What draws people to Windows Live Mail and other email applications

What draws people to Windows Live Mail and other email applications

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These are exciting times to be working on an email product. This is perhaps surprising, given that email has been with us since the very first days of the Internet. It is one of the most ubiquitous and well understood communication technologies, right up there with the telephone and the (snail mail) postal service. One could be forgiven for assuming that all the problems inherent in this communication method have been solved already.

Yet email has been evolving to meet our growing communications needs since day one, and the innovation continues apace. Just as we've been working hard on Hotmail improvements (see Mike’s post), we also continue to invest heavily in our client email program Windows Live Mail, part of our Windows Live Essentials suite of products.

Windows Live Mail

Windows Live Mail was formerly known as just Windows Mail, and even more formerly known as Outlook Express (…yep, we just love renaming things to keep you on your toes :) ). It’s a very capable email application that can connect to most web-based email accounts including Hotmail, Gmail, AOL, and many others. It also includes a full-featured calendar that syncs with http://calendar.live.com.

Picture of Windows Live Mail in action
Windows Live Mail


Yes, people still use email applications

Recently, web email has undergone a lot of innovation. Web email properties like Hotmail, Yahoo! Mail, Gmail, and Outlook Web Access have rapidly expanded their features and capabilities to the point where they've become the primary way that many users connect to their email.

Yet PC-based applications like Microsoft Office Outlook and our own Windows Live Mail are still widely used, and provide a set of distinct advantages that still resonate with users. Email remains the second most common activity on a new PC – right behind surfing the web. In fact, our research tells us that 70% of Windows users expect to get an email program on their new PC.

So, what draws all those people to prefer email applications to web-based mail?

The power of offline access

Reading and composing mail offline is a fairly common activity for laptop and mobile users. It’s super critical to be able to look up something in your mail from wherever you are, without having to hunt down a Wi-Fi hotspot or Ethernet jack. Applications like Outlook and Windows Live Mail allow you to read, compose, and manage your mail and calendar locally, and then sync everything back up the next time you reconnect.

Perhaps surprisingly, using an e-mail application can be preferable even for a fully-connected desktop PC. This is because you get a dedicated window for your email that isn’t sharing a frame with your browser. The window has its own icon in the Windows taskbar, it notifies you whenever new mail arrives, and your data is saved locally and not subject to network glitches, etc. My wife has been a Hotmail user for years but had never tried Windows Live Mail. Two years ago, I set up Windows Live Mail for her on her desktop PC, and she’s never gone back. She much prefers it to visiting the Hotmail website, and keeps Windows Live Mail running all day.

The power of local processing

Email applications still have an edge when composing long email messages. If you use an application like Windows Live Mail, you get used to simple things like rich formatting options, auto-saved drafts, on-the-fly spell checking, and the ability to paste images into a message, inline with your text.

Photos are especially important the vast majority of photos are still exchanged via email. Windows Live Mail offers photo email – instead of attaching large photos directly to your message, which can take up a lot of bandwidth when sending, and may even bounce back, you can instead compose a photo email, which automatically uploads your photos to SkyDrive, and attaches smaller thumbnail images to your message. When your friend receives your photo email, they can click on a thumbnail photo, and are taken to a rich web photo viewer, where they can enjoy a full screen slide show, add comments, and download the images they want.

Mail applications are also better at managing large amounts of email. They can use more powerful local views that scroll faster and typically work more efficiently than they do in web-based mail. For example, you can easily select all the mail in a huge folder in Windows Live Mail and move it wherever you want, without having to select a bunch of check boxes or having to click through multiple pages. What's more, with an installed email program, you get the added power of your Windows desktop: you can do things like search your email directly from the Windows Start menu, or drag content from one email message to another.

Managing all your accounts in one place

Today, the average PC user manages 3 email accounts. Windows Live Mail helps you connect to all your email accounts and manage them in one place. Even if you don't have a Hotmail account, you can still use Windows Live Mail to check Gmail and other webmail services. You can even reply to mail sent to one account from another one, and drag messages from one account to another.

So what’s next?

For our upcoming release of Windows Live Mail, we have a great set of features planned that deepen all of these key experiences across the board.  I’m really itching to share more details with you, and to get the beta out where you all can try things out.

Our focus in the new release is on making it much easier for people to manage large volumes of email, send photos in a beautifully composed photo email messages, and organize their time with the calendar. You'll also see Windows Live Mail integrated more seamlessly with Windows and the rest of the Windows Live Essentials. And the interface is evolving to look and work much more like other email clients that you may be familiar with: Outlook and Outlook Express. Stay tuned for more as we gear up for the beta!

Piero Sierra
Group Program Manager
Windows Live Messenger and Mail

19 Comments
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  • BenT
    7 Posts

    Ooops, never mind Piero, I found it. Thanks for the tip!

  • BenT
    7 Posts

    Piero, I saved the csv file but I can't find an import button in the Windows Live contacts section.

  • Nater
    147 Posts

    No one else whats to answer this question, so I'll answer it here...  Is there any plans to allow DeltaSync to get email pushed to the client (and changes pushed to the server) without having Windows Live Messenger running 24/7 or spamming F5/the Sync button?  This is a huge functional deficiency, IMO.  ATM, DeltaSync functions more like a POP3 account with "Leave Messages on Server" enabled, and it's making the lack of IMAP a hinderence/risk for those of us who sometimes get emails that we must act on immediately.

