Outlook.com — The New Hotmail

If you’re one of the 300 million or so people who used Hotmail free webmail, you probably know by now that Hotmail is no more and that you’ve been switched over to Outlook.com.

It’s Microsoft’s free webmail service that just replaced the venerable Hotmail service. I thought it might be interesting to discover what is new.

Outlook.com iconsOutlook.com launched in February 2013 and all existing Hotmail users have been upgraded to Outlook.com as of early April. Outlook.com now has 400 million active accounts, more than a quarter of which are getting their mail, contacts, and calendars on mobile devices via Exchange ActiveSync.

Outlook.com is pretty easy to set up on a phone or mobile device. For more details on how to do that, go here.

New Features

According to Ars Technica, Outlook.com retains many of the features and functions of Hotmail, so it is designed to be pretty intuitive for Hotmail users.

There is no need to change your Hotmail address. Outlook.com users are able to use their email from @hotmail.com, @msn.com, @outlook.com, or @live.com addresses. Users of other services like Gmail or Yahoo Mail can set up a new @outlook.com address and have their other accounts forwarded.

Custom email accounts can use Outlook.com’s infrastructure — so you can use custom email addresses with your business domain without paying for a web server. This one is a bit complicated, so check out Ed Bott’s ZDnet article: Why I use Outlook.com for my custom email accounts (and how you can too).

Microsoft has a new, clean interface based on Windows 8. The new navigation bar at the top shows you only the options that make sense for the email or contact you’re working on. You can also move easily to other web apps ( by clicking Outlook at the top, left of your inbox).

Outlook.com connects up with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and soon Skype to "bring your connected world to email," as they say. Instant Chat allows you to chat with your friends from Facebook and Google from your inbox.

Outlook.com has 60 percent fewer ads than the old Hotmail. It also has an ad opt-out page and additional privacy options. You can also get an ad-free version for $19.95 per year. It also has better spam filtering — it keeps spam to less than 3 percent of your inbox.

The new Sweep feature has tools to clean and maintain your inbox. For instance:

  • If you get email from someone that you want to keep, you can quickly move all existing and future email from them out of your inbox and into another folder.
  • Sweep also automatically deletes messages that you don’t want, like unwanted newsletters. Find out how to do both of those here.
  • You can finally stop getting e-newsletters you don’t want with one-click Unsubscribe.

Outlook.com naturally integrates well with free Office Web Apps, online versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. It offers new right-click menu choices for replying, forwarding, etc.

It integrates very easily now with Skydrive. You get seven gigabytes of free cloud storage for large files. This means that you can do large attachments of up to 300 MB and share documents easily with others.

It integrates with Outlook (on-premises) 2007 or higher by installing the free Hotmail Connector. This makes your Outlook.com messages, calendar, and contacts viewable in your regular Outlook.

The Microsoft article entitled What’s Different Between Outlook.com and Outlook? is useful to get some clarity about the different versions of Outlook.

Downsides

After its launch in February, there were many reports of Outlook.com outages. They have largely died down now.

To make the switch from Hotmail, Microsoft had to communicate with hundreds of millions of people and upgrade all their mailboxes, which came to more than 150 million GB of data. They had to also do lots of troubleshooting to make sure that everyone’s email messages, calendars, contacts, and personal preferences survived the transfer.

The reviews in the technology press are coming in largely positive.

PC Browsers That Work with Outlook.com

Windows XP or higher:

  • Windows Internet Explorer 8
  • Google Chrome 23
  • Firefox 17

Mac OS X 10.6 or higher (on Intel Macs):

  • Google Chrome 23
  • Firefox 17
  • Safari 5.1

Additional Resources

Image: Outlook.com icons (Courtesy of Microsoft)

Comments

I think the hardest part is getting used to the new layout. I've had almost the exact same interface for over ten years. But the features in Outlook is nothing to complain about. The only thing I think is somewhat of a gamble, is that more e-mails now seem to end up in the trash.

John from alskaspel.wordpress.com