Hotmail Gets A New Outlook

Category: Email

Microsoft recently gave Hotmail, its free Webmail service, a major makeover. Even the domain name is changing; Hotmail.com is morphing into Outlook.com. The new look is cleaner, simpler, and aligned with the look and feel of the new Windows 8 interface. Should you make the switch? Let's find out...

Outlook.com Replaces Hotmail

Hotmail is history. And Outlook.com is the cool new webmail kid on the block. Social networks, cloud storage, and Microsoft Office integration are some of the biggest new features. Let’s look at these and some other ways in which Outlook.com is different.

Outlook.com is integrated with Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. If you have Hotmail contacts on any of these social networks, Outlook.com can pull their profile pictures, Timelines, and Twitter feeds into your email viewing environment. Facebook Chat is accessible through Outlook.com. Soon, Skype (which Microsoft purchased in 2011) will be added.

Microsoft’s SkyDrive cloud storage service is tied into Outlook.com. Instead of attaching huge files to email messages, you can send a SkyDrive link to recipients. Pictures can be displayed in thumbnails, and the recipient can decide whether to download complete files. Your Contacts and Calendar cloud services are also available within Outlook.com. A unique feature of Outlook.com is the ability to view MS Office Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents using Office Web Apps.
Outlook.com replaces Hotmail

Outlook.com is trying to become the portal to all of your social networks and communication tools. Not a bad idea, given that Google has already done a similar thing by tying together Gmail, Google+, Google Talk, Google Voice and Google Drive.

If you already have a Hotmail account, just log into it to be switched over to the new look. You can also create an account at Outlook.com. But you don’t have to switch from the Hotmail.com domain to Outlook.com if you don’t want to – at least, not yet. Users will need time to make that adjustment.

No Peeking?

Like Gmail, Outlook.com has ads. They’re unobtrusive text link ads over on the right side of your viewing screen. Microsoft targets ads but doesn’t “read” your email in order to do so. The company says it scans only the subject lines and senders to guess what ads are most relevant to you. I tested this by sending an email to my Outlook.com address with “Ford Motor Cars” in the subject line, and some juicy text about mesothelioma in the message body. Lawyers spend huge dollars on this keyword, so I thought it would be a good test.

The result: no ads for mesothelioma lawyers, but no ads for Ford or cars either. My ads were for odd things like italian sunglass cases, eye drops, flip flops and canine de-worming kits. I’ve never searched for or purchased any of those things online, so why those appeared is a mystery. Let’s assume they’re telling the truth about not scanning the text of your emails, and they’re still working on the ad relevancy stuff.

But wait... in the Quick View section, there are links labelled Documents, Photos and Shipping Updates. When new messages arrive that contain Word or Excel documents, photos, or tracking numbers for packages, they’ll be flagged in these special folders. But don’t they need to read your message to see if it contains any of those things? Hmmm...

Rename Yourself

There are a few other features that I thought were cool or useful. The “rename your address” feature seems handy if you want to change your address because you got married, you're getting too much spamm, or you're just tired of being "SnuggleKitten70291". After renaming your email address, your email will go to your new inbox, and you can keep your old mail in a separate folder. Your contacts, photos and anything stored on SkyDrive will also switch over to your new address.

Of course, both your old and new addresses must be in the Outlook.com domain. You can’t use this feature to switch from Gmail or AOL to Outlook. But you can use the “Sending/receiving email from other accounts” option (click the gear, then “More mail settings”) to configure your Outlook account to pull in your messages from another email account. I couldn’t find any way to import address book contacts, a critical feature for those wanting to switch email providers.

The new look and features of Outlook.com may help Microsoft regain its title as the world’s leading Webmail service. The latest figures from ComScore show Hotmail has 360 million users to Gmail’s 425 million. Social networking integration, Skype video-conferencing, and cloud-based Office tools make Outlook.com a lot more than just email. It will be interesting to see how many users make the switch.

Me? I’m sticking with Gmail, where I (and my ten gigabytes of email) have been since 2004. Is there some compelling feature in Outlook.com that would tempt you away from Gmail, Yahoo Mail or your preferred email provider? Post your comment or question below...

 
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Most recent comments on "Hotmail Gets A New Outlook"

(See all 28 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

Charles Heineke
06 Aug 2012

Here's a link to the Mozilla knowledgebase article that talks about filters in Thunderbird: http://kb.mozillazine.org/Filters_(Thunderbird)

It states: "Enabled filters are run automatically, in the order they are listed in the "Message Filters" dialog ("Tools -> Message Filters..."). If a filter moves a message to another folder subsequent filters will not be automatically applied to that message once it has been moved from the Inbox. There is no built-in support for automatically running filters on outgoing mail. Install the Send Filter add-on if you want to do that."

EDITOR'S NOTE: Okay, but this comment seems out of place on an article about Hotmail/Outlook.


Posted by:

Victor
06 Aug 2012

Have set up email accounts with live, outlook and gmail. Realized my choice is an easy one as I have an Android cell phone. So gmail it is. Outlook looks tempting and I've also heard gmail has fewer viruses. Appreciate your well written report on Outlook.


Posted by:

Michelle
06 Aug 2012

I am so glad I subscribed to your newsletter. I will be migrating everything to my gmail account now. What ever happened to, "If its not broke don't fix it?"
So tired of being pushed to change when I don't want to. Just making improvements would have been enough.


Posted by:

marti
06 Aug 2012

So.... would it work on the mac platform as gmail does so well?

EDITOR'S NOTE: It's all web-based, so yes.


