A review of Microsoft’s new integrated email solution.
E-mail is e-mail, I thought when reading the invite to preview the new Outlook.com from Microsoft. I was totally wrong. Microsoft found a way to blow up boring and has taken the e-mail experience to a new level.
Outlook.com takes the best features of Hotmail and Windows Live and adds Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and, coming soon, Skype. But this isn’t Hotmail 2.0; it’s a brand new product from the people who brought you the world’s most popular e-mail service.
Outlook.com is part of the new look Microsoft is rolling out with Windows 8, but it both looked good and functioned well on my Macbook Pro. My ADD brain hates clutter and I’ve honestly never found an e-mail service or platform that I really enjoyed until Outlook.com. The spacing between folders and options is wider and longer to take advantage of multiple interfaces such as a tablet, smartphone or computer.
One of the coolest features is their hidden toolbar. The buttons for reply, delete, junk, Sweep, move to and categories aren’t displayed until you highlight a message. You can’t use those options unless you have a message open, so why should you look at them? As soon as you close the message the options disappear again.
Speaking of Sweep, how would you like to click one button and sweep every e-mail from a single user and put it in the trash or in a folder? With Outlook.com’s new Sweep feature, you can do just that and you can schedule messages to be deleted. If you get a Deal of the Day e-mail you can set Schedule Cleanup to automatically delete it after the deal expires so that your inbox is easier to manage.
My pet peeve is spam and somehow I end up being subscribed to newsletters I never subscribed to. With Outlook.com you no longer have to open the message, hunt for their unsubscribe link and request to be removed. The unsubscribe button at the bottom of the message is a one click way to get rid of your unwanted e-mail.
For messages that are important, there’s another cool feature – your flagged messages automatically go to the top of the inbox. You flagged the message for a reason, so why would you want it mixed in with all your lower priority e-mail?
The e-mail integration feature allowed me to set up an @Outlook.com e-mail address and also moved my other e-mail accounts for easy access to everything I need. If you have an existing Hotmail or Windows Live account you can continue using that or switch it to a new @Outlook.com address.
The social media integration is definitely the coolest new feature. Where else can you be in your e-mail account while chatting with a Facebook friend or replying to Tweets from the people you follow? The answer to that is nowhere else. Once you link your social media accounts, Microsoft Outlook.com aggregates all your contacts from the various social media sites into your address book so there’s no need to switch from screen to screen looking for someone’s contact info.
Outlook.com users also get seven gigabytes of cloud storage via Microsoft’s SkyDrive, and it integrates with Microsoft Office Web Apps. You don’t have to have Office on your desktop to be able to create and edit documents in Word, Excel and PowerPoint. You can even collaborate and share them with your friends and co-workers without ever leaving the browser window. If you have Microsoft Office on your computer you have the option to edit the documents offline as well as online.
Do you hate it when you use other e-mail services and there are distracting, flashy ads all over the page? These ads are targeted to you because other services go into your e-mail looking for keywords so they can find things they think you want. Most people don’t realize this happens, but it doesn’t happen with Outlook.com. The only ads you will ever see are discreet ads from Bing shopping based simply on the information you supply in your user profile. In my case, they took my age, gender and country since that is all I filled in for my address. The only time Outlook.com will show the ads is when you are on your dashboard and when you’re reading an e-mail from a company and not a person. That means that when you’re seeing the latest news and messages from your friends you won’t be distracted. The ad area is replaced by their Facebook and/or Twitter info allowing you the opportunity to interact in real time.
All in all the Outlook.com experience was extremely positive and I look forward to the Skype integration that is coming soon.
Outlook.com is a preview of modern email from Microsoft. It has a fresh and intuitive design, connects your email to useful information from Facebook and Twitter, and gives you a smarter inbox with the power of Office and SkyDrive. Visit Outlookpreview.com to learn more and connect with us at @Outlook on Twitter.
This is a sponsored post on behalf of Microsoft Outlook. All opinions are mine.