Microsoft Windows Live Hotmail
At a Glance
Microsoft has rolled out its new Windows Live Hotmail interface to all users of Hotmail, transforming it into an e-mail application with a much better desktop-app-like feel.
To switch to the new layout, you click a green Join Windows Live Hotmail button, and the installation routine prompts you to choose whether to put the new message preview pane on the bottom or on the right side of the browser window--or not to show it at all.
When you open a new folder or compose a new message, the display changes just as quickly as it would in a desktop program. But that view takes over the display; and unlike Yahoo Mail it has no tabs, so you can't compose a new e-mail message and check other messages simultaneously. Nor can you cut from one message and paste into another. You can use a search box up top to look for messages, but it searches only by sender.
Two nifty extras: A control bar in messages that contain sound file attachments permits you to play any such file from within Hotmail, and an Explorer-like interface with thumbnails helps you select photos to attach to messages. Both of these tools work only in Internet Explorer, though.
Of the recent crop of Web-based e-mail programs, I still like Yahoo's best. But if you're a Hotmail user, the new version's many enhancements make upgrading to Windows Live Hotmail a no-brainer.