Posted by:

Domenic
06 Aug 2012

" days ago I was invited to morph my Hotmail account with Outlook. I did so and found several of the basic functions were not working so i switched back to Hotmail;all seemed well. Then my son signed me out to sign himself in which he did successfully and now I cannot sign my self back in. I click on ' cant access my account' and it denies my address is in existence. HELP!


Posted by:

WayneH
06 Aug 2012

Steered away from Hotmail on the basis of an earlier article from you suggesting Hotmail security was not not so good and that Gmail's security features were better. Where are we now? Can't consider using a suspect email service. Thanks Bob.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Looks like they've gotten with the program, and are using HTTPS for outlook.com now.


Posted by:

Allan Brunner
06 Aug 2012

Hi Bob ,

Switched over from my hotmail to try and switched back pretty quickly. Don't like the colours - blue on white isn't as clear as black on white, typeface is too large. I don't see why they couldn't have done the integrations without radically changing Hotmail's look. I already have an option to use Skydrive in existing Hotmail. Microsoft has an unfortunate prediliection for doing things that people don't want and roling them in with something that they do. I mean, who really wants Windows 8 touch screen on a desktop or even a decent size laptop for that matter?


Posted by:

Nigel
06 Aug 2012

Debbie,
To get back to hotmail, just click the "cog" at the top right, then "return to hotmail" on the pull-down menu.


Posted by:

Bruce Doxey
07 Aug 2012

I don't really care if my email account is a portal to anything else. I originally took on Hotmail because it was free and it was not MS. When they took over I just let it slide because it didn't seem to change. Now i am a linux user so I plan to dump hotmail entirely. I have a gmail account and a Yahoo account so no real loss. I just didn't want to put my friends through the name change earlier.


Posted by:

kurmat
07 Aug 2012

Yahoo is practically useless to me since freepops quit working with it. I prefer pop3 access or imap in a pinch but don't care for webmail. Using one email program to collect all my accounts is the way to go.


Posted by:

Logan E. Wing, III
07 Aug 2012

How do you archive a received email in Outlook? I do not see any archive feature like in Gmail.


Posted by:

DC-Mike
07 Aug 2012

I can't find the options to customize how Hotmail works in Outlook as well as my Contacts list.
As you might expect, I don't use Chrome or Explorer because they hide all the simple options I have with Firefox such as the Menu bar and the Bookmarks bar..


Posted by:

Betsy
07 Aug 2012

Hotmail initially was the junkmail account I gave to businesses, but it ended up being my primary account a few years ago. While I also have gmail accounts, I had been extremely leary of jumping on the Google+ candywagon. In short, I am concerned that it is not healthy to have one private company who in possession of maybe 90+ percent of one's online data & electronic footprint. Emails, facebook, photos, online purchases, online searches, integrated medical records, banking transactions, credit card purchases... It feels a bit creepy, and dangerous.

At this point we trust all parties. But facebook has taken highly-contested actions when profit margins faltered. Same with many other businesses. What might happen three years out with all my personal data when Google, or Microsoft, etc. sculpts a new agreement under one of their companies/services in order to remain competitive and increase profits? How might my data be mined JUST WITHIN companies my host owns or controls? It makes me very squeamish. I'd like to see a dialogue about this.


Posted by:

Hira
07 Aug 2012

@Debbie
To get back to hotmail, click on the gear icon next to your name on the top right. It will give an option to switch. Good Luck !!


Posted by:

Ron
07 Aug 2012

I might be considered old fashion, but I still prefer and use AOL for my Email because I find it most intuitive to use. No problems.


Posted by:

Jim
07 Aug 2012

Bob
I like your write up. I also have gmail that I use on occasion, but will give this new Outlook a try, you made it sound so good.
But, have had AOL for 20-years or so and am quite use to it, it would be nice if Outlook turns out to have a better system. Will let you know what I think.
Thanks


Posted by:

Judy
08 Aug 2012

Love the new Outlook.com. Plan to use it to read and respond to e-mails in my various Gmail accounts. One-stop shopping.

Thanks for the great article; am using info from it tonight to give an Outlook.com presentation to my computer club members. Giving credit, of course, and encouraging my members to sign up to receive your very informative newsletter.


Posted by:

shanen
09 Aug 2012

Features that would get me to switch:

(1) Powerful spam-fighting tool. It would be like SpamCop on steroids, with several rounds of analysis that would target ALL of the spammers' infrastructure, pursue ALL of the spammers' accomplices, and help and protect ALL of the spammers' victims.

(2) Clock features. There are so many possibilities that this would need to be strongly user configurable, but I can give some examples. A clock giving a easy visual image of how long ago the email was sent. A clock showing the correspondents time zone. A clock that you could use to schedule the email for future delivery, especially in cases of email that is going to a phone and you don't want to risk waking them in the middle of their night or business mail that should not be delivered until office hours.

By the way, the MAIN reason I'd consider using a Microsoft product is because I think they have become less evil over the years and they have actually done some good against the spammers upstream--and Feature (1) is targeted against the spammers downstream. The main reason I'm trying to use the google LESS is because they are rapidly becoming more and more evil. Did you know that the google has become the leading lobbyist among tech companies? I've read several reports to that effect.


Posted by:

M A Hameed
10 Aug 2012

It is good that "Microsoft’s SkyDrive cloud storage service is tied into Outlook.com." Is there a similar link for Gmail and Google Drive? If it does exist, how can one use it?


Posted by:

ann davis
08 Aug 2013

I had yahoo---hotmail---gmail---I detest all the ads and have run privacyfix several times---then I one day in a search found an email that is no ads!
I went to it, and I am still with it--several mos. later!


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