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Screenshot Tour: The New Hotmail Wave 4

Microsoft is in the process of updating the millions of Hotmail accounts to the latest version that runs faster and includes more features than before.  Our account was recently updated, so here’s a tour of the new features.

Windows Live Hotmail was one of the first free webmail services back when it was called HoTMaiL as a play on HTML.  In recent years, Microsoft has rebranded their online services under the Windows Live brand, so now Hotmail is commonly used with @hotmail.com or the newer @live.com email addresses.  You can even use Hotmail and other Live services with your own domain.  Despite it’s previous popularity, Hotmail has lost many users, especially techies, to Google’s popular Gmail service.  The new Hotmail brings many features that Gmail has offered, as well as some unique ones, so let’s take a look and see if the new Hotmail has to offer.

Take a Look at the New Features

If you haven’t visited Hotmail recently, you may notice the login screen has changed slightly with larger, Metro-style fonts and a clean design.

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One of Hotmail’s new security features is the new single-use sign in code.  You can request a code which will be sent to your phone via text message.  This is a great way to login to Hotmail from a public computer without potentially revealing your password to malicious apps on it.

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Once you sign in, you’ll notice a new Hotmail logo on the top of your browser window or tab.  If you still see the old Windows Live logo, then you’re still on the old version, so you’ll have to wait for your account to be updated over the next few weeks.

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The new inbox looks largely the same as the previous version, but there are tweaks all around.

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Timesaving Features

Right at first you’ll notice new View options in the Inbox; you can chose to view only the unread messages or those from contacts in your address book.  You can even select Social updates to only see the messages from Twitter, Facebook, and other networks; this is a great way to quickly clear all the social network junk out of your inbox.

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Another timesaving feature is the new Sweep tool.  Select this on the top of the Hotmail page to quickly manage all emails from a sender.

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You can have Hotmail automatically move all emails from a contact into a specific folder, or even automatically delete messages from a contact.  This is one of the easiest ways we’ve seen to setup inbox rules, and it works great.

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Hotmail includes the new Quick views underneath your folders on the left.  Here you can easily view messages that are flagged, or ones that contain photos or office docs.  You can even click the Shipping updates to see all shipping notice emails you may have received.

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Hotmail’s searching capabilities have been improved, too.  Simply start typing, and Hotmail will suggest alternative options.  You can also use standard search queries to search for emails from specific senders and more.

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Reading Emails in the New Hotmail

Hotmail’s reading pane has been redesigned with nice and useful headers.  Click the bottom of the header to expand it.

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Now you can see all of the info about this email, including the sender’s email address and other recipients of the message.

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If the email included attachments, you’ll see some quick info about the files directly below the header.  Click the Download link to download the files, or if the email included Office files, click the icon to open them in Office Web Apps.  This is a quick way to read Word documents and preview PowerPoint presentations even if you don’t have Office installed.

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If Hotmail detects the email is from a mailing list, it will put an Unsubscribe link right at the top of the message to help you quit getting email you don’t want.

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On the header, you’ll notice a new Actions button underneath the time the message was received.  Click this to quickly reply, delete, forward, or more.  You can also click the flag beside the time to flag the message for review later.

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Our favorite new feature is Conversation View.  You can now view your emails by conversation, and this works very much like Conversation view in Outlook 2010.  To activate it, click the button on the far right of the reading pane, and select Conversation.

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You’ll now notice a number beside your email subjects showing how many messages are in that conversation.

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When you’re reading messages, you’ll see other messages in the conversation above and below the message.  You can read the preview, or click the message to see the full email right there in the same reading pane.

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Composing Emails

Whether you’re replying to an email or writing a new message, the new Hotmail includes tools to make it easier.  You can add Office Docs via Office Web Apps, and send a nearly unlimited amount of pictures with an album on SkyDrive.  Or, select the From Bing tab to add a variety of web content to your message.

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You can add clipart, pictures, or even videos from Bing search directly from the sidebar.  Just select the option you want above, and then search for something to add to your message.

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Ads

Hotmail does still include banner ads on the right side when you’re reading emails, but there are some new tools to help you manage them.  If an ad is getting in the way of reading your email, you can click the X on the bottom right to close it.  Note that the ad will open again with you switch to another message, but this can make it easier to read an especially wide email.

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Or, if you find an ad offensive, click the Ad feedback link to let Hotmail know what you’re thinking about the ad.  This will help them make the ads less annoying for everyone.  This works very much like the ads in Facebook, and we think it goes a long way in helping people feel comfortable with the ads they’re shown.

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Messenger

Hotmail and other new Windows Live apps now are fully integrated with Messenger web.  You can chat with your buddies directly in Hotmail.  If you open an attachment in Office Web apps or go check your calendar, Messenger will go along with you so you can continue your conversation.

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You can see your online contacts from the Messenger tab on the top of Hotmail.  Click a contact to start an IM session with them.

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You can also see your friends online status from your email headers.  Click to start chatting with them, or if you’re hovering over your own contact info, you can click to change your profile picture.

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More Features Coming

Hotmail has some more new, great features that will be added in the near future, including full session SSL encryption and ActiveSync to sync your Hotmail email, contacts, and calendar with popular mobile devices.

Conclusion

Whether you’re a longtime Hotmail user or are considering switching from your current email provider to Hotmail, the Wave 4 updates make Hotmail a much nicer email service than ever before.  We liked the new Conversation view, but also appreciated that you could turn it off if you don’t care for it.  The new attachment options make it easier to share pictures, links, and more. The social network integration into Contacts makes it easy to keep in touch with all of your friends.  There are still some areas that Gmail is easier to use; for instance, we prefer Gmail’s in-message reply; one click, and you’re ready to reply and send.  Give the new Hotmail a try, though; we think you might find some stuff to like!

