Google hopes to steal webmail users from Microsoft and Yahoo with a new tool that's designed to make migrating from Yahoo Mail and Hotmail to Gmail more straightforward.

Available now to new Gmail users, and coming to all users of Google's webmail service over the next few weeks, the Import feature simply requires users to enter login details for their Yahoo, Hotmail or AOL accounts.

They can then choose to transfer their contacts and/or mail across to Gmail, and also have their messages forwarded from their old account for 30 days.

Current Gmail users will know it's available to them when they see the Accounts and Import tab - formerly just called Accounts - under Settings. The service is not available to businesses and schools using Google Apps, however.

"Switching email accounts can be pretty painful," said Gmail Engineer Chad Parry, in an official Google blog. "It's like getting out of a relationship. You have so much baggage - years of emails and contacts, memories of past Christmases and Valentine's Days - so the easier your new email account can make it, the better.

"Everyone can still use POP3 mail fetching and upload your contacts in a CSV file, but this new way is much simpler for basic imports," he added.