Here’s a good news for Windows Live Hotmail users, and for anyone who’s considering an email client switch – after many years, Hotmail is going through a big overhaul.
Lots of innovative features were announced by Microsoft recently. The new features are reportedly coming out for most of the users by the end of this summer (July or August).
According to the official blog post, Hotmail is offering many new features such as increased file attachment size, ability to view, edit and share documents online, real time document collaboration, conversation view, better mobile experience etc. Let’s take a close look on them.
The A-level security feature is finally here in Windows Live Hotmail. It was there before, but only while “logging in” to save users credentials from phishing attack. Now, HTTPS is coming in hotmail for the entire session, i.e. for logging in and browsing (reading/sending) emails.
This was something which Gmail already introduced a few months ago, but it’s good to have in Hotmail nonetheless.
2. View, Edit and Share Office Docs
Now you can access free Microsoft office web apps to view, edit and share office documents without downloading it on your computer. All you need to do is email any document or PowerPoint presentation to yourself. You could open this document anytime, anywhere. Because the document is present in Hotmail cloud, you don’t need your own computer to open it.
You can view your presentation or edit it in the Office web app. After you save your changes, it automatically gets saved on Skydrive. You could also run the slideshow without having Office installed in your computer.
3. Real Time Document Collaboration
If you and your friend want to work on a same document at the same time then you can do this easily in the new Hotmail. Click on the file, which should be present on the Skydrive of the sender of the document, to view it online. While editing the file, you can see the number of persons editing the file at the bottom right hand corner. You can instantly check changes made by the team members.
4. Edit And Reply
Suppose your friend sent a document to you which needs to be edited and sent back. Normally you would download it on your computer, make changes, attach it again and send back to him.
This whole process is time consuming. The new feature of Hotmail allows you to edit the document online. Before editing, it automatically copies the document in your Windows Live Skydrive account. The online word version looks same as Microsoft word and it won’t affect the format of document while you edit it (something which gives this a big edge over Google Docs).
5. Send Huge Files
Integration of Hotmail with Skydrive makes it possible to send up to 10 GB files in a single mail. Well, kinda. The file is hosted on the Skydrive service which offers you 25 GB of free space. When you send the large files (documents or images) over email, the recipient only receives the URL of that file. When the recipient clicks on the link he can download the file. It is not necessary for recipient to have a Skydrive account in order to download it.
6. Send And View Images
In the above given screenshot, you can notice the Photos button on the left sidebar (between attachments and docs). It can be used to attach large number of images in the mail.
All the images get uploaded to Skydrive and the recipient receives a link. You can view an interactive slideshow of images, download them on your computer (no Windows live ID required) and also add comments to them (Windows live ID required).
7. One Click Filter
Some nice one click filter options have been introduced in the new version of Hotmail which will allow you to filter emails with social updates, emails from regular contacts and from groups easily.
8. Quick Views
Suppose you want to only check emails with images. You could quickly filter those emails by clicking on the “Photos” link given on the left pane. Similarly you can click on “Documents” to see all the mails with attached documents.
9. Active Views
People send video links, Flickr images etc in the email. To watch them, you need to open the link in a new tab or a window. But the new Hotmail automatically recognizes the link, adds a description and thumbnail, and lets you view the video right inside the email interface. It will support YouTube and Hulu services to start with.
Similarly, you can view Flickr photos and even start a slideshow within your inbox. It recognizes the tracking number of postal services and displays all the details attached to it. Also, accept LinkedIn friend requests without visiting the website.
10. Search Auto-Complete
To search mails effectively, Hotmail has included search auto-complete feature. Just type few letters and it suggests you various helpful terms automatically.
11. Conversation View
Suppose you had a conversation with your friends on some topic. This conversation took place by sending emails back and forth between different people. Now you want to view all those conversations at one place. It’s possible in Hotmail with the new “conversation” view.
Click on “Arrange By” button given on the right (below search box) and choose “conversation” from the drop down. It will show you the whole conversation. When you read the message, it displays the whole conversation history along with date and time.
You can manage the inbox clutter using this feature. Suppose you receive a daily newsletter which you don’t need it. All you need to do is check the mail, click on “Sweep” button and choose Move all from or Delete all from.
If you want to move all the newsletters to other folder so that you can view them later then select the option “Move all from”. You can also select the option “Also move future mails” to confirm that in future you’ll not receive any email newsletter from the same company in your inbox.
13. Remove Spam
Hotmail divides the spam mails in two categories, “Spam” and “Grey mail” (newsletters and marketing promotions). Hotmail’s new spam filtering system, which is based on IP address filtering, works tremendously well (as they claim). Wave 4 spam management system is an upcoming feature of new Hotmail.
It works on the user interaction with the email. If user regularly puts an email in trash without reading it then Hotmail comes to know that the particular kind of mail is in the grey mail category and it blocks them in future.
14. IM and Text Messaging From Inbox
You can now chat with your friends right inside the Hotmail interface. You can see your friends on the left pane. Also you can see their status colors which can tell that they are free, busy or idle.
Click on the name of your friend to start the chat. If you click on the name of your other friend, unlike Gmail, a new tab is added to the chat window, saving space. Right click on the name of your Friend to send text SMS to their phone.
15. Exchange ActiveSync
If you use your phone to view your email then you can take advantage of Hotmail Activesync feature. It helps you to sync the email, calendar and contacts between your phone and the web. It means whatever changes you make on your mail (read, delete mail) will automatically appear on the web. It is same as IMAP feature.
16. Hotmail Highlights
It saves your time by allowing you to see the mails you received from your contacts, various social media update notifications, flagged content and birthdates of your friends, just after you log into your account.
If you click on the category title (ex. “From contacts”), you will see the filtered view of your inbox having only emails from your contacts. Similarly you can click on other category titles to switch to them easily.
Overall, I’d say the new Hotmail definitely looks promising. Some of the features are innovative and aren’t there in any other email tools including Gmail.
While it may not prompt me to make a complete switch to Hotmail, I’d give it a try for sure. What about you? What do you think about the new Hotmail? What features you like? Tell us in the comments.