that your sister has just sent you. With Active Views, you can now watch the video or browse the photo album right from your inbox. Hotmail is also partnering with other companies and services like LinkedIn to provide an interactive experience, letting you take actions inside the email they send.
Access from anywhere
Reading and sending mail from your cell phone is getting simpler, too. If your phone supports Exchange ActiveSync, you can now sync your mail, calendar and contacts with your inbox on the Web. You don’t have to miss the rich functionality of Hotmail on your phone anymore, such as filters, previews, HTML views, reading messages offline, or show/hide message headers.
Integrating your Office
Microsoft Office 2010 is now integrated into Hotmail via SkyDrive, for free. This lets you view and edit Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, OneNote notebooks and PowerPoint presentations. With versioning, you can access older versions of the same document, from the Web—wherever you are, anytime you want.
Hotmail—ready for the future
With these upcoming improvements in mind, my opinion about Hotmail is getting better gradually. I see that the Windows Live team has invested time to think about how e-mail is used these days. What do you think about the new Hotmail?