New release of Hotmail rolling out, available to all within weeks

By Tom Warren, on 9th Nov 11 1:15 pm with 88 Comments

Microsoft’s new release of Hotmail is rolling out to customers worldwide.

The company revealed on Tuesday that the updated Hotmail will be available to all customers within a few weeks. The updated version includes new flagging and Gmail-like features. The changes will change the way that power users see Hotmail as the company moves a number of Outlook features over to Hotmail and introduces a categories feature which is identical to Gmail’s labeling option.

Categories and advanced folder management

Hotmail categories

Microsoft’s most significant change in the updated Hotmail is the addition of categories. Similar to Google’s own labelling system, categories will allow users to label messages or senders into a particular group. Messages can be tagged into a particular category manually or automatically based on sender or content type. Microsoft is also categorizing newsletters automatically in Hotmail inboxes. “We’ve looked at around 30,000 newsletter senders and we’re able to classify those now,” said Microsoft’s Mark West in an interview with WinRumors.

The categories feature allows Hotmail users much greater control over their inbox and brings one of Gmail’s best features to Hotmail. Microsoft is looking to improve automated management and better customisation of the Hotmail inbox. “We’re really trying to put those tools into their hands,” said West. Microsoft has also improved its folder management. Users can quickly and easily create new folders without having to refresh the entire Hotmail Inbox by using some of the latest web technologies to create folders on the fly.

Hotmail inline folder creation

Email flagging

Hotmail flags

Microsoft has introduced flags to pin messages at the top of the Hotmail inbox. The implementation is basic at the moment. “Today it’s just pinning to top of email,” said West. “We flag them in quick view and also in the Hotmail homepage.” Hotmail users will also be able to quick flag emails using a new Instant Actions menu. When you flag an email the following occurs:

  • It immediately moves to the top of your Inbox
  • It is marked as flagged, just like before
  • It shows up in the Flagged Quick View, just like before

Instant Actions

Hotmail Instant Actions

Microsoft is introducing a simple Instant Actions pane into Hotmail. The pane will provide buttons that appear when your mouse hovers over a message. The buttons allow Hotmail users to delete, flag and sweep messages by default with one click. Hotmail users will be able to customise the UI be adding and removing buttons that they use most. The Instant Actions featured is aimed at power users of Hotmail and those who need to quickly file and manage their email flow.

Scheduled sweep cleanups

Hotmail scheduled sweep

Scheduled cleanups allow users to automatically get rid of certain emails. The option allows users to automatically sweep their Inbox of messages from certain senders that are older than a set period of time. The feature is useful for newsletters that aren’t relative after a few weeks.

SkyDrive improvements

Hotmail SkyDrive improvements

Hotmail will now offer users the ability to use their uploaded images in a SkyDrive web album or simply attach images to emails. A preview of the SkyDrive mail will render inline with the message content when users attempt to upload images to their new Hotmail messages.

  • http://techin5.com Jubbin Grewal @Techin5.com

    Hey Microsoft.. Y u noo give Metro Hotmail?

    • Anonymous

      Agree. hotmail has a bad reputation among the tech community. A simple re-brand would address that. I’d love an @metromail address or something new.

    • http://techin5.com Jubbin Grewal @Techin5.com

      Too many jokes there. They won’t change the name, but a complete overhaul would be much appreciated. Something more like this – http://techin5.com/2011/09/windows-live-gets-the-windows-8-treatment-suddenly-looks-appealing/ Look at the hotmail and calendar pics. Yes it’s Windows 8, but a rollout now would have been amazing.

    • Anonymous

      they can make a gmail clone that as soon as you say “hey have you tried hotmail” you’ll be mocked. It’s like recomending somebody go try test drive a Buick.

    • http://techin5.com Jubbin Grewal @Techin5.com

      @neonspark:disqus  I still wouldn’t go with the name Metromail.

