Everything you need to know about Outlook.com is right here

The last time we saw a major revolution in email, it was back when Google unveiled its email platform that gave you gigabytes, not megabytes, of storage. Microsoft is hoping to change all of that today with the launch of Outlook.com.

Outlook.com is a new look at email, a ground up approach that was shaped with help from your feedback; Microsoft wanted to remove the noise from emailing and increasing your productivity. They aimed to remove barriers, make the workflow feel natural, responsive, and most of all, put what you need at your fingertips.

The output of that work is Outlook.com, a new email service from Microsoft that finally provides a domain that sounds professional and sports a new UI that changes the approach to the email.  With new privacy enhancements, features, and a new UI, Microsoft is looking to change the game once again.

User Interface:

The first thing you will notice right away is the new interface. To no surprise, it brings Metro to the forefront of email. Microsoft says that the new UI has a “fierce reduction of clutter” and if you are thinking the new UI looks a lot like Outlook on your desktop, that was their intent.

In fact, Outlook, not surprisingly, was their motivation for the new layout. Seeing as over a billion people use Office products, the layout is familiar and comfortable. The UI removes a lot of the clutter you see in Microsoft’s own email products and Google’s as well. If you notice on the screenshots, the advertisements are minimal and on many of the screens, they are non-existent.

The UI is also adaptive and depends on what items you have selected; the options are available in the “command bar” adjust accordingly. The command bar resides at the top of the window and is context based. If you have an email selected, you will see a targeted set of options, and when you are in a conversation, unnecessary options are hidden to reduce the clutter on the screen.

Microsoft also analyzed what functions are used most often and created shortcuts that are, in some cases, inline to make quick actions. For example, deleting an email is one of the most common tasks when looking at email so Microsoft built in a quick-action item to make this process faster. The team also included a quick action item for marking an email as read/unread too.

Composing Email:

When it comes time to sit down and write an email, Microsoft has removed many of the distractions that are typically present when drafting up a fresh email or a response to an email you already received. You will notice above that there are no advertisements present, the navigation bar is tucked away neatly and all you are left with is your blank canvas to create your masterpiece. On my particular setup above, I did have open the messaging window, but that can easily be collapsed.

All of the standard options are still available such as plain text, HTML options, spell check and all of the other basic requirements; Microsoft simply cleaned up the interface to remove distractions and to give you the largest work-space possible. 

Fighting SPAM:

The majority of email services on the web handle SPAM mail quite well but what about all of that “other” mail; Microsoft calls this graymail. We are talking about content that you may have accidently signed up for but at the time, did not realize it or those constant “daily deals” , and oh god, the “Farmville” notifications that flood our inboxes.

Microsoft has a couple of tools that can help you combat this with Outlook.com and we will highlight two of our favorite tools. The first is called “sweep”, which is exactly what the name sounds like. This tool allows you to automatically move messages in a controlled manor as seen in the image above.

The cool thing about this is that it takes the hassle out of removing redundant messages. For example, if you get ‘daily deal’ messages in your inbox, yesterdays deals are no longer relevant. You can use the sweep feature to only keep the latest email so you don’t have to manually remove the old messages, a fantastic time saving trick.

There are also built in tools to help you unsubscribe from newsletters or another annoying email. Outlook simplifies to unsubscribe process from the Command bar and makes it simple to either automatically block the newsletter, or unsubscribe with just a few clicks.

Attachments:

Outlook.com has a few key enhancements with attachments that will change the game for some of us, especially if you like to email photos or videos. The upper bound on email attachments is 300 MB but even better is that you can view slideshows, videos, and edit documents all from within Outlook.

When we say view a slideshow, we don’t mean looking at a small, scaled down photo, this is a true slideshow without having the need to download all the files locally first.  The same goes for video too, you are able to watch them from your Outlook inbox.

While these changes are certainly evolutionary, once you get used to them, downloading attachments to view them feels archaic and certainly is a welcomed feature to the platform.

If you are wondering how much storage space Microsoft will give you, worry no more; Microsoft is offering unlimited storage for its email platform.

If you get sent an Excel, PowerPoint or Word file, you are given two options: You can download the file or open it using web apps. Either option only takes one click to initiate the action thanks to a well-designed interface, makes viewing the file fast and fluid.

