If you used the Internet before the likes of Google, Facebook and Twitter – when Yahoo, Aol and Altavista were top dogs of the Internet – you might still use Hotmail. In fact, Hotmail still has 350 million users, and I am one of them. But without being rude Hotmail has been dying a slow death over the last 5 years, this is where Outlook.com comes into play. Can Microsoft perform a lifesaving operation and engineer a miraculous u-turn to save what was once the world’s most popular web mail? Well, Outlook.com is their latest attempt at persuading you to come back to Microsoft.
When Google launched Gmail in 2004 it basically blew Microsoft out of the web mail game – since then Redmond has been playing catchup and hasn’t been doing a good job. But, this year Microsoft is ready to take the fight to the competition and from our first impressions of Outlook.com they could be onto a real winner.
What is Outlook.com?
Outlook.com looks to bring the business-orientated Outlook to the web via a new service called Outlook.com, it doesn’t replace Hotmail (yet) but acts as a new skin over an already creaking service. It’s a bizarre move, and if you go to Outlook.com whilst signed into your email you’ll be greeted by a email service that looks like it has time traveled back from Redmond 2025 to save its 350 million decibels. It’s a shrewd move from Micosoft, as the core functionality of Hotmail is fine, it just needed a facelift and Outlook.com does this as well as a lot more.
Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity.
Relying on the tried and tested columns design of the standalone Outlook software it’s a massive improvement on what has come before and brings the service into line with what you can expect with Window 8. Not only do you get a lovely user interface Microsoft has included news features like Sweep (a new system to tidy your inbox) and Microsoft’s Skydive service, which at the time of writing doesn’t actually work, but it’s still in beta phase. While you are able to view and respond to your social networks from within the new messenger on Outlook, when you actually enable the new system it takes you back to the old Hotmail design and the calendar does the same too.
Other nice touches come in the form of being able to edit Word, Excel, and Powerpoint files from within the service, which is a major improvement and is something you can’t do with Gmail. It’s a shame it doesn’t have the in-place replies from Outlook 2013, though. Messenger is also integrated, too, and works extremely similarly (though better) to the Messaging app in Windows 8.
The most striking thing about Outlook.com is the looks. Compared to Google’s Gmail it’s simple, intuitive and a nicer place to be. One way Microsoft hopes to lure you from the enemy is by letting you use Outlook.com as you main email client, so you can get all your emails from different account into one, easy-to-use, place. Gmail in comparison to Outlook.com looks far too busy and even after importing 10,000 emails from 4 different accounts Outlook.com still managed kept its simple, clean lines.
We love the screen for composing messages as it far is easier to work with than in Gmail. You enter an email addresses in the left panel (which now supports photos and avatars) then fill out the subject in a large text box at the top of the window, and finally the message itself is given a giant slice of webspace so you can concentrate on creating your email. It’s looks great, and works ever better.
The nice touches don’t just extend to email, but settings, too. Where Gmail shows off too many settings and tabs on the main home screen – Outlook.com keeps those setting behind 5 simple headings, making it a lot easier to use, whilst having all the options you’d need one or two clicks away.
One client for all your emails addresses.
One way Microsoft hopes to lure you away from the competition is allowing you to retrieve all your mail in one place; Outlook.com. To do this your navigatie to ‘More Mail Setting’ and select ‘Sending/receiving email from other accounts’ under “Managing your account” and click “Add an email account.”. Then you can add any number of accounts so you don’t have to navigate to the individual accounts and in the long run you’ll save a lot of time as you don’t need to waste time signing in and out of all your different email addresses. Ultimately Outlook.com will no doubt save you time in the long run, which is what it’s all about if your daily life requires you to man a number of email addresses in a simple and easy-to-use manner.
Were not proponents of change for change’s sake, but after a few hours of using Outlook.com as our primary mail service, it’s easy to imagine making the switch from Gmail permanent. Your move Gmail.