    • http://twitter.com/Shadow_024 Shadow 024

      metromail makes me think of http://www.imdb.com/media/rm2819784960/ch0158315
      Edit: Also, don’t like “metromail,” hotmail or live is fine

    • Anonymous

      hotmail makes me thing….well, wouldn’t be work safe, so never mind.

    • Trevor Davis

      in response to neonspark’s comment
      “hotmail makes me thing….well, wouldn’t be work safe, so never mind.”

      why is it work unsafe…does your work place ban all kinds of personal mail accounts like hotmail, yahoo and gmail. Or are you just biased against hotmail and spreading FUD that hotmail is work unsafe while gmail is which, as a matter of fact, scans the contents of your mail to deliver you with annoying ads? I would never send sensitive business communication using gmail to avoid being spied upon.

    • Anonymous

      you don’t have to use “@live or @hotmail” names. You can register your own. My hotmail is “@vista.aero”.

    • Anonymous

      yes but that doesnt’ solve the perceived old branding poblem. it is still hotmail.

    • Galileo Vieira

      Gonna copy my reply to @ahdr:disqus . The way we see it is that we have to excel at the fundamentals of email before we can make more radical changes as you propose. As @70cb10789616274fed59fa37ad7cb065:disqus  mentioned, there are over 350 million users of our service. Making a UI change is a drastic step (think of the backlash Facebook got when it changed up its UI) when you have so many users. So with this release we’re looking to nail and improve upon the basics, especially with tools that help you deal with inbox overload.      

    • Anonymous

      Then don’t change alot at once. For a start maybe just change the cloudy blue header and some of the icons? Loving what you guys have done so far, keep it up. =)

    • Brian Holmgren

      Also think of the “waves”, you have changed it several times, always getting better, now it’s time for a metro hotmail. I would love a clean UI as the metro design language will give.

  • Anonymous

    Cool deal.  Can’t wait until my inbox gets switched over.

  • http://twitter.com/alisalem Ali Salem

    Hotmail is a joke usability wise. I really have no idea why anyone would use Hotmail over Gmail.

    • S1lence

      I do….and actually there is no much difference (I used to have gmail)!

    • Monkey D Black

      i see, well some people like the peace of mind that their emails are private and that they’re not being used to spew ads whenever i do a regular search.  give it a try you will see what i mean. i use Hotmail, i use it for lots of reasons and i respects it. people use what works for them. still i really have no idea why anyone would use gmail over hotmail 

    • Tuxplorer

      Only losers would use a crappy and pathetic service like Gmail. Hotmail is much much better. That’s why Hotmail has 360 million users, while Gmail has just 190 million.

    • Anonymous

      what gmail functions does hotmail lack? oh wait that would require you to use it instead of not knowing what you’re talking about. never mind.

    • http://www.dreth.com/ Dreth

      I’ve had my account for 10 years and my “spam problem” has been getting a maximum of 3 or 4 spam e-mails per week. I’ve subscribed and unsubscribed from dozens of mailings, opted out of unwanted adverts, and I haven’t had a single issue.

      Hotmail isn’t bad, it receives and sends e-mail just fine. That’s the main purpose of an e-mail account and Microsoft is not responsible for users that wander around wailing their e-mails at third parties and suspicious forms, no register at sites that offer optional newsletters that the user doesn’t bother to uncheck.

      My Gmail on the other hand, is full of old e-mails and I don’t even pay attention to it. And why should I, when my old MSN account is working just as good as a newly-registered one, there’s no need.

    • phil jay

      I personally don’t really like the general new google look, somehow it distracts me.  On gmail there  is little less screen real estade and it feels more crowded ev though there is less on the screen than hotmail. Still, both could use a major ui overhaul.

    • Guest

      Depending on your background graphic it can be nearly unreadable. I had to change mine just to make it bearable.

  • Anonymous

    Hotmail sucks.. !!, functionality wise, looks spamming is really bad. Funny thing are lots of spams in my inbox whiles  my real mails end  up in the junk box

    • Martyn Metalous

      Completely the reverse for me, I no longer use my gmail cos its full of spam, the filtering on hotmail is excellent imo.

