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Microsoft gets it right with Outlook.com

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by John C. Dvorak, 21 Feb 2013Blog
Microsoft gets it right with Outlook.com

You have to laugh at the fact that it took more than a decade for Microsoft to transition from Hotmail to Outlook.com. The company was clearly baffled by Hotmail in every way.

First of all, Hotmail sounds like some sort of sex service. I was stunned when Microsoft bought it and its customers. I was further stunned when the company failed to change its name to something that sounded more normal, like Microsoft Mail. Actually, microsoftmail.com does exist and now forwards to Outlook.com, which actually forwards to mail.live.com.

Well, that's finally over and now we have Outlook.com with a whole new look and feel.

Not goofy, not exciting

The company finally gussied up the user interface, making it quasi-Metro in appearance. Actually, it is quite boring, especially when compared with the mess that is Gmail.

Outlook cannot be mistaken for anything zany; it looks slick, modern, and surprisingly, not that dull. The drop-down View menu is worth noting because the options are All, Unread, Contact, Groups, Newsletters, Social Updates, and Everything Else. I'm not sure what "Everything Else" even means. Isn't it the same as All? Or is it some subset outside the already categorised views? It makes no sense. This may be the single flaw of the product.

Geared towards organisation

Then there's Newsletters. How can the program differentiate a newsletter when it appears as email? Well, I clicked on it and lo and behold the Yelp newsletter appeared. Obviously there is some way of signifying this category to Outlook. Okay, I'll figure that out myself.

But then I discovered a category expander. At first, I thought it was weird, then realised it was very useful. When I open the newsletter, there is a title and a line of text that looks like it is extracted from the header. But there are two new word objects. One says Schedule Cleanup, with the date 23/1. This creates a scheduled removal for this email or you can archive it into any folder you can dream up. Nice.

Next to this is Email, namely Newsletters. You click on this and get a drop-down menu that indicates you can sort this email into any number of searchable categories such as Bills, Documents, Family, Groups, Newsletters (which is pre-checked), or Photos. So these are some sort of subcategories of the View drop-down menu.

Since you can add your own folders, I'm guessing that this sort of thing could be a very powerful tool within certain types of complex organisations, such as an engineering firm.

Amazing functionality

The new mail composition, file attachment function, and mail editing is superb and intuitive to anyone who uses any sort of email program. It is also far better than Google or Yahoo.

My readers know I dislike Windows 8 and they will probably be shocked that I seriously like this product. It is perfection for an online mail system. It's simple, intuitive, elegant, and functional. The team at Microsoft who put this together should be given a raise and put on the Windows 9 team immediately.

Outlook.com is the new standard to beat. Good work.

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