Hotmail is on a Roll with Updates

While we gasped at the awesomeness of the relaunched SkyDrive earlier this week, most of us have failed to notice the slew of updates to another product by the same business division at Microsoft. Hotmail has been releasing updates all through the month of June, some of which haven’t been even announced officially.Hotmail

While some of these have been feature additions, others have been nice user interface tweaks. The evident speed improvements are a result of some clever HTML5 programming. The team has clearly been inspired by Outlook and brings many features from Outlook/Outlook Web Access to Hotmail.

Navigation

Since a couple of weeks, the header on the Hotmail has changed to a header similar to SkyDrive. It has a consolidated menu for SkyDrive instead of the Photos and Office links.

Based on the user feedback, the Hotmail team has adjusted the Back button so that it now works more effectively, and attachments now get saved to email drafts. Also, users can recover some lost email through a new link in the Deleted folder.

Kip from liveside.net has also spotted a quick view Calendar in the left navigation pane. I haven’t had this update on my account as yet, and neither did most people that I checked with at the time of writing this post.

Right-click Menus

Hotmail has added more right-click action options this week inspired by Outlook. When you right-click a message in your inbox, a new menu appears allowing you to Reply, Reply all, or Forward the message. Hotmail already supports right-click actions like Mark as unread, Delete, Junk, Move, and View message source. This is a definite speed-booster for the daily email tasks.

Keyboard Shortcuts

Hotmail supports several keyboard shortcuts familiar to the Outlook users, such as Ctrl+N for a new message, and Ctrl+Enter to send a message. It also provides keyboard shortcuts that users who have switched from Gmail and Yahoo! Mail are already used to with the previous email service.

Personalization

While you could always customize individual email messages, now Hotmail allows you to set a set a default font and personal signature for all your email messages.

Message Pre-loading

Last week, an option appeared in Hotmail to allow message pre-loading that pre-loads messages and folders in order to make them load faster and speed up reading. The feature needs to be activated from the Hotmail options.

 

While most of these additions increase speed and productivity while using Hotmail, a few features on my wish-list still remain to be struck off.

  • If you’ve pinned Hotmail to your Windows 7 Taskbar, you receive a notification of a new mail. Unfortunately, there is no Messenger notification. While Facebook and Gmail change the browser title to notify a user of an incoming chat message, Hotmail has no such feature.
  • While Outlook saves conversation history from communicator, Hotmail doesn’t do that for Messenger. This is one Outlook feature I would really want to see come to this side.
  • More right-click options? Yay! However, I still find it natural to expect right-click action options on folders in the left navigation pane.
  • This is not a personal wish, but asking for no advertisements on Hotmail finds resonance across the web. The latest refresh of SkyDrive does away with ads, so there is hope.

SkyDrive Refreshed with New Features and HTML5

Windows Live SkyDrive is the underdog of Microsoft’s Windows Live suite of web services and applications since it launched in 2007. While similar services like DropBox garner a lot of fans, an iCloud announcement from Cupertino gets favorable press. However, with 25GB free storage space offered and over 100 million users, I think SkyDrive deserves better.

Continue reading SkyDrive Refreshed with New Features and HTML5

Windows 8 Cloud Features Detailed [Screenshots]

Last year, a bunch of presentations detailing planned Windows 8 enhancements were leaked. Those documents gave us a glimpse of what Microsoft was planning for the next iteration of Windows. It was obvious that one of the key differentiators for Windows 8 is going to be cloud integration. Back then, I wrote:

With Windows 8, user accounts will finally become user centric. Your cloud based user account will follow you, from machine to machine.

Now, some leaked screenshots and some sleuthing from MDL forum members, have thrown up a fair amount of concrete information on Window 8’s cloud integration. According to Microsoft, more than 52% PC users work on multiple computers on a regular basis. In order to make switching between workstations effortless, Windows 8 will be introducing ‘Roaming Profiles’. When you logon to different devices using your ‘connected password’, your settings will be automatically transferred to the device. The ‘Roaming Options’ Control Panel item will allow you to add or remove the following from your roaming profile:

  • Desktop Wallpaper
  • Aero Glass Color
  • Ease of access control panel
  • Magnifier
  • On screen keyboard
  • Narrator
  • Speech recognition settings
  • Language profile
  • Text prediction preferences
  • IME dictionary
  • Application settings and search history
  • Windows Taskbar settings
  • Windows Explorer settings
  • Windows Search settings
  • Windows Mouse settings
  • Wireless network profiles
  • Saved website credentials

Windows-8-Roaming-Profile

Interestingly enough, as pointed out by Long Zheng, Windows 8 seems to have the ability to detect if you are using a metered internet connection, or a connection with low bandwidth cap.