    • Anonymous

      Hotmail has the worse spam filtering.. just speak the truth as it is.. but thats not just all there are tons of really good features in hotmail but it still doesnt match up to gmail. Look at the messy UI, its only now that they have introduced threading yet it has tons of missing feature plus if you use it in a browser other than Internet Explorer it becomes laggy due to Silverlight. Gmail on the other hand works well with all browsers.  Even the Hotmail team admitted they lost their way to Gmail and that people should give them another chance. 

    • Anonymous

      That’s so mistaken, every time I log into my Hotmail my Inbox is squeaky clean and it’s been that way for a very long time. Gmail’s spam protection is pretty good too, I’d say it’s a wash there.

    • Seth_p

      Really? I don’t have any problem with Hotmail, maybe you’re looking up too much porn? or handing your e-mail out to the whole web to crawl? ;)

    • Anonymous

      My hotmail seems blazingly fast on Firefox. I haven’t tried Chrome but it seems work well on IE and Opera as well. Silverlight made things much faster, as far as I can tell.

    • Trevor Davis

      do you even have a hotmail account or are you recollecting your hotmail experience of 10 years ago? I have been using hotmail as my primary email since 1998, yes there were times i hated hotmail, gmail came out with a larger mailbox but with a catch of scanning your mails for ads which prevented me from switching.

      But the hotmail of today is blazing fast, no spam, really i dont receive spam and it has excellent tools to combat gray mail (newsletter, coupons, etc from legitimate sources)

      why dont you give hotmail a try and when you receive spam as you say you do, paste a screenshot for us to see.

    • Tuxplorer

      Gmail stinks! Hotmail has much better UI, stops junk mails much better and has much better features than the pathetic and horrible Gmail. I only use Gmail as a spam account.

    • Anonymous

      I never said anything about gmail

    • http://twitter.com/SCGreyWolf GreyWolf

      I get at least 100 spams a day on GMail and I hardly use it. Maybe 1-3 a week on Hotmail.

    • Anonymous

      Spamming wasnt the only thing I talked about.. what about functionality.. tell me two things you can do with hotmail that you cant do with gmail.. i can give you two gmail does Hotmail doesn.. In-browser video and voicecall, 

    • http://adrielsonlinedomain.com/technology Adriel Dennis Mingo

      I don’t really care what you say, Hotmail is a much neater, much more integrated and highly functional enough for me to do what I do. I call b.s on you rant about spam b/c Hotmail stops all of my spam. Those complaints like yours were referring to the Hotmail of old which you guys refuse to accept is now in the past. Wake up and smell the roses sucker Hotmail is here to stay and its good like it or not.

    • Anonymous

      I can send 2 GB’s of photos “attached” in an email from hotmail.

    • Ian

      First of all priority inbox is supposed to be useful but is not. The only thing good about gmail is that it has the HD Themes. Gmail also takes a long time to add contacts to a group because you have to add them one by one and then group them. Also gmail features are rolling out on different IP addresses at different times. I might have the “all new look’ while my friend has the oldest and my grandma has the second newest. Attachments was a pain with gmail and the three options mail contacts and tasks have like 20 more options that appear right below them. Plus the tasks thing open in a pane to a window like the rest of the options. Important once and a while gives me spam there so I do not use it. chat and gadgets are non removable even when they are inactive. Gmail scans your emails as seen in the GMAIL Man. Once it gave me an spam deal and I did not even have a email with the word spam, so that is why I rarely use GM-AAAA-ILL:(

    • Anonymous

      the new one is actually better than gmail which the resent redesign made me not want to use it.

    • Norville2

      Not sure what sites you visit, in my hotmail inbox spamming have virtually dissapeared….

    • Guest

      I use all three major email services and each has its strengths and weaknesses. Your comment makes you sound like a three year old. Live mail doesn’t suck. Its spam filters are as good or better than anyone else’s and I have never had a message intended for me end up in my junk folder.