Facebook, Twitter , SkyDrive  and all the integration you could ever need:

Microsoft has all the social connectors you could think of (well, not that one) to make your email inbox as robust as possible. If you are friends with someone on Facebook or Follow them on Twitter, Outlook now pulls in their profile image and adds it to the emails that they send you; you can also share content directly from Outlook.com too.

The platform, not surprisingly, also has deep ties with SkyDrive which makes it easy to share large photosets as the files get loaded on to Skydrive first (free account when you sign up for Outlook gives you 7GB of storage) and then provisions the content to your email.

This is important for a couple of reasons, one, it allows you to blow past the 300 MB attachment limit set by Outlook but it also reduces the likelihood of an email bouncing because the attachment is too large for the recipients email.

Microsoft offers a ton of pluggins for Outlook, the full list includes the platforms above as well as LinkedIN, flickr, Google (for contacts) and Weibo. 

Universal Address Book:

We have all been there, you have a million profiles, across a dozen networks and you desire a single, universal contact list; Outlook makes that happen.

If you link all of your accounts to Outlook.com, you will be rewarded with a single, universal, contact list. The best part? This list will sync across devices as you move around from Windows 8 and we predict, Windows Phone 8 too.

Customization:

Microsoft has added a few settings to Outlook to make it feel more personal. The options can be selected from the gear icon on the top right and allow you to change the color/theme of Outlook. The adjustments are very similar to what we see in Windows 8 and Windows Phone.

When you select a color it changes the command bar, the advertisement color text, highlight text, and link text. For the super obsessive, you’ll be able to make your Windows Phone, Windows 8 PC, and your email client match, cute.

Other customization options allow you to turn on/off the reading pane or alter where the pane is located; turning the reading pane on will instantly bring back memories of the Outlook desktop client.

Skype:

 

To no surprise here, Skype is being baked in to Outlook.com. The platform is not quite ready from primetime but once it goes live, you will be able to call up your friends or co-workers from within the client.

Even thought the product is not quite ready, for those that use Skype heavily, this feature will be crucial for making quick connections when reading an email. 

Privacy:

Microsoft has taken a fresh approach with privacy when it comes to email. If you are uncomfortable with others reading your email, Outlook.com is taking a stand against that. Below is Microsoft’s privacy policy outlined and in short, they will not read your emails or attachments to serve you advertisements.

We believe that email shouldn’t force you to trade away your privacy. Email is personal. The contents of your messages and the files you’re attaching are all private information. This should belong to you and whoever you’re communicating with and you should be in control of how your personal data is being used. With Outlook.com, the contents of your personal conversations aren’t used to serve ads. We don’t read your messages or attachments to send you advertisements. Period.

Microsoft takes this a step further, when you are in conversation view, Microsoft will not serve you advertisements either.  The advertisements along the right side are hidden as the company believes that email is personal and that it should not bombard you with advertisements while you are engaging in a conversation.

Extras:

 

Microsoft has included a lot of options that allow you to tweak nearly every aspect of the email experience. One of our favorite option is that if you are coming from Gmail or Yahoo and are accustomed to their keyboard shortcuts, Outlook lets you use their shortcuts instead of the ones they created.

The option panel is deep and robust and is worth tinkering with because if there is a feature you don’t like, or want to change, chances are there is a way to either turn it off or make the adjustment you desire.

Wrap-Up:

The new email service from Microsoft is not simply another rebranding; it really is a new email with new features and of course, a new UI. Microsoft has finally introduced a mature domain for all of us to use as our preferred email address and truly is listening to your feedback.

Microsoft has yet again re imagined another platform with unique features, solid cross-platform integration, and spam busting features that make Outlook.com a market leader. Of course, email is insanely personal, so finding the right platform for your needs is all about experimentation and customization, which makes Outlook worthy to be placed on your shortlist.

Give Outlook.com a spin and let us know what you think below. Do you like it, love it, or hate it? It certainly encompasses the Metro spirit, but does that spirit work for you? 

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52 Comments

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^ Peter, I answered your question in the other comments.

I'm liking it so far. Nice to have a refresh and get rid of old email addresses I don't use or want anymore.