Windows-8-Roaming-Profile

Furthermore, another MDL forum member has posted a screenshot that shows the cloud authentication feature in action. Windows 8 will provide the option of either logging in as a local user, or logging in using cloud identification. Quite obviously, Microsoft will be tapping into the Windows Live network for the cloud oriented features.

Windows-8-Cloud-Logon

The public beta of Windows 8 is still several months away. In the meantime, if you want to get a taste of Windows 8, go ahead and download the leaked Windows 8 M2 (pre-M3) release.

Windows Live Mail Hogs CPU, RAM And Slows Down The System

I have been a Windows Live Mail user for a long time now, however, it looks like I am going to dump it and go for Thunderbird or maybe just use my to catch up on email from multiple accounts.

Windows Live Mail 2011

The latest version of Windows Live Mail which is included in Windows Live Essentials 2011, worked really fine for me for a while, however, it has become a pain in the posterior. I have 25 email accounts set up (don’t ask how I have that many, those aren’t even all) in it and it chimed well and downloaded all my messages without any trouble.

However, of late, whenever I start Windows Live Mail, my system (i7 processor/6GB RAM) becomes slow and crawls. This is annoying at best. I tried looking for solutions to the problem but couldn’t find any.

From my experience with Outlook, I am pretty sure that the problem is related to the disk storage. Outlook too used to crawl if the size of the PST file reached 2GB or higher (I am not sure about it now), but you could always fix the Outlook issue by creating a new storage file. That though is not the case with Windows Live Mail.

I absolutely love Windows Live Mail, but unfortunately I cannot seem to figure out how to fix the slowness it causes on the PC. I will continue looking at how to fix this issue and post updates when I come across them.

Do you use Windows Live Mail? Are you seeing similar issues when you have lot of email accounts or have tons of downloaded emails. Do let me know through your comments.

Hotmail Adds HTTPS Encryption For More Protection

HTTPS is a protocol which allows websites to securely transmit data from one point to another. It is more secure than the HTTP protocol because users cannot snoop in on requests and responses.

Hotmail HTTPS

Many popular websites and banks provide users with HTTPS protection including , and . Though currently only Gmail uses HTTPS by default for full-on protection. You can always access sites like Facebook and Twitter using HTTPS too, but it is manual.

Today, the Hotmail team announced that they will be providing users with the option to enhance the security of Hotmail with HTTPS data encryption. However, right now this service is opt-in, so you will have to visit https://account.live.com/ManageSSL to set preferences to use SSL by default.

Other Microsoft services like Microsoft SkyDrive, Photos, Docs and Devices pages will automatically use SSL encryption. One thing to note here is that if you switch over to HTTPS for Hotmail, Outlook Hotmail Connector, Windows Live Mail and Windows Live application for Windows Mobile and will stop working. Future updates to these application may allow you to seamlessly use HTTPS across devices. Sadly, for people like me who use desktop applications to access Hotmail, the HTTPS will have to wait.

Also, if you think that using HTTPS will slow down or degrade services for you, you might want to look at the cost of switching to SSL Google incurred. It was minimal at the most.

More info on this announcement can be found at the official Windows blog.

Windows Live Essentials 2011 Released

Microsoft has released the final version of Windows Live Essentials 2011, their software suit for email, pictures, videos, blogging and more.

windows_live_essentials_beta

Windows Live Essentials 2011 has been released by Microsoft. The suite contains software such as Live Messenger, Live Mail, Live Writer, Photo Gallery and Movie Maker, Windows Live Mesh, Bing Bar and Outlook Connector Pack among others.

The Windows Live Essentials 2011 is a free software suite which aims to make your day to day computing easier. If you are a beta user of the software, the installed software will be upgraded. New users will be able to choose and install the software they want.

You can download and install Windows Live Essentials 2011 by visiting this link.