  • Anonymous

    tried googlemail months ago, if they didn’t improve their service a lot, i’m happy to never have deleted my hotmail account… and these new changes really improve an already good service

  • King Cobra

    I hate those stupid flash ads in my hotmail inbox . never goint switch (not even thinking) from gmail!!!

    • phil jay

      Yeah the ads suck… If you’re using Chrome you could use Stylebot to hide all ads.. Unfortunately I personally prefer to open hotmail with ie…

    • Galileo Vieira

      Would you switch if it wasn’t for the ads?

    • Brian Holmgren

      Why do you have ads? All the ads I get leads to the startpage of Windows Live. I am already using your services (Hotmail, SkyDrive, Mesh, Office etc.) If you don’t have any real ads, REMOVE them! A happy black guy on the beach with a low quality windows live logo is just taking up space that would make the Hotmail much better.

    • Galileo Vieira

      We’re working on that one Brian. We know the ad experience can be much improved.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2WNLCWLJUCZ3WEHQUXJOVWISBA Wizard

    Over the years, Hotmail has really really improved a lot, I have been using gmail since 5-6 years, I must admit that after using Hotmail recently, I feel Hotmail is much much better than Gmail. Its very fast, UI looks good, very similar to Outlook. If you have used Outlook, you will find many similarities between Outlook and Hotmail.

    • Galileo Vieira

      Galileo from the Hotmail team here. If you like Outlook, you’ll love a couple of new features in this release. Right-click is enabled on the UI and you can drag-and-drop folders around. 

    • Umang Kedia

      We need a metro Hotmail…

    • Anonymous

      If I right click on a folder I’ve created in the folders menu will I get a context menu that allows me to “Mark all as read” “Delete All” etc etc?

      Plus, within the mail list view are you going to enable keyboard short-cuts like select all (ctrl+a) and then allow us to mass delete using the delete key?

      There’s a few other things too.

      I’m really close to moving from Yahoo mail to a paid Hotmail account but there’s just a few small UI/UX hurdles keeping me from making the move.

    • Galileo Vieira

      Yes and Yes :) What else? How can I help with the move? We do have Yahoo keyboard shortcuts that you can use as well.

    • Anonymous

      A nice new windows phone to use it on as I dropped mines in the sea on holidays, currently demoted to an Android ;-)

      More Metro! But seriously those were two of my biggest gripes, I would hit CTRL A and everything turned blue :-D

      I think I’m just so used to Outlook desktop client and Yahoo managed to mirror its functionality pretty well with their context menus.

      Is there a location for further feedback if people do have suggestions, like the Wp7 team have?

    • Galileo Vieira

      Well, we do have a nice Hotmail app for Android… :)

      Here’s a link to the keyboard shortcuts for Hotmail: https://g.live.com/9wc9en-us/h_shortcuts

      As to feedback, there is the official feedback link in the bottom right footer after you log in. And you can use me as a channel as well. Again, would love to help you with the transition over. Reach out to me on twitter if you’d like and we can chat offline @galileovieira

    • Anonymous

      I wouldn’t waste my time downloading apps for this junk excuse for a phone, I’d rather have the postman print my emails and deliver them to me 2 days later, still probably quicker than the laggy Android UI.

      I remembered one more massive feature, tabbed mail folders/emails! Are they coming or do they currently exist?

      Cheers for your responses and I’ll be in touch if I have any issues.

      Bed time here in Ireland so it’s adiós from moi (My talents know no bounds; English, Spanish and French in one sentence).

    • Galileo Vieira

      Hate to end it on a sour note, but we don’t have tabs :(

      It was great talking to you Tony!

    • Dude

      @galileovieira:disqus May i suggest something, sir? Can you make the conversations (like the (4) in the image above) a little more obvious? It looks obvious in my Windows Phone because of the alignment. Hope the same can be done to Hotmail Web.

      (Next version being more Metrofied is a welcome addition)

      Cheers!

    • Galileo Vieira

      Note taken and passed on, thanks!

