Until today, Microsoft offered a pretty standard email service called Hotmail or Windows Live. Hotmail wasn’t really comparable to Gmail as it was abandoned by many people long back due to its old featured that Microsoft never bothered to update. Well, now Microsoft’s back in game! Microsoft has just replaced their premiere email service Hotmail with an awesome and fresh looking mail service Outlook. This change happened yesterday when I started to notice my Facebook feed polluting with people updating their statuses with their new Outlook ID. Most people went ahead and snatched up their brand names as it was their only chance to secure the name they want at an public email service. Microsoft’s new Outlook service sure does look promising, but is it worth switching over from your Gmail or Yahoo account? By the end of this review we’ll be able to know.
Yes, it’s finally here! Microsoft has started to uniform their products by introducing their Metro UI. Metro UI on Outlook looks fantastic, it’s clean, simple and to the point. Steve Ballmer’s idea of unifying is really fantastic. They’ve unified Metro UI across Windows Phone 8, Windows 8, Office 2013, SkyDrive, Xbox and Outlook. They’re doing something similar to Google, as they tend to unify their services too, like Google+ and Gmail. The sidebar is beautifully categorized into Folders and Quick views. Now, Quick view is something awesome! In Quick view you have 3 options Documents, Flagged and Photos. If you click on any of these categories, that specific info will be pulled out of your mail and thrown at the screen. Meaning, if you click Photos in Quick view, you’d get a page containing all your photos that someone has emailed your or linked you to. You can also add your own category to Quick view by clicking New Category.
Now let’s talk about the header. The header is now sleek looking bar which always sits on top of the page containing essential tools. There is a simple New button on the header allowing you to add a new Post, from wherever you are. Also next to the logo, there is a small arrow, when clicked reveals a set of sweet looking Metro UI icons, these are: Mail, People, Calender and Skydrive. Basically these are shortcuts to Microsoft’s web based services. Then on the right side, there is a Message button, Settings button and Quick profile tab with user’s name. Message button, when clicked, reveals a right sidebar where you can chat with your buddies, WP-style. Under the settings button, you’ll find a couple of nifty shortcuts. First is a color palette with some basic colors to choose from for your Outlook account. Second, there is option to make reading pane on the right, bottom or turned off. There are 3 more nifty menu items: More mail settings, help and feedback. Then there’s a little tab with you’re name on which reveals some quick options. You can show yourself as available or invisible in chat and if you have linked up Facebook with your Outlook account, you can also change your Facebook chat to online or offline! You have also 3 more menu items: Edit profile, account settings and Sign out.
SkyDrive and Attachments
With your Outlook account, you obviously get a SkyDrive account. With SkyDrive you’re getting 25GBs of free cloud storage that you can access at any time. In Outlook, you can attach files upto 100mb in size compared to just 25mb in Gmail. Also, if you have even a bigger file, you can just upload the file to your SkyDrive account and then link it in your email. SkyDrive allows upto 300mb of file upload which is really enough for a email because othewise you just link to a file hosting service. When it comes to email storage, Outlook’s been really a sweetheart. Outlook gives you virtually unlimited storage in your account, so you can keep those image-filled emails coming in.
One of the greatest features of Microsoft Outlook is Facebook Chat Integration. Yes, it’s really true. There are always 2 tabs open on my browser, one is my email tab and other is my Facebook tab. Well, if you’re only using these 2 services at the moment, you can close your Facebook tab! You can chat with your Facebook buddies while you read or send emails. The chat, as expected, comes with the gorgeous Metro UI. Chat bubbles are in the form of Speech bubbles, grey one’s indicate the Messages from Sender while blue one’s indicate the Messages from Receiver. Emoticons on Outlook are really sweet and cute. Also, if the person you’re wishing to chat with isn’t online, you can send a message too. Overall, the chat works very well and I use it quite a lot.
Message organization on Outlook is very neat and clean. In Inbox, when you hover your mouse over an email, it will popup 3 message organization options: Mark unread, Delete and Flag. You can easily mark an email unread or send an email to the Deleted section or flag an email. Flagging send those emails to the top of the Inbox in a different section which can also be hidden. When a sender is trusted, Outlook adds a green shield next to sender’s name, making it easily differentiate.
When you hover over sender’s name, you get a ton of options related to that user. At the top you get sender’s name along with his/her email address. Then you have options like: send email and find email which is basically sending an email to the following person or finding an email received or sent to the following person. There is another batch of options: move all from and delete all from. Move all from allows you to move all the emails from the respective sender to an Folder and delete all from allows you to delete all the emails from the respective sender. Then there’s an awesome feature called Scheduled Cleanup which allows you to Schedule a cleanup of the following person meaning you can delete or move the messages of the following sender which are older than 10 days or you can only keep the latest messages from the sender.
As we already know, Outlook’s the social network linked email service. It connects to Facebook and syncs up all your friends and their info and puts it into one place called the People Hub. People hub is quite similar to the Hub on Windows Phone 7 basically having all your online contacts sorted out in a A-Z list. You can import contacts from Facebook, Google, Twitter, LinkedIn or from a file, giving you a chance to gather your every single contact in a single place! When you click a contact, you basically get all his/her information which he/she entered on his/her Facebook profile, Google ID, Twitter account or LinkedIn account! And using the import from file option you can import your contacts from your computer or mobile phone.
Outlook is really nice and I’d recommend it to anyone. It’s clean & simple and it gets the job done. With features like SkyDrive space, People Hub, Facebook chat etc, it’s undoubtedly the best email service I’ve ever used. I used to love Gmail and used it all the time, but now Outlook’s my choice.