Review

Review: Windows Live Essentials 2011 - Mail

WLE_PromoBanner_Mail

Microsoft has released the final version of Windows Live Essentials 2011 to everyone on a supported Windows based PC, which comes loaded with very useful and helpful everyday programs that make our lives a little easier and more entertaining. Over the next couple of days, Neowin will be taking an in-depth look at Windows Live Essentials 2011, covering a new program each day.

Windows Live Mail

Hotmail is one of the biggest email providers on the Internet, so being able to access your email anywhere, anytime and anyplace is valuable to consumers, especially with so much competition out there. With Google providing such a massive service free to consumers, it isn't any wonder that Microsoft needed to answer back with a desktop client to view, manage and send emails.

Windows Live Mail is a great little desktop client, if you don't already have Microsoft Office. All the features you would normally have on Hotmail are all present in Mail, without any limitations. With all the great services Microsoft is providing, using Windows Live Mail is a great desktop client to organize your emails and connect all your services in one.

WLM_DesktopClient

The overall layout of Windows Live Mail is very similar to that of Microsoft Outlook 2010, except with a few missing features, but with loads of options and customizations. The pane layout is that of Outlook, with your emails and folders on the far left, your emails next to that, your email message and contents beside that, and a calendar with upcoming appointments, birthdays and important days.

Windows Live Mail comes with a built in search feature, to help you find important messages by title, sender, or contents of a message.

Replying

I know replying to an email doesn't sound all that exciting, but I really wanted to write a focus point on this specifically just to show you how well this part of Windows Live Mail is executed. When you first hit the reply button, you have the basic window -- with the usual options, like attachments, text formatting, emoticons, hyperlinks and more, but awesomely, Windows Live Mail has added this really cool photo albums feature.

Just select a group of photos you want, and Windows Live Mail will make them into a gallery for you. There is a couple of different album styles to choose from, like an organized thumbnail layout to a scattered preview. However, these albums use SkyDrive for sending your photos, so that means your friends will be able to view them at any time without accidentally deleting them. This is a really nice feature, something that hopefully comes to Microsoft Outlook in the near future.

WLM_AddingPhotos

Ribbon

The ribbon used on Windows Live Mail has a lot of options, more than you'll need on a daily basis - which is never a bad thing. All your basic functions from compose, forward, move, to folder management, layout configuration and accounts. I found the feature set to be a lot more than I expected for a free desktop client, especially with a competing email client, Outlook 2010, by the same company. There is a lot more features than you would normally get in an advanced web-based email client, and I think Windows Live Mail does a fantastic job providing all of these features. It makes me wonder why Microsoft released a client that basically does everything Outlook 2010 does, for free.

If you are familiar with last years release of Windows Live Mail version 14, you'll remember how horrible the navigation and options menu were. The ribbon addition to Windows Live Mail really makes this a great client for anyone to use on a daily basis, and really does help improve productivity.

WLM_Ribbon

Email

Windows Live Mail syncs with your Windows Live ID account, so setup is a breeze, without any messy configurations or support pages to look through to figure it out. Live Mail includes a handy picture viewer within your emails. The picture viewer allows you to sync with SkyDrive, so you'll be able to send or receive up to 10GB - yes ten gigabytes - of high quality photos, or 25MB of photos per email.

The inbox supports threaded messages with a collapsible treeview list of emails, for maximum organization. Even if your email provider doesn't support threaded emails, Windows Live Mail will automatically merge all of your similar emails together.

WLM_ThreadedEmail

Viewing attachments within Windows Live Mail launches a slideshow preview that connects to SkyDrive, displaying the attachments in a slideshow popup window. This is neat because, you can view each images thumbnail without having to click through every image. You can also leave comments on the image and view comments left by other friends. You can even tag friends in your photo, which integrates nicely into Windows Live Photo Gallery.

WLM_SharingAlbums

Folders

Hotmail will soon be receiving subfolders, so you can put folders within other folders. Hopefully when that update begins to rollout, Windows Live Mail will be able to manage your subfolders, because as of right now, there is no apparent functionality to create subfolders. However, there is a very nice folder management tab, which contains tools to find emails within certain folders. Also included are the abilities to move, rename, delete and even set specific rules for each folder. Luckily, this feature syncs with your Hotmail account, so you'll be able to keep these settings wherever you go.

Windows Live Mail allows you to toggle the view of how emails are displayed, even the layout of the program itself. With a couple of different options, such as message list preview - where you can set one or two line previews - to the reading pane, being able to set your messages opening on the right hand side, at the bottom of the screen or off. There are options to disable the calendar on the right hand side, giving you a little more space to read emails in, and a compact view that places your folders and quick links into small icons on the side.

WLM_CompactView

The great thing about Windows Live Mail, is that it works with just about any email service provider. Although this doesn't really compare to Microsoft Outlook 2010, the features available in this, for free, are amazing. You get an all-in-one desktop email client with all the features you need, including a junk mail filter, full calendar, contacts - that can be synced with your emails contacts - RSS feed manager and Newsgroups.