    • Peter Hendtlass

      It’s the 4th of December, and I still have the old version. When will I see the new one? (and does the current one have the 40% speed increases advertised, or is it just the yet to be released version that does?)

    • Galileo Vieira

      The current users do have the speed increase already. The roll-out of the new features has already reached millions of users, but it is a staggered release to make sure we have no issues. If you don’t see the new features within the next 2 weeks please let me know.

  • http://adamhaider.com Adam Haider

    Can’t comment on it until I try it out but shouldn’t Microsoft be slowly adapting their UI in order to transition users into the new Metro experience? Hotmail would look increasingly better if they updated the UI, much like what Google has now done across all their apps. —More importantly, I seriously hope that they are working on a dedicated Metro app for Windows 8.

    • http://kissride.wordpress.com Candide Yams

      I’m sure that’s coming in the next release. i imagine in the next year every MS property will be Metro-fied. 

    • Galileo Vieira

      Adam, the way we see it is that we have to excel at the fundamentals of email before we can make more radical changes as you propose. As @tuxplorer mentioned, there are over 350 million users of our service. Making a UI change is a drastic step (think of the backlash Facebook got when it changed up its UI). So with this release we’re looking to nail the basics, especially with tools that help you deal with inbox overload. 

    • Guest

      [This is directed at MS and not you personally. I appreciate you taking the time to comment.]

      What MS doesn’t seem to get is that hotmail/Live mail has a branding problem, just like IE does. You can’t leave a product mostly dormant for half a decade and then one day say “oops, sorry, now that the competition has established themselves as a viable threat, we’re now working on it again” and expect people to give you the benefit of the doubt. They won’t. Many have moved on to something else (Gmail mostly) and now you’ll have to be 5x better to get them to switch back, unless of course that vendor pulls a MS and ignores the product for five years. But since we’re talking Google, that’s unlikely to happen. I still use Live mail as my main email. But MS should rebrand both hotmail and IE. Otherwise, it really doesn’t matter what improvements you make, because many will still see it as the old, neglected, buggy product. Finally, on the UI change side, Google managed to do it with several hundred million users. I personally hate the change (I also have a Gmail account), but many like it and more importantly Google risked it. And they did that with several hundred million users. So what’s the practical difference between 350MM or 200MM, or frankly anything past 50MM? A change, particularly in UI, is always going to result in mixed feedback, though hopefully on balance positive if you’ve done your job right. And MS is losing share in email just like it’s losing share in browsers. So there’s demonstrated risk associated with being reluctant to change.

      Okay, /rant.

    • Galileo Vieira

      Great comment, thanks for joining the discussion! I can address some points. On the UI switch, it’s not necessarily a technical issue, but more of a user satisfaction issue. And to your point, you’re right, if we do our job right we can can land a different UI that (most) people will like and accept. That’s been happening at other products at Microsoft, wouldn’t you agree? 
      Which brings me to your first point – that we don’t get it RE the branding problem. Well, this community, like many others, are all asking for a new UI and/or a new brand. We see it. But like I mentioned previously, we have to excel at the basics before anything else. That’s what we’re working on now, nailing the basics. I know it’s not what people want to hear, it’s not exciting in the least, but it’s where we’re at today. And if you have any oubts, look at the momentum we’ve got going as product over the last year or so. That should be an indication of “we hear you”.

  • Davidbradley

    I just want to be able to attach documents from my SkyDrive, or a shared document that perhaps my wife created.

  • Rob Harris

    I am a longtime hotmail and gmail user. Many of the criticism of hotmail that I’ve seen in this thread WERE true…but it sounds like people have not gone back and tried hotmail after the improvements over the last year or so. I almost never get a spam message in my hotmail inbox – and I use my hotmail address often for things that I figure may result in spam. Likewise, my gmail inbox is spam free – but I have never given that email address out and I get TONS of spam on it. HOW? It’s one of the reasons I have a bit of mistrust for google.