How To Migrate Windows Live Spaces to WordPress

Microsoft recently announced that they would be shutting down Windows Live Spaces and moving all users to WordPress.com. If you are a Windows Live Spaces user, Microsoft has made it very easy to move your data elsewhere, so how do you move it to WordPress.com? Take a look at the steps listed below.

Step 1: Login to your Windows Live Spaces account.

Start Windows Live Spaces Migration

Step 2: When you view your Spaces account, you might see a notice which will prompt you to Upgrade your blog, click on the "here" link to start the migration process.

Live Spaces WordPress Migration

Step 3: Read the information on the page. Once you are done click on the "Get started. Upgrade my blog to WordPress.com!" link. Read the agreement on the next page and click on the "Confirm" button to continue.

Windows Live Spaces To Shut Down, Move 30 Million Users To WordPress.Com

Windows Live Spaces, the blogging platform from Microsoft will shortly shut shop and move 30 million users to the WordPress platform.

Windows Live Spaces to WordPress

Microsoft today announced the closure of Windows Live Spaces and migration of over 30 millions users will be migrated over to WordPress.com at TechCrunch Disrupt. Users data will be migrated through a process that preserves all the content to WordPress.com, all Windows Live Spaces blogs will also be redirected to the new WordPress.com domain.

Users will also have an option to download the information from their blogs and store or or delete it entirely. Windows Live Spaces will shut down within the next 6 months, giving users ample amount of time to make a decision before forced migration or deletion of data could take place.

WordPress is currently one of the best blogging solution for hosted as well as free blogging, and the 30 million additional users for the site will take their total blog tally to well over 50 million. WordPress currently powers over 8.5% sites across the internet.

Update: More at the official WordPress.com blog.

Hotmail Adds Package Tracking, Facebook Chat, Sub Folders and More

windows_live_hotmail[3]

Microsoft has been revamping the user experience of Windows Live Hotmail to make it more user friendly and competitive with other webmail providers. Some of the new features they have introduced have been done to entice users back to the email giant.

Today, the Windows Live team announced some new features for Hotmail, several of which were interesting. The best feature from the new updates include package tracking, chat and sub-folders. Here is an overview of what is new with Hotmail.

Package Tracking

hotmail_package_tracking

Hotmail has made package tracking easier with their latest changes. With the help of ActiveViews, Hotmail will be able to recognize a tracking number and display it above the email message.

This is definitely a neat feature and will allow you to quickly view package details from FedEx, DHL and UPS along with the US Postal Service.

Facebook Chat in Hotmail

hotmail_facebook_chat

Facebook here, Facebook there, Facebook everywhere. It looks like no application these days can live without having some sort of Facebook integration and Hotmail cannot be left behind. The newer version of Hotmail includes support for Hotmail users to chat with their Facebook friends.

The feature though will initially only be available in US, UK, France, Brazil, Germany and Russia with more regions in the future pipeline.

View More Videos, Sub-Folders and Attachment Size Increase

In addition to the above changes, Hotmail has also introduced support to view more videos within messages from Dailymotion and Justin.tv in addition to Hulu and . The new attachment size has also been increased to 25MB per message.

In addition to that, Hotmail has also introduced a new feature where users can add sub-folders to folders, making it easier for users to manage their folders.

What do you think about the new features in Hotmail? Do you like them? You can find more information about the new changes at the Windows Team Blog.

Hotmail Adds Exchange ActiveSync Support for Mobile Devices

Microsoft today announced that Hotmail users would be able to access push email, calendar and contacts with the introduction of Exchange ActiveSync for Hotmail.

Windows Live Hotmail

Hotmail has begun making access to emails more easier with the introduction of POP3 for Hotmail, however, they have now moved a step ahead and are on par with in offering email, calendar and contacts through Exchange ActiveSync.

Users can now setup to get push updates from Hotmail on their exchange enabled clients or mobile devices. The introduction of exchange ActiveSync for Hotmail will now allow you to keep your desktop, web and mobile devices in sync. Whatever changes you make in one place will automatically sync with other devices you are using Hotmail ActiveSync on.

Currently Hotmail Exchange ActiveSync is supported for Windows Mobile 6.x, Windows Phone 7, , , , Nokia E-Series, S-Series, N-Series. Support for is still in testing, however, Hotmail ActiveSync does not work in and is reported to be successfully working with .

You can find instructions to setup Hotmail Exchange ActiveSync to your mobile device by visiting this help topic.