We use cookies to provide you with a better experience. If you continue to use this site, we'll assume you're happy with this. Alternatively, click here to find out how to manage these cookies

hide cookie message
Reviews
15,669 Reviews

Microsoft Windows Live Hotmail review

FREE

Manufacturer: Microsoft

Our Rating: We rate this 4 out of 5

Windows Live Hotmail looks better, works faster and adds some neat features to Microsoft's web-based email service. Can it compete with Gmail?

Windows Live Hotmail looks better, works faster and adds some neat features to Microsoft's web-based email service. Can it compete with Gmail?

According to Microsoft, Windows Live Hotmail is the world's largest web-based email service, with more than 360 million active accounts worldwide. But when it comes to buzz, Gmail has had it beat for the past several years. Now that may change. A revamped Hotmail was announced on May 18; it will be available sometime in July or August, with the exact date still to be determined.

We were able to work with the new version and found that it has the fast responsiveness and full feature set of a desktop application rather than a web-based one. It also offers some very nifty features that Gmail is lacking, including better mail management and more ways to eliminate email clutter.

Windows Live Hotmail: Better interface

To begin with, the new Hotmail simply looks better - it's more graphical and easier on the eyes. And it feels faster and more responsive. Like the old Hotmail, folders are on the left-hand side of the screen, and the in-box and reading pane on the right. But that basic layout has gotten a makeover, with a number of links added to the left side of the screen and a new set of links across the top of the right side of the screen to make it easier to find mail.

On the left-hand side, underneath a list of your folders, is a section called Quick View, which allows you to quickly view mail based on several preset criteria. These include mail that you've tagged, mail with photos in it, mail with Office documents as attachments and mail sent from shipping services such as FedEx. Click any category, and you'll see only the relevant mail.

Filters, located just above the main mail screen, allow you to view your email based on several other categories, including unread mail, mail from contacts, mail from Windows Live groups and others. Filtering is particularly powerful when combined with Quick Views. You could, for example, choose to see only mail with Office documents attached that were sent by your contacts. Or you could see all unread shipping updates.

Message threading is also improved by the addition of a Conversation View, much like you will find in Outlook 2010. It lets you easily see an entire email conversation at a glance, including all messages sent and received, rather than hunting for them individually in your in-box, out-box and other folders. This seemingly small feature may be the biggest productivity enhancer in the entire Windows Live Hotmail upgrade. It can easily save hours each month.

By default, the feature is turned off. To turn it on, you'll have to select Options --> More Options --> Conversation settings, select "Group messages by conversation" and click Save.

One of the niftier new features is the ability to view embedded media content directly within Hotmail, instead of having to go to an external site to view it. So if you're sent a link to a YouTube video, for example, you'll be able to view the video within Windows Live Hotmail.

Finally, the Sweep feature cleans up clutter by allowing you to delete or move all marked mail in a folder, or mark an entire folder as having been read.

NEXT: improved security and social features >>

Windows Live Hotmail Expert Verdict »

Internet connection
web browser
  • Overall: We give this item 8 of 10 overall

How does the revamped Hotmail compare to Gmail? In some ways, it's superior. The new Windows Live Hotmail beats Gmail hands down for social network integration; Gmail also lacks the ability to view embedded media content from sites such as YouTube. For email handling, while Gmail does an excellent job of that, we prefer the new Hotmail - but that's strictly a personal preference. This new version of Hotmail focuses largely on productivity enhancements such as improved mail handling. It's also now easily the most elegant-looking of any web-based mail service. If you've never used Hotmail before, or swore off it in the past, now is the time to take a new look - you'll likely be exceedingly pleased at what you find.

  • Motorola Quench review

    Motorola Quench

    The Motorola Quench mobile phone offers all the features and benefits of the Google Android operating system and Motorola's MotoBlur software.

  • Zimbra Desktop review

    Zimbra Desktop

    VMWare's powerful email client Zimbra Desktop could replace your Outlook or Thunderbird in the near future. Find out more: Zimbra Desktop review.

  • Motorola Backflip review

    Motorola Backflip

    The Motorola Backflip is certainly a very different looking Google Android smartphone, boasting what the company calls a "unique reverse-flip" design.

  • Google Buzz review

    Google Buzz

    Google Buzz is a service that adds social-networking to the Googlemail (Gmail) webmail service. We took Google Buzz for a ride to find out what it is, how to get it, and why it is different from Facebook and Twitter.

  • Microsoft Windows Live Essentials review

    Microsoft Windows Live Essentials

    Microsoft Windows Live Essentials is a grab-bag of useful, if often unrelated, applications that offer a variety of services for doing things such as managing photos, creating videos, checking email, doing instant messaging, writing blog posts and synchronising data among PCs.


IDG UK Sites

6 best gaming PCs 2015: What's the best gaming PC you can buy in the UK?

IDG UK Sites

Three of the most expensive Limited Edition games ever made: Who's buying a $1,000,000 game?

IDG UK Sites

The future of Microsoft Surface: What to expect from the Surface Pro 4

IDG UK Sites

Best Mac: Apple Mac buyers guide for 2015: iMac, MacBook, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, Mac mini and...