Atma Xplorer

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Software Review: Week 3

Live Hotmail Logo Gmail LogoYmailbetalogo

I’ve had my gmail accounts (I have 4) for quite awhile now and it’s feeling quite cluttered so I decided to take a look if the grass is greener on the other side, namely yahoo and live hotmail to see what they have to offer.

Interface

All 3 webmail programs offer AJAX built interfaces, and an option to switch to classic HTML to increase loading speed .

Live Hotmail looks quite similar to Outlook. You can drag and drop messages into your folders, use a variety of pull-down menus to perform basic tasks without launching a new page, and quickly access other Outlook-like features like your calendar and task list. If WL Hotmail wasn’t contained in a browser, you’d probably mistake it for a desktop application..

Yahoo! Mail Beta, like WL Hotmail, is designed to look similar to a desktop email client with support for drag and drop capabilities and keyboard shortcuts and integration to other yahoo services like Yahoo! Calendar and Messenger. What I found interesting with Yahoo was that you can view RSS feeds within your yahoo mail account. Google offers this service on Google Reader while Microsoft still has to put one up.

Gmail offers the most minimalist of interface where most of the main features are available via text links. Gmail is also integrated with Google services and it’s simple interface does not support drag and drop capabilities. This SHOULD make Gmail load faster but for some reason, my gmail accounts need a fully minute to load after logging whereas to WL Hotmail and Yahoo! Mail Beta, it takes only 5-10 seconds. I’m not sure if its a connection problem or something to do with the number mails I have on my gmail accounts.

Unlike other webmail programs, Gmail has emails grouped into the same thread (the initial email, replies and replies to those replies) into a single item. WL Hotmail and Yahoo employ the old way of filing each mail into a single item which can get cluttered unless you do some organization..

Storage

Windows Live Hotmail currently has with 5GB of storage.

Gmail is now up to 2.849 (and counting!) GBs.

Yahoo Mail now offers unlimited storage, a privilege that was once only available to Yahoo Mail Plus owners.

Integrated Calendar

Gmail, WL Hotmail and Yahoo each comes with their own integrated calendar services but because they’re quite separate from the mail client, they don’t boast AJAX interfaces.


Organization

Yahoo Mail Beta and WL Hotmail uses the old fashioned way of using folders to sort out or mail. Gmail takes uses a Web 2.0 approach, which allows you to use tags or ‘labels’ to your messages. Although it might seem a bit cluttered at first, Gmail’s approach makes it easy to provide sorting in multiple categories (say on e mail is labeled family, outing and christmas and another goes family, money-related, thanksgiving) which gives a much higher level of organization.

Search

So I far, I haven’t encountered any problems with the search feature of any of the 3 webmail clients although Google’s additional of an external search is quite thoughtful.

Personalization Options

All three webmail’s offer a rich text editor with integrated spell checkers so no contest there. Yahoo and WL Hotmail have the advantage of a few added features like a variety of color themes for your account, emoticons and new fonts.

Chat Integration

Yahoo and Microsoft have added the feature of importing your contacts from their messenger to their webmail and vice versa. Gmail which allows you to chat with your contacts who are online with their gmail accounts but I’ve used the service just once or twice since I’m opting for VOIP to chat.

For those who missed it, Yahoo and Live Messenger users can now talk with each other without switching clients.

Contact Management

I’m getting a bit tired of Gmail’s simple contacts feature because if you have tons of entries there and viewed it under “All Contacts” then you’d find a reason to switch. Yahoo Mail and WL Hotmail Address Books uses simple, easy to use interfaces.

Security

By default, Gmail uses an unencrypted connection by you can easily change that by changing the URL from http://mail.google.com/mail/ to https://mail.google.com/mail/. Hotmail uses security measures by default via SenderID, SMTP Authentication, phishing heuristic detection, Bonded Sender, mailing list detection and forwarding detection. Yahoo offers the same security via DoaminKeys.

I found WL Hotmail’s security to be quite successful when reading phishing messages.

All 3 services offer file scanning for attachment, Google uses it’s own algorithm, Yahoo uses Norton and WL Hotmail uses Symantec. I haven’t seen how effective each of them are against infected files so I’ll leave that up for you to rate.

Spam filters are also present with all 3 services.

Integrated RSS

Yahoo is the only webmail that offered an integrated RSS reader. It works like a desktop client providing a split screen interface with items on the top and a full view of it at the bottom. I would’ve wished for more functionality like in netvibes but I guess it’s a start.

POP3 Account Access

Live Hotmail enables you to setup up to 5 email accounts that you can send email through and Gmail has had the same feature for a while. Yahoo’s support for POP is limited to some countries but fully available for the Mail Plus upgrade.

Ads

Gmail uses Adsense so you get a slew of text and image advertising which are contextual, while Live Hotmail opts for banners on the home page (the first page you see after logging in). As for yahoo, I didn’t seem to see any hint of ads aside from other yahoo services in the Beta version.

Mobile Support

Both WL Hotmail and Gmail have support for mobile browsers. I found WL Hotmail’s interface a bit more user-friendly. If you wish to try your webmail on a mobile browser but don’t on a capable phone, use an emulator like dotMobi. Yahoo offers it’s mobile services thru SMS which I think is the more lucrative option because you get charged per email you wish to view.

Premium Packaging

WL Hotmail has Windows Live Hotmail Plus priced at $19.99year. Including all the features of Hotmail, subscribers of Hotmail Plus also have 10 GB of storage space, 20 MB attachment limit, no inactivity limit, no advertisements and full POP3 access.

Yahoo offers Mail Plus with Unlimited Mail Storage, 10 E-mail quota, upto five custom e-mail addresses and a domain name for an additional fee and STMP access.

While Gmail does not offer additional features, it offers additional for your webmail and Picasa account from 6 GB up to 250 GB.

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At this point, I’ve made the switch to Live Hotmail because it offers a few things that I want even if there isn’t support for RSS. My gmail account will remain active for purposes of maintaining my backup files uploaded with Gdisk, a 3rd party software that allows you to turn your Gmail account into a portable drive. I haven’t considered a premium account but when it comes to that, I’d probably go with Yahoo’s offers because of the free domain name on your subscription.

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Comments ( 2 )

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  1. JC John SESE Cuneta October 11, 2007 Reply

    Try Windows Live Mail beta (formerly known as Windows Live Mail desktop), you can get it at ideas.live.com.

    When it was still WLM desktop beta, they do not offer Hotmail access, but now everyone gets free Hotmail POP3/SMTP access which is neat!

    In my opinion, WLM is as good as an alternative to Outlook 2003 and Outlook 2007, which has a sleek interface (Vista like), looks like Outlook, not-so-corporate look (it’s geeky :p ), and with free hotmail access.

    I am actually thinking if I’ll switch to WLM and leave Thunderbird, but I’m a FLOSS supporter, so it is hard to decide. I don’t like Windows Live Hotmail’s web interface, but WLM is fine.

    Dunno, try it 🙂 At least now I have a reason to use my hotmail account again 🙂 side-by-side with my gmail.

  2. sylv3rblade October 11, 2007 Reply

    Hmmm didn’t they merge Live Mail and Hotmail to form Live Hotmail? MS is getting confusing by the moment. Just like Office Live Workspace and Office Live Small Business.

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