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May 18, 2010

The new Hotmail makes me happy

Today we are previewing the soon-to-be-released new version of Windows Live Hotmail and it’s packed with a ton of great new features to make managing your email easier and faster. To get the lowdown on the new Hotmail, I suggest reading this blog post from Inside Windows Live or visiting the Hotmail Preview website. Now that we are lifting the curtain on the new Hotmail today, I thought I would take an opportunity to try something a little bit different here on The Windows Blog: offer my thoughts on what I like about this update.

I have traditionally been a “client guy” for email – I prefer a desktop client for reading email instead of reading email through the Web. In the case of Hotmail, up until recently I generally read my Hotmail email through Windows Live Mail which is part of Windows Live Essentials. But that was before I started dogfooding the new Hotmail. “Dogfooding” is what we use to describe early internal testing of products before release. In these last few months, I’ve noticed that I’ve been going to Hotmail on the Web on a more regular basis and I like the way it works.

Here is why I think use of Hotmail is increasing, and for those of you who prefer the client over the Web experience, why it might change for you as well:

1-Click Filters: I absolutely love filters. And the new Hotmail brings filters front and center. Previously, I had Hotmail automatically sorting emails into specific folders – such as emails from social networking services like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. However, I’ve since turned off automatic sorting and am now relying solely on the new Hotmail’s Social updates filter. This filter automatically sorts email alerts or notifications I receive from social networking services I belong to and filters everything into a single view. This helps me stay on top of comments people make to my stuff on Facebook, Direct Messages from Twitter, and more. Other filters the new Hotmail provides are unread emails, emails from contacts, and emails from Groups.

Quick Views: The new Hotmail provides “quick views” to emails sent with certain types of content in them. I find that Quick Views in the new Hotmail is a bit like filters. And remember, I love filters. My most favorite Quick View option is “Office docs”. This view shows all emails I sent or sent to me that have Office documents as an attachment. For example, I keep a budget spreadsheet I share with my girlfriend through email. I can browse to the last email she sent with the latest version of our budget spreadsheet attached and open it right through Hotmail and use the Excel Office Web App to edit and make changes – and THEN send back to her with those changes. I also do a bunch of online purchasing (through Amazon, Best Buy, etc.) and there is a Quick View for shipping updates too! Other Quick View options are one for emails with Photos and another for emails that are flagged. For emails I want to read or respond to later, I usually flag it which makes the Quick View option for flagged emails especially useful.

Sweep: I like keeping my inbox clean. Before the new Hotmail, I would spend a great deal of time sorting through emails. With the new Hotmail and a feature called Sweep, this process is enormously easier and faster. Sweep helps me quickly clean out my Hotmail inbox by “sweeping” emails into folders or just getting rid of them all together.

Conversation View: The new Hotmail provides a conversation view allowing me to view email exchanges as a conversation. This is particularly useful to me as my dad and I have pretty regular email “conversations” about technology trends. I can see an entire email conversation in a single view in the new Hotmail. Admittedly, Conversation View is something that took me some time to get used to as I was pretty head strong on the “old” way of managing email one email at a time.

Of course, the new Hotmail has a lot more I’m not mentioning here too like a improvements to security and managing junk mail which is absolutely great too!

All-in-all, the new Hotmail makes it so much easier to manage my inbox and to collaborate with friends and family much more efficiently than ever before. I feel like the new Hotmail has helped me take back control of my inbox.

I’m not totally giving up on the client though. In Wave 4, there have been some absolutely wonderful updates to Windows Live Mail, and all of Windows Live Essentials, that are pretty slick. But I can’t talk about that stuff just yet…