    Looking forward to the new hotmail improvements.

  • http://www.mainstreetchatham.com/ JimmyFal

    Hotmail has a perception problem. When people see HOT they think PORN. I am constantly trying to move my customer base over to anything in the cloud, and I always recommend Hotmail, but Gmail has the eyeballs of my customers. MS needs to market Hotmail much more effectively, as opposed to NOT AT ALL. I mean TV and all those stupid places that consumers reside, NOT on tech websites etc which is the only place I seem to see them market it.

    • Anonymous

      Needs a rebrand, Live mail.

  • Jimit

    The only thing hotmail needs is IMAP support in MacBook. This is fucking annoying

    • GP007

      I use gmail with IMAP on Outlook 2k7 while I use my 2 hotmail accounts with the connector which basically uses EAS and it’s 10x better.  IMAP is slow and a pain, I hate it personally.  

  • TrevorD

    Metro has been rolling out across all websites. I’m sure that Hotmail will come soon. Definitly it will happen in time for Win8.

  • Guest

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t Outlook have almost all these features before Gmail? So aren’t they really Outlook-like not Gmail-like? Just sayin…

  • jay_max

    I would love to see the ability to add a second contact file, e.g. for contacts that you don’t want to synch – or an synch checkbox on the contact card.

    • Galileo Vieira

      That’s a great suggestion, especially in this multi-device world we live in.

  • Bluehedgehog

    No IMAP? I’m sick of using the dreaded pop3. I have push emails on my mobile (which is great) but pop3 on my desktop mail client?? Come on hotmail, use IMAP (gmail has it).

    • Galileo Vieira

      I imagine you’d like IMAP b/c you’re an OSX user? We use EAS on Hotmail which many believe to be better than IMAP. If you’re on Windows, you can either use the Outlook Connector plug-in for Outlook or Windows Live Mail, which is free. On Mobile platforms you’ll access via EAS. 

  • Anonymous

    Skydrive just needs the ability to delete multiple files easily

  • Abid-Din

    NOW WE ARE TALKING. Microsoft is battling on all fronts at once! Xbox, windows, hotmail and so on.

  • blackletter

    Don’t like hotmail, yahoo mail, or gmail?

    The solution is very simple. Purchase Outlook 2010 and register for a hosted Microsoft Exchange account with godaddy or another certified Exchange provider. Godaddy will give you Outlook 2010 for free with the purchase of a hosted Exchange account. You will never go back to a web based email service again.

  • Anand

    Is there any possibility to bring these features in Windows Live Mail client.

    • Galileo Vieira

      Anand, which features specifically?

  • Anon

    Seriously Microsoft, the moment you’ll enable IMAP is the moment I’ll start to use my hotmail account again. Please!

  • http://twitter.com/EduardoMLD EduardoMLD

    I wanna get the updates now!

  • http://twitter.com/EduardoMLD EduardoMLD

    like if you think hotmail needs a METRO UI! :D

  • http://www.magento-themes.jextn.com Magento Themes

    I manage to include your blog among my reads every day because you have interesting entries that I look forward to. Here’s hoping there’s a lot more great material coming! 

  • Khiem

    I a hotmail user and always will be. So far, i think the new festure is even better.

  • Blendedfrog

    Anyone know when people will begin to see the new features and updates?

  • Sue

    Being old my brain cells are dying at a such a rate of knots I cannot keep up with modern technology. I do not like or need a new system like this I have already lost two emails as the delete facility is in the same area that I used to click on to read my emails. Do we have an option to opt out of this?

    • Galileo Vieira

      Sure Sue. Go to the top-right corner where your name is and hit the arrow next to your name, you will then see Options. In the Options page, look on the right-hand side where you’ll see “Customizing Hotmail”. At the very bottom you’ll see “Instant Actions”. Click on that link, then at the top you’ll see a checkbox for “Show instant actions”. Make sure that’s unchecked, then hit Save at the bottom. Now go back to your inbox and you should be back to the way you were before the update.