  • BenT
    7 Posts

    Thanks Piero!

  • Nater
    147 Posts

    Quote:  "it's almost impossible to use with my 3 IMAP email accounts."

    .

    Let me guess, at least one of those Accounts is a GMail account?  Lol.  GMail is the bane of any IMAP client.

  • @StophVista - I think you'll like the new Windows Live Mail.  Icons are back.  :)

  • @BenT - You can import your contacts by saving them from Go Daddy as a CSV (“comma-separated values”) file, clicking on Contacts in Windows Live Mail, then clicking the Import button in the menus.  Once this is done, you’ll be able to view and update your contacts in Windows Live Mail, as well as online through Hotmail.com, but your changes won’t be synced back to Go Daddy.

  • I can't wait to see the next version of Windows Live Mail. Although the current version looks aesthetically pleasing, it's almost impossible to use with my 3 IMAP email accounts. I hope the IMAP performance issues have been resolved with the new version, and I also hope to see some new features added such as Smart Folders, a unified Inbox, and better cross email account searching. Right now, the main application I sorely miss when using my Windows 7 machines is Apple Mail from my Macbook.

  • I'm 20 years old right now and when I was 9 I first got interested in computers. I helped my grandmother thoughout the years and still do at times. I upgraded her computer from vista to 7 and her MSN explorer no longer works. She was a bit upset, but I told her MSN explorer makes the computer very slow. (she doesn't quite understand "resource hog" term) So I installed Firefox (sorry Microsoft ;) ) and Windows Live mail.  I explained to her that its pretty much the same program as the one she used 10 years ago called Outlook express.

    She is in her mid 60s and her eye sight is not the very best. She complains that the UI is very bland and bright, and  I agree, The 2007 and 2008 verisons were may better in the UI department. I understand that the new mail will use  the ribbon and I'm happy with that.  I do hope though the ribbon will be at just the right tone where it wont be all washed out.

  • 7flavor
    352 Posts

    Why could you not have used the Office Ribbon instead of the Windows Ribbon so XP could have been supported? What other dependencies/exclusive APIs does Wave 4 require besides the Ribbon that can't be supported on XP? If you be open about what dependencies/APIs XP lacks, XP users won't be so pissed off.

  • @radeldudel yes you can!

  • Please. Please, please, PLEASE tell me there are actual ICONS in the new UI. You know folders, email icon, and trash icon. new, reply, and forward icons. Some actual art and decent UI with it. The 2008 version was awesome in terms of how it looked! The 2009 version is just so.. plain. And boring. Bring in some COLOR!

  • @7flavor - you have made it very clear in this and several other posts that you believe we need to support Wave 4 on XP.  Per Chris' reply in his post introducing Wave 4, we will continue to support our XP customers via Wave 3.  This means that XP customers can continue to use our free suite of high quality applications (and web services), and we will continue to update Wave 3 with updates as needed.  However, Wave 4 will be available only on Vista & Win7.  There are several reasons why it was technically impossible to enable Wave 4 on XP.  Rather than offer all our customers a lowest common denominator experience, we chose to split our offer for XP and Vista/Win7 users by offering two separate suites targeted at the different OS capabilities.  This was not an easy decision but we believe in the long run this is the right choice for our customers.  I realize from your posts you remain unconvinced we made the right decision, but it is our decision and it is not reversible.

  • can you sync windows live calendar (the desktop version) to windows mobile phones??

  • 7flavor
    352 Posts

    And what draws people away from Windows Live Mail? Dropping XP support. Sorry to sound like a troll but I just started using Zimbra Desktop. Very powerful and the calendar is miles ahead of the one found in Live Mail. Zimbra almost comes close to beating Outlook 2010 plus it is free.

  • Kip
    2 Posts

    You're going to have to ship Wave 5 with a big bottle of aspirin, then, Piero ;).  And now I need to stand corrected, as I was reminded that Kahuna was the code name for the new version of Hotmail, not the mail client.  Still don't think that Windows Live Mail was ever actually Windows Mail, though.  Anyway, thanks for keeping us hopping over the years, at least it hasn't been boring :)

  • BenT
    7 Posts

    Piero, I have a question. I use Godaddy for my web based email. I also use a relatively new Sony Vaio laptop with Windows 7 (which is awesome by the way). The question is, if I use Windows Live Mail on my laptop, will it sync my contacts and all of my sent mail as well as the mail in my inbox?

  • Thanks Kip, I stand corrected!  What a mess eh?

    Let me offer you a LiveSide exclusive scoop by pre-announcing our Wave 5 name:  Windows Live Outlook Mail Desktop Express for Hotmail.  You heard it here first.  :)

  • Kip
    2 Posts

    Looking forward to it too, Piero :).  

    One technical note: not sure that Windows Live Mail was ever "Windows Mail" -The alpha and then beta for a new, built from the ground up Windows Live mail client was first known as "Kahuna", and it and Windows Mail, which was developed as a successor to Outlook Express for Vista, and then dropped for Windows 7,  were developed somewhat independently.  Then the Kahuna beta became "Windows Live Mail desktop" (with Hotmail becoming Windows Live Mail).  Then "Windows Live Mail" (the Hotmail one) became Windows Live Hotmail, and Windows Live Mail desktop became...wait for it...Windows Live Mail.

    Yes, I have a headache now.

    Keep up the good work!

    kip