Hotmail just got better. After a decade as a punchline, Hotmail just pulled off the biggest victory in the inbox game since Gmail. It is so good that you may wish to switch over to it. Microsoft took something boring, partially broken, and thoroughly entrenched: Windows, Office, Mobile. Tossed nearly everything ugly and uninspired into the ash heap, put smart people to work on it, and pack it full of Metro. Windows 8, Office 15, and Windows Phone have all turned stale things into vibrant, modern successes. And Hotmail (now Outlook) shows the same.
It actually looks good
Hotmail has now turned into outlook mail. Hotmail or the new outlook doesn’t looks like the same old crappy thing. The New Hotmail looks fantastic, and it might be the handsomest webmail in the land. Really simple, clear, clean and assembled.
It perfectly matches the modernism of Windows 8. Colors are stark and few, complementing the Metro UI. Inbox items are spaced perfectly, packing in a manageably dense list of messages. Microsoft is beaming at how many extra pixels it gives you to gawk at your mail compared to Google. The top of the screen is lot more slimmer than Gmail.
You can spread your whole inbox in a vertical stack if you wish to. Or pop open a “reading pane,” which splits your screen real estate between an inbox overview and a live view of every in an adjacent column, much like on an iPad. You can also stick the reading pane down below your inbox list. All three ways work well and are very quick to load.
It actually feels good
On your left you can see the standard folders. Outlook offers a series of “Quick views,” letting you hop instantly to emails with document attachments, embedded images, and even smart categories like shipping updates. You can create your own categories with your own parameters.
Its essence is the same as it was when Hotmail was came a decade and a half ago, but there have been some shifts.
If you have an email flagged with images. Outlook will automatically embed that gallery via slideshow, letting you sprint through pictures without having to leave your inbox. The same embedding is pulled off with other attached or linked media, from videos to Word documents, viewable and editable.
You can hover over a contact photo, pulled straight from Facebook, and you can start Facebook messaging or Skype video calling them, too, all from within Outlook. None of this distracts from communicating with the people you know, the whole point of an email address.
But is anyone really gonna use this?
The sad fact is that most of us probably wouldn’t switch from Gmail to a better webmail service. Even if it were a much better webmail service. Many of us have been using the same Gmail account since our childhood, combined with the toxic connotations of Hotmail, will make any switch a huge psychological task.
What we should all do, instead of laughing ourselves unconscious at reborn Hotmail that can go deftly toe to toe with Gmail, is try it. Set your current account to forward to a new Outlook account, and really try it. If you’re already buying in to the Windows (Phone) 8 Metro all-inclusive pixel resort, you’ve got even more incentive to try. If you’re tired of Google sticking its social media tongue down your email’s throat or wary of its privacy reaches, Outlook.com doesn’t read your messages for targeted ads.
And it’s available to you starting today. You might actually get your real name.
It takes a few minutes to set up an email account, and if you let yourself appreciate the work that’s been both powerfully hammered and gently chiseled into this new beautiful, life-helping mail, you might have something else on your screen that lasts eight years.