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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!