When it comes to free, web-based email services, ever since Google introduced Gmail, Microsoft’s Hotmail has developed a reputation as Gmail’s ugly and less usable cousin. Recently, however, Microsoft has introduced some changes that might mean you should give Hotmail another try. In this morning’s edition of “Hack Your Inbox,” I’m going to see if Hotmail can provide the same filtering and sorting functions that I’ve previous demonstrated with Gmail and with Apple Mail. (Spoiler alert: the short answer is “kind of.”)
Now, I try not to be unreasonably loyal to any particular technology. Over the last 25 years, and for various reasons, I’ve gone back and forth from being a Mac user to being a PC user. Currently, I’m in year 7 of my current “Mac user” phase. My campus, however, embraces PCs and the Microsoft environment, meaning almost everything we use is produced by the company from Redmond: the default OS for classroom and library computers; the email system for faculty, a Microsoft Exchange Server; and the email/productivity system for students, a campus-branded version of Microsoft’s “Windows Live” (this academic version of Live is similar to the academic version of Google Apps many campuses are adopting).
As far as I can tell, students mostly use their campus Live account for email, which is too bad since it features many other useful functions. The “Windows Live” environment features several integrated services, including the following:
- Hotmail: Microsoft’s free, online email service that provides you with unlimited storage for you mail — at least, that appears to be the case according to their online documentation
- Windows Live Calendar: A scheduling application, integrated into Hotmail.
- Office Live: Sort of like GoogleDocs for Microsoft Office documents; up to 5 GB of Word, Excel, or PowerPoint files for storage and collaboration.
- SkyDrive: 25 gigabytes of storage in the cloud, including a “Public” folder to allow you to share files with others.
Microsoft has produced a consumer-friendly video explaining the new Hotmail.
Hotmail is much improved, and has many nice features, but it’s not quite as user friendly for setting up sorting and filtering many email addressess associated with students.
What about you?
Do you use (and like) Hotmail? Have you come up with a way to hack your inbox with Hotmail that works for you? Let us hear from you in the comments!