Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Microsoft Launches Public Preview of email service (Update: In depth look added)

Image via Engadget. is property of Microsoft Corporation.
Today Microsoft has launched a new email service, currently in its preview phase. This service is called, and it is built from scratch instead of remodeling the current Hotmail email service (I personally use that for my personal email, as well for Techman's World). This is also to surface Microsoft away form Hotmail's bad rep.
From a feature standpoint, it has the same amount of features as Hotmail, but visually is where all the changes are. You can obviously tell that the interface is metro like, but there is also a twist on the ads in Instead of having distracting banners ads (both still and video banners) to the right of Hotmail, which is distracting to most users. Ad's in are still present, but they are must less "noticeable" if you know what I mean. Discreet is what the ads really are. You also won't see any targeted ads for now. on conversations with individual people (newsletters and such are still fair game). 

In lieu of those creepy personalized ads, you'll see quick access to Twitter and Facebook, where you can retweet and like things, as well as post comments. Skype integration is on its way, although it is not present in today's preview. Most importantly, though, it brings a fresh, minimal interface designed to lure away Gmail users who wouldn't have otherwise given Hotmail the time of day.

A video is below. The video is called "Welcome to" The next video is the walkthrough provided by Microsoft. After that video, I have my own personal experiences.

So I decided to try out the new interface. I loaded into my URL bar, and then signed in. As soon as I did that, I was taken to the new interface. It is very metro like as shown above in that Engadget picture. Despite it being new, I navigated it as if I was using it for weeks. Really -- it is not as hard as it looks. The only real thing I had to get used to is the options bar is at the top, not above the email message area.

For those who are worried that they might permanently loose the old Hotmail, don't be. You can safely leave the interface with no harm done. Take a look at the images I took. And as you can see, you can customize the color of the bar at the top. By default it is blue, but I changed it to a much nicer green color.
As you can see, this is my inbox with my folders hidden. Very clean, right? To the top right you can see the "Switch back to Hotmail" option hovered over (you can't see my mouse pointer, but trust me its there). The alt text (shown when the mouse hovers over something) is also the same. Click to expand image to full size.
If you choose "Switch back to Hotmail" from the menu, you'll get a little box come up that asks if you want to submit feedback for why you switched, or you can just click a button that says "No Thanks" and brings you back to Hotmail. You can always opt back into the preview by visiting via your URL bar or a link. Below is a focus of the menu for those that want to see just that.

Composing new messages in was a breeze. The "To:" part is on the left side of the screen, leaving a large area to compose your email message. Email signatures within messages do appear slightly bigger, or is it just me? Anyways, composing email messages in is really simple, as it was designed to be. You can see a screen capture of that below.

As for web Messenger, I have not tried that out. My existing status (invisible) did carry over, so I guess it is functional. I'll have to look into that when some of my friends come online. If any of you want to share your experience with this, you can in the comments below.
Like I said before, composing a new message was a little tricky. The only tricky thing is adding a subject. You have to click the "Add a subject" line to add a subject. Don't worry if you forget, you'll get a reminder asking if you want to send the message with no subject.
I'll update this article with more on my experiences, but for now you can soak in what I have posted above. If you do have thoughts on this, you can always post your thoughts in the comments below. Also, there is a preview for the Office Web Apps new version, also in metro. Go here for more info.
Right now I should mention that the new interface does not perform well right now under Opera. Update - the new interface should work fine with Opera.

(Updates below)
After using for a day now, I have more experiences to tell you all about. When you switch from Hotmail to, some settings are changed, specifically the conversation view settings. Conversation view is enabled if it wasn't already, and preloading of messages is also enabled. You can always turn these off via the more options button under the gear menu.

If I didn't already say this, there is also keyboard shortcuts with Existing users of Outlook (the desktop app) would really love this, and existing Hotmail users who used keyboard shortcuts will also love this.