- No IMAP support makes using Windows Live Mail useless.

- Can't add me@mywebsite.com as an alternate email address. Maybe I'm doing it wrong, although I could in Hotmail and Gmail. Will see if I can find somewhere else to add it.

- No way to go back to the Inbox when you've visited your Microsoft Account.

Will try and make the switch from Gmail but with no sync for Windows Live Mail then I can't use outlook.com ad my primary address. Shame.
Would have thought they would have done this for their own program.

Mr Spoon said,
^ Peter, I answered your question in the other comments.

I'm liking it so far. Nice to have a refresh and get rid of old email addresses I don't use or want anymore.

- No IMAP support makes using Windows Live Mail useless.

- Can't add me@mywebsite.com as an alternate email address. Maybe I'm doing it wrong, although I could in Hotmail and Gmail. Will see if I can find somewhere else to add it.

- No way to go back to the Inbox when you've visited your Microsoft Account.

Will try and make the switch from Gmail but with no sync for Windows Live Mail then I can't use outlook.com ad my primary address. Shame.
Would have thought they would have done this for their own program.

IMAP is not needed for Outlook.com, hotmail.com or live.com - these are integrated via the Exchange protocols and are inherent handlers in Windows Live Mail. However, you need to specify Windows Live Hotmail as the server type, or it doesn't know to use the Hotmail/Exchange protocol.

This is because the software doesn't know Outlook.com to properly set it to the right server type. PS - The Hotmail/Exchange protocol is far better than IMAP


You can add your other email address as an alternate, it may still be under the mail preferences, not the Microsoft Account settings.


When you go to Microsoft Account settings, the reason you can't go back is that it opens in a new tab, new windows, or new page. So if you are not using tabs or windows, hitting your back button should take you there.
(There are security reasons it is opened this way, and it is a good thing.)

Thanks. Solved all but the IMAP stuff.

I added the account in WLM with Hotmail settings. Sent and received an email fine but when I look in the browser, emails aren't marked as read when I've read them in WLM.

Also, can I set a different outgoing server to use as when viewing emails sent from a custom domain, then I get the "Sent From: myemailaddress@outlook.com; on behalf of; My Name [me@mywebsite.com]" which is not ideal.
Shame as I am sure Hotmail didn't do this. Hmm.

How do you sign out?

How do you get it to go to the next message when you delete one instead of it kicking you back to inbox? Cannot find an option that allows that.

gosh the email composing page is so tacky. why the heck does the recipients collumn get an entire forth of my screen?

Signed up for a new Outlook.com email address. I'm at work so it doesn't allow all scripts and such but I'm finding the site appears to be a little iffy on functionality. If I click on log off it takes me to an MSN website (which is fine). So I type http://www.outlook.com in again, expecting to see the login but it's showing me as already logged in. Even though I've logged out.

On my cell phone (Android) I go to http://www.outlook.com in Chrome and sign in, it starts to load the next page and then Chrome throws up an error about experiencing redirect loop and won't load.

Oh well. Fail. Having absolutely hated Hotmail and a huge fan of Gmail, I would have loved to give this a try to see how far Microsoft has come but it looks like there's still a bit of work to to.

Simple and neat!

-The only thing I found to be waste of space and eye sore is the left grey "TO" area. I think it would have been better if you could resize or hide it somehow. What's the point of having such a huge space left side just for e-mail address?

I wonder how long it will be before they start slamming us with side bar ads or force you to watch a video ad just so you can view your email.

Rohdekill said,
I wonder how long it will be before they start slamming us with side bar ads or force you to watch a video ad just so you can view your email.

No, that's Google and their property YouTube you're thinking of.

2 Questions

Can we use any e mail service with this like my Comcast E mail for example?

Also is this replacing the Windows Live Mail Desktop software?

It's nice but some features missing, i cant see how to remove the ads, and i can't seem to add twitter, i have added facebook but it hasn't done anything as far as i can see?

You can't use custom domains (windows live domains) and you can't use IMAP.. I don't understand the POP decision at all? Exchange would have been amazing but i realise this would have stepped on Office365's toes.

I used to go to outlook.com to access my Office365 account which is exchange, however it no longer works.

