Hotmail is getting a major makeover, as you may have heard. Microsoft just announced the new version of the web-based email service, used by 360 million worldwide. Among the new features: threaded conversations, automatic filters, social networking integration, Office Web Apps integration, and even a tool that helps you achieve “inbox zero.” (At last!)
When you first login to the new Hotmail, you’re taken to a homepage that highlights messages from your contacts, social networking updates and flagged email. You can also optionally sign into Messenger via this page. From here, you can quickly jump to a filtered view of your inbox where only your important email is displayed (from contacts, flagged, etc.). Then when you’re ready to deal with the rest, you can click on “view all.”
Another helpful feature for dealing with email overload is the new “sweep” button. This lets you clear out what Microsoft calls “graymail” (not whitelisted or blacklisted) from your inbox. I call this “HAM” myself, a play on “SPAM,” meaning stuff you signed up for, but definitely not urgent mail. This includes things like newsletters and communications from various services, for example. With “sweep,” you no longer have to set up complicated filters and rules. You can just sweep these messages from your inbox, even telling Hotmail to do this automatically for you from now on by checking a checkbox.
Still another great feature involves photos. Instead of “attaching” photos to an email, they can be uploaded to SkyDrive and transformed into an online album that can then be shared via email. By doing this, you can send up to 200 photos, each up to 50 MB in size at once, without clogging the recipient's inbox. Photos you receive – either like this or via external services like flickr – can be displayed in a slideshow format with just a click.
Office Web Apps are also integrated into the new Hotmail. Like photos, files can “be attached” to a message via SkyDrive, again allowing you to stop worrying about attachment sizes. And when you get a document, you can just open it up using Office Web Apps, right in your Hotmail. Like photos, you can send up 200 Office documents of up to 50 MB each per email.
There’s a lot more too – like how videos from Hulu and YouTube play right in your inbox, push capabilities for email on mobile phones, mobile-optimized sites for feature phones, full-session SSL, and more.
You can read more about the new Hotmail here. The rollout will begin sometime mid-summer.