This is a very solid desktop email client and all for free. This is definitely one program that received the biggest update in Windows Live Essentials 2011, as the other versions have been such a let down. Windows Live Mail delivers (pun fully intended), and is a great option for anyone looking for a desktop client to help manage their emails.

Make sure to check back tomorrow when we review Windows Live Mesh 2011!

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37 Comments

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Awesome application! One thing I can't figure out:

How can I set up multiple accounts to use the same folders on the left? I don't really want to have 4 inboxes, 4 sent, 4 trash, etc. I just want to have one, BUT see which mail came where, and I would like to be able to send messages from any of my accounts when composing email..

I dunno how to achieve this.

Sas Center said,
Awesome application! One thing I can't figure out:

How can I set up multiple accounts to use the same folders on the left? I don't really want to have 4 inboxes, 4 sent, 4 trash, etc. I just want to have one, BUT see which mail came where, and I would like to be able to send messages from any of my accounts when composing email..

I dunno how to achieve this.

It does not have an unified inbox but if you select all inbox in the quick views, you will achieve the same thing. You can also select all sent items as well. The only thing that is separate is the trash bins of each account. And to see what account it is, enable the account account column in this view.

Edited by Joyette S, Oct 5 2010, 11:57am : Added something

Joyette S said,

It does not have an unified inbox but if you select all inbox in the quick views, you will achieve the same thing. You can also select all sent items as well. The only thing that is separate is the trash bins of each account. And to see what account it is, enable the account account column in this view.

Yep, that's the only way I could think of. Thanks Joyette

It's a must-have for Hotmail users as a backup measure - judging from the last news about lost Hotmail emails

Too bad I've migrated to mac recently, Microsoft rolled out a pretty neat application suite there. Can't wait for the Mesh review

Best mail app available! I have tried Outlook, just seems a bit cluttered, and tried Thunderbird and it has BAD hotmail support.

.Neo said,
I only prefer to have toolbar icons there that I actually use. Is it possible to customize the Ribbon?

I feel exactly the same. I hate the effing Ribbon. With the previous version's menu buttons it was more than enough for me, you had access to tools, options and accounts in a snap, now you have to go trough all sorts of obscure places to access them. It's awful and I regret installing it as I just use it as my desktop mail client, not for anything social related.

And no, yo can not customize neither the stupid Ribbon nor the interface colors.

Does anybody has a link to the previous version so I can go back? I Googled it but found just this latest release.

Well the best you can do is collapse the ribbon and add your favourite commands to the Quick Access Toolbar. Works well enough for me...

~Johnny said,
Well the best you can do is collapse the ribbon and add your favourite commands to the Quick Access Toolbar. Works well enough for me...

As far as I know, there's no way to collapse the Ribbon and customize the Quick Access Toolbar. But I'll look harder hoping for what you said.

The fact that this client shows you a smaller version of picture attachments (something gmail has been doing since day one and yahoo forever) is a huge step up. Nothing like a feature that is 6+ years old finally copied. The ribbon and threads are nice. Skydrive albums are a huge plus although the web Skydrive interface is probably the worst interface in the world and can hardly be understood. Have been using this with my Live and Gmail accounts since Wave 3 hit. You did not mention Live Calendar but I always use it. Not a whole lot of updates in this client but scheduling is a little easier.

I like the Photo Gallery and Messenger and Movie Maker.....

But Mail is still behind Outlook 2010 and gmail IMO

Nothing in Mail really convinces me to leave gmail and switch over......

I only use Outlook for my 2 domain addy's but I prefer it to WLE Mail

"The ribbon used on Windows Live Mail has a lot of options, more than you'll need on a daily basis - which is never a bad thing."
I think it is. I only prefer to have toolbar icons there that I actually use. Is it possible to customize the Ribbon?

Finally, they have released a very usable suite of freeware apps that every Windows user should be aware of. I find WLM to be just as good as Outlook and in some cases even better. Considering the fact that most of the households in Australia have at least 2 or 3 PC's at home, makes sense for anyone to get just MS Office Home and Student and download WLM for free. I have been using WLM for the last 2 years now and I recommend it to every person I know. (not affiliated with Microsoft in any way) The latest final version release just works. With any account, gmail, hotmail, you name it... Looks like Microsoft is really trying hard to surpass the OS X complete user experience out of the box. Almost, all of the latest PC's and laptops are and will be installed with Windows Live Essentials Suite and MSE (another great product). So, have they listened, I think they did, and that was active listening too. Thumb up for Microsoft Team.