Please Remember: The new Wave 4 Hotmail isn’t activated at all accounts yet, so if you don’t see the new features, be patient; your account should be updated soon.

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Signup or login to your Hotmail account

Matthew digs up tasty bytes about Windows, Virtualization, and the cloud, and serves them up for all to enjoy!

  • Published 07/28/10

Comments (16)

  1. SquareWheel

    I liked it until it logged me in to WLM and plenty of contacts who I haven’t spoken to in ages started messaging me.

  2. Matthew Guay

    @SquareWheel – If you want to turn off Messenger, simply hover over your name on the top right corner of Hotmail and select “Sign Out of Messenger” from the menu that opens. Alternately, click “Appear Offline”, and your contacts won’t see you’re online. That should help :)

  3. Ben

    When I receive an email with photos attached, some emails I can view the photos but I can’t download them.in the old version all the attachements were right underneath the sender’s address with options to either “download all” or individually.

  4. Dave

    I am not a fan of Wave 4. I find it is too convoluted and fuzzy (too much about adding everything into one and make it look pretty). Gmail is so basic looking and fast.
    The Messenger integration wouldn’t be so bad if I could set it to NOT sign in every time I log into Hotmail.

    I think MS just done the final straw to make me fully switch to Gmail, Hotmail was really only still going for me because of eFlyers and Messenger and I SMS more than IM these days.

  5. Matthew Guay

    @Ben – You should still have a link to download all attachments; my account does.

    @Dave – Funny thing is, Hotmail is more like Gmail with this release than ever before. But hey, that’s why competition is good … everyone can use the service that works best for them!

  6. susanai

    I have had this for months and months…….what gives? I live in Australia – does that make the difference?

  7. Marty

    The whole line with attachments, photos, etc. doesn’t work for some reason. By the font used, it looks like it is disabled.

  8. Fredrik72

    I love the new features, especially search.
    But when composing a new e-mail, I only have “Attachment” and “Emoticons”-buttons.
    No Office attachment button, no Skydrive Button, no From Bing Button?
    Is this again some restricted U.S. only freature, or maybe I should just wait.

  9. tom

    My fonts have changed. The unread messages aren’t as bold as they used to be, neither are the read messages. Anyway to change this back to the previous version?

  10. Chris

    I don’t like the emoticons because they don’t move like they use.

  11. Silvina Epperson

    Sorry, but you have made this much more difficult for me. I liked your previous version much better. I found it much easier to deal with. Right now I don’t have to option to go into my deleted file, or sent file to see past history. And I can click delete on each message, but does that mean it’s gone totally? Used to be I would click on deleted messages and delete again. And sent messages – how do I access that? Really, it’s just like Walmart, can we just leave things alone? They were fine. Am very frustrated and considering changing over to gmail.

  12. John Maguire

    I like the new folder management feature at the top of the page rather than the bottom (If your like me, you’ll have about 100 folders that you keep shovelling messages into categorically.

    My only bugbear is why can’t we create sub folders in the folders. This drives me nuts as if the feature was included I could organise my folders much more efficiently instead of trolling down an ever increasing list. For example, If I get different emails from tech republic I have to make a huge list of folders for each category. It would be great if I could have one folder (eg TechRepublic) and then all my sub folders underneath that folder. Guys I know its a little anal but that’s me. If anyone knows of a workaround feel free to let me know. Other than that this is the nicest incarnation of hotmail yet.

    Over to you

  13. John

    One recent change that I DON’T like- with the old version, at the bottom right of the inbox, it used to list some page numbers, as well as back and forward. ie It was easy to go back four or five pages with one click. But that’s gone now- instead, I have to go back and load one page at a time. And yes, I know about search. But often, it’s one of those famous “I’ll know it when I see it” sort of things. Guess wrong at a word in the subject, or which of five people working on the same thing might have sent it to you, and search is useless.
    One old feature I always disliked. When I’ve read a message from my inbox, and then delete it immediately, I’m automatically taken to the nest message, rather that back to the inbox. If I only want to read selected messages, I have to go back to the inbox, and only then can I delete without changing the status of any other messages. It’s only an extra click or two- but it’s ANNOYING. Gmail simply takes me back to my inbox after deleting. Nice and easy.

  14. John

    PS- Other than that, I like it, and after playing with it for a few minutes after being upgraded, plus a couple of extra pointers here, I’ve not had any of the issues related by others.
    And Silviana- none of that has disappeared. If a complete list of folders doesn’t show on the left side of the page, just expand it. There’s a button there for it. Everything will show, and everything that you could do before you can still do now.

  15. David

    One thing I really dislike is that if I have a lot of emails to read then when I scroll to the bottom of my current email and click to delete it, it opens up the next email in order but my view is at the bottom of the new email! so everytime I have to scroll to the top of the new email to start reading it. In essecnce, the view doesnt reset to the top of newly opened emails, does anyone know a fix for this? all help appreciated because it is very annoying!

  16. Smiling Carcass

    I hate going to the next- or any other message after deleting the one I am currently reading.

    Hotmail is no longer my main email. I keep it as a ‘throwaway’ address.

    I now only check it a couple of times a month because so little goes in there. I now use gmail and my ISP’s skymail which is based on gmail.

    As for the messenger issues, years ago I found this to be such an intrusive nuisance I no longer have it installed. Folk that want to contact me can pick up the phone or email me.

    Well. that’s my moan done!

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