Last week Microsoft announced the release of Outlook.com. Outlook.com is the next iteration of a number of Microsoft’s attempts to manage personal email. It joins the ranks of Hotmail, MSN and Live email accounts that have been around for years. I was pretty skeptical at first of yet ANOTHER email domain to keep track of.
It’s a pain in the It’s a pain to transfer all of your accounts and email subscriptions to a new email address and would take a lot for me to make that kind of commitment. After several days of playing with it, I think I’m actually a believer!
The Outlook.Com Account
Microsoft intends for Outlook.com to replace Hotmail and makes it pretty easy to transfer your Hotmail account to the Outlook interface once you’ve created your Outlook account. A big plus. These steps apply to MSN email as well I’m sure. They probably don’t mention it because.. well.. who cares?
Live accounts are still necessary for several Microsoft services that require the Microsoft Passport Network credentials. I know we use it for Forums and TAP programs. I suppose that will be replaced by “Microsoft account” (lowercase ‘a’… really? Who’s marketing genius is that?)
When it comes to the Passport services, you can use your Hotmail or MSN account for a ‘Live id’ if you don’t want a Live.com email account. You can also use your Live.com account, Hotmail and MSN account, and now Outlook.com email address for your Microsoft account (lowercase ‘a’). Did you follow that? If so, seek medical attention. This credential madness is way out of hand.
There are still remnants of the web of domains (pun intended) on the new Outlook.com interface. For example, when I access my new Outlook.com account settings I get transferred to a “Microsoft account” (lowercase ‘a’) site. However, if I select ‘edit profile’ I am redirected to a ‘Windows Live’ page. And to get back to my Outlook.com email from there, I click on a ‘Hotmail’ link. Can you imagine your mother dealing with this?
It’s clear on the Outlook.com site however that they want to join together all their services into a common experience. For example, there’s a lovely Metro menu that connects you to them all.
The Mail and People interfaces have the same look and feel. Right now though, Calendar and SkyDrive pop you back to the old Windows Live UI. You knew it was ugly before, but redirecting there from the lovely Metro is a shocker. I expect over time this will change. I would like ‘over time’ to be soon.
the Email and nothing but the email
Going back to Outlook email.. It is a HUGE improvement over any other platform I’ve seen Microsoft (or Google) create in the past.
First off the Metro UI is so clean. Lot’s of white space, understated fonts and menu options that only appear when applicable to your actions.
Simple. Simple. Simple. YES!
The best and brightest features I’m seeing on Outlook.com is email sorting and filtering. There are ‘Quick Views’ options that group your emails for you. Emails with Documents are grouped, Same with Photos which is cool. Then there are ‘Shipping updates’. I freaking LOVE this feature. Outlook.com knows the email is a shipping notification and groups it for you. And.. It works! Like a charm. You have the ability to create your own Quick Views as well but the default filters are awesome and applicable to humans (not just the developers).
Then there are the email ‘rules’. My adjectives to describe the new ‘rules’ experience consist of ‘easy’ and ‘sahweet’! The junk mail options are pretty standard but they’ve also added a ‘Sweep’ menu which is so intuitive. No more step by step by STEP wizard. It’s as simple as ‘move’ to ‘folder’ in one metro screen. And there is also a new ‘scheduled cleanup’ feature which is my fav d’ jour. You can set Outlook.com to delete that junk mail after a period of time -or- to just keep the latest email from the sender. This is awesome because Pier 1 sends me email constantly. I only kinda care. In fact I only kinda care sometimes. Scheduled clean up keeps it for me in my pre created ‘shopping’ Quick View but if ten days go by, I’m probably not interested so it chucks it. This saves my previous ‘ads’ folder that took me 5 steps in a wizard to create, from filling up and up and up. Yeah, yeah, I know I can ‘select all’ and delete but I’m one of those people that HATES seeing there are unopened emails in any folder. It taunts me. I have to read them. Even if they are in the ‘delete’ folder. Come on! Is it really just me? Can I get an ‘amen’?
So is Outlook.com worth creating an account? Yes. Yes it is. I’m not ready to notify my friends and family of a new email address yet, but I’m updating my online accounts. The real test is when the emails start rolling in. Pier 1 will make sure I have scale to really test it out. I’ll letcha know.