Regards,
Ivan Kolevski - GeekTech Solutions

Nice review

Massive improvement on Outlook Express

Windows Live Mesh 2011 tomorrow cant wait... Need to see if anyone else is only getting 5GB limit and not the 25

brent3000 said,
Nice review

Massive improvement on Outlook Express

Windows Live Mesh 2011 tomorrow cant wait... Need to see if anyone else is only getting 5GB limit and not the 25


It's a massive improvement on the previous version of Windows Live Mail (version 2009 build 14.x), let alone Outlook Express.

brent3000 said,
Nice review

Massive improvement on Outlook Express

Windows Live Mesh 2011 tomorrow cant wait... Need to see if anyone else is only getting 5GB limit and not the 25

Yes, it has been stated before that you get 5 GB through the Live Mesh service, but Sky Drive gives you 25 GB.

Was already upgraded from 2GB 'Sync'. It also doesn't count against your primary 25GB Skydrive so its win-win. I'm sure they will provide a pay service if you need more. 30GB split is still more than anyone else will give you for free.

Since this review is up, I have a little problem with Windows Live Mail, maybe some of you can help. I have my Gmail account setup with IMAP, but when retrieving e-mails with Live Mail, each one appears twice, as in duplicate. Do you know of any way to fix this?

Why isnt there an option to change the interface colour
Guess i will be sticking with the previous version
Which is a shame as i liked this new version but i cant stand that blue colour

Sem XL said,
Why isnt there an option to change the interface colour
Guess i will be sticking with the previous version
Which is a shame as i liked this new version but i cant stand that blue colour

Previous version is the same colour though?

testman said,

Previous version is the same colour though?

Previous version let you change the entire interface colour - this one doesn't. Your stuck with blue no matter what, though you can change a the font colour for a couple of items.

Since I use Windows Live Mail for newsgroups, it still has places that are bad for me. In example, when there are many pictures attached, Mail uses slide show for them. And while I could see them normally, top to bottom, pictures after picture, in actual size in Windows Mail, it's the feature I'd like to turn off. Still don't know, how

Sorting. It went very bad. When it was Windows Mail (again, you cry, why?! ), it sorted by the first message datetime, and then sorted replies.. Live Mail sorts by last reply (but why?) datetime, and things goes messy.

The great thing about Windows Live Mail, is that it works with just about any email service provider.

For those with free yahoo accounts, sorry, it works with yahoo plus! accounts.

Joyette S said,
The great thing about Windows Live Mail, is that it works with just about any email service provider.

For those with free yahoo accounts, sorry, it works with yahoo plus! accounts.


Yep, that's down to the individual provider (whether they allow external clients). For Yahoo!, your text only applies if you're using .com. .co.uk, .ie and a few other country-specific ones do still allow you to use external clients, or they at least did the last time I checked.

Joyette S said,
The great thing about Windows Live Mail, is that it works with just about any email service provider.

For those with free yahoo accounts, sorry, it works with yahoo plus! accounts.

Who still uses Yahoo mail?

Joyette S said,
The great thing about Windows Live Mail, is that it works with just about any email service provider.

...like any other email client too...

Regarding folders, I'm pretty sure you can create folders just by right-clicking the e-mail account name and choosing the "New Folder..." command. And not only that, you can right-click a folder and choose the "New Folder..." command to add a folder. This functionality has been in there since way back when it was Internet Mail and News, Outlook Express and the last version of Windows Live Mail.

Obviously with Hotmail doing this (creating a folder within another folder), it won't let you but when the servers get updated then it'll work fine.

I was using the older client for the longest time, and it worked fine, but had the little things missing. This update definitely fixed those little things. I see it as the transition from vista to 7. Generally the same, but better in all the places that count.

I don't agree with you putting Hotmail in brackets. This email client, may have a strong connection with Hotmail and the services from Hotmail, but the fact is, you don't even have to have a Windows Live ID connected to WL Mail, or a Hotmail account, you could have a Google account connected if you wanted, and that only. So this hasn't really got anything to do with Hotmail, it's just a Windows Live Mail Desktop Client. I use WL Mail for my Hotmail and GMX Mail accounts.

windowspczone said,
I don't agree with you putting Hotmail in brackets. This email client, may have a strong connection with Hotmail and the services from Hotmail, but the fact is, you don't even have to have a Windows Live ID connected to WL Mail, or a Hotmail account, you could have a Google account connected if you wanted, and that only. So this hasn't really got anything to do with Hotmail, it's just a Windows Live Mail Desktop Client. I use WL Mail for my Hotmail and GMX Mail accounts.

Actually, I think it was completely wrong to put Hotmail in brackets because the service is simply called Windows Live Hotmail and the client is called Windows Live Mail. Therefore the first paragraph should've simply referred to the former and the second paragraph should have referred to the latter, instead of confusing it by putting things in brackets.

Hotmail has nothing to do with the client except for being able to sign into it through Windows Live Mail to bring additional functionality - which wasn't even hinted at in the first paragraph so making the bracketed "Hotmail" word even more redundant.

I wouldn't say the previous versions have been a let down, especially the last version, many people considered it the best freeware email client you could get. Still either way this version is better for the most part, and it looks so much better than Outlook too! I wish there were more customisation colours for the entire interface through like the the last version, I'm not the biggest blue fan in the world /=