At first glance i thought the interface was disgusting but it's really growing on me... not sure if it will drag me from Google though.

Uplift said,
It's nice but some features missing, i cant see how to remove the ads, and i can't seem to add twitter, i have added facebook but it hasn't done anything as far as i can see?

Go into conversation view for your email and the adverts vanish. Go to settings and more settings and then choose "Group by conversation and pre-load messages"

Wow, I managed to change my 10 year old Hotmail address to firstnamelastname@outlook.com. Now I have a better address, an alias for my old address, all my old contacts/mails and the increased SkyDrive space in one account. Pretty sweet.

Greenix said,
Wow, I managed to change my 10 year old Hotmail address to firstnamelastname@outlook.com. Now I have a better address, an alias for my old address, all my old contacts/mails and the increased SkyDrive space in one account. Pretty sweet.

How did you do that? I have an @live.com address with my Zune and Gold Xbox accounts tied to. I'd love to get it to @outlook.com (And I converted my account on skydrive to get the free upgrade to 25GB on skydrive. I dont really want to loose this.

jasqid said,

How did you do that? I have an @live.com address with my Zune and Gold Xbox accounts tied to. I'd love to get it to @outlook.com (And I converted my account on skydrive to get the free upgrade to 25GB on skydrive. I dont really want to loose this.


Zune and XBOX stuff stays intact. If you have Windows Phone though, you have reset to factory settings and setup again, but all the purchases and stuff stay intact.

Greenix said,
Wow, I managed to change my 10 year old Hotmail address to firstnamelastname@outlook.com. Now I have a better address, an alias for my old address, all my old contacts/mails and the increased SkyDrive space in one account. Pretty sweet.

do you still keep the old address? is it active? can you use the old credentials to login?

OK, so I've just done it myself

zhiVago said,

do you still keep the old address?

yes

is it active?

yes

can you use the old credentials to login?

no

jesseinsf said,
It only works with @Hotmail.com and @live.com :-( It doesn't work with registered email addresses.

It works for my registered address. It also works with the new @outlook.com address.

jesseinsf said,
It only works with @Hotmail.com and @live.com :-( It doesn't work with registered email addresses.

I registered a Live ID using Yahoo! email and I have access to it.

love the new interface, hate that it still signs me into MSN, and now i can't see my msn contact list by default either so i "forget" about it until i start getting messages.

wish there was a way to turn this off once and for all. anyone?

NastySasquatch said,
I want it, heres hoping the get smart and offer a way for me to get my live account merged with it.

Just go to Outlook.com and sign in with your live account...

I made an @outlook.com alias but it's not working, not getting emails for that alias email address, and can't write email from that alias. (can't select the address as sender)

edit: it looks like @outlook.com alias only gets email if I turn off email forwarding.
other thing: IMAP support?

Edited by nyolc8, Jul 31 2012, 4:48pm :

nyolc8 said,
I made an @outlook.com alias but it's not working, not getting emails for that alias email address, and can't write email from that alias. (can't select the address as sender)

edit: it looks like @outlook.com alias only gets email if I turn off email forwarding.
other thing: IMAP support?


Edit: Never mind.

I really can't stand these 3/4 column layouts in email programs - just looks messy and cramped to me. Plus the attachment viewer doesn't look very Metro, but other than that it looks good.

Still don't get the big deal people/Microsoft make about emails being scanned by computers to serve ads though. The whole Internet is being scanned by computers for a variety of purposes. I find the alarmingly common inability of major companies to store data and passwords with even amateur levels of security a far bigger concern (and one that is unfortunately brushed under the carpet - probably because of this push towards cloud services).

This list will sync across devices as you move around from Windows 8 and we predict, Windows Phone 8 too.

Already works on my WP7 (much to my surprise when I saw sickipediabot in my contacts...) so I expect your prediction may be correct

I love it too! Great work Microsoft indeed! And for the people afraid to ask. Yes, there is a way to go back to the Hotmail interface under the cog wheel up top (only if you upgraded and that will remain for the time being). Once Office 2013 releases, the transfer will be final and everyone will obtain the new interface permanently.

Edited by Thief000, Jul 31 2012, 4:08pm :