Email services

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Microsoft Outlook

Microsoft Outlook Review

Reviewer: Stephen Qualtrough
Developer: Microsoft
Overall rating:
Price: Free

Review summary

Good points


 Conversation view or individual message view

 Fully integrated chat and webcam feature

 Integrated photo sharing

Bad points

 Limited flagging capability

 Lots of ads

Our verdict

Use Windows Live for the whole package – email, chat, webcam and status updates. Windows Live covers all the bases and as well as being an efficient communications tool, it’s also fun.

Full review

We checked out Windows Live to see what the system has to offer.


When you sign up for a Windows Live account you get a Windows Live ID and can automatically access Hotmail, Windows Live and Messenger. If you already use Messenger, MSN, or Xbox LIVE you already have a Windows Live ID so you can access Hotmail for your emails. Signing up is free and simple to complete. You need to create a user name and set up a password to enter Windows Live.


One of the bonuses of Windows Live is the integrated, dynamic chat system in Messenger. Chat with multiple people, send pictures and connect via webcam. Another good Messenger feature is your ability to appear offline to some people and online to others – useful if you’re working, or you want to restrict certain people’s access to you while remaining open to others. To make the most of the chat function, add personal details to your profile, update your status and add a photo. Windows Live also allows you to create groups online where members of a family, club or other group can connect on a specific group page.

Windows Live allows you to send photos through sharing albums, bypassing the problem of large file sizes and filling up the recipients’ inboxes. The system uses Windows Live SkyDrive to store pictures in albums. You send the link to the album for others to log into and see your pictures. It’s also possible to send documents and files online rather than as attachments (also useful if the file size is large as most email accounts have a file size limit.)

For a more personalized homepage, you can change your Windows Live theme. Choose a dynamic theme that changes as the time and weather in your location also changes.


Windows Live comes with a variety of security features to make your email more secure. Your account is automatically protected with spam filters to help you manage incoming emails you don’t ask for. Microsoft SmartScreen – an advanced technology blocks email before it enters your inbox. You can also use the Sweep function to remove all emails from a certain sender from your inbox, and choose to automatically send them to the Spam folder in future. To protect your information online, choose from security settings that allow your profile, photos and friends to be shared with the public, kept private or shared in a limited way.


With Windows Live Mail, as with Gmail, you can organize all your messages from various email accounts into your Hotmail account. Type in your other email addresses and passwords to bring multiple email accounts into one Hotmail account. You can also email through Hotmail from other addresses. However, the person you send it to may see: "From on behalf of" rather than simply getting the message. You can bring all your contacts over to Hotmail to make it easier to keep track, through a CSV file.

When it comes to organizing your inbox and finding emails easily, you have a few options. Click a category on the left-hand side of your inbox to display a number of Quick Views – for example, Photos, which will show all messages with photos attached to them. Alternatively, click on one of the filter categories at the top of your inbox to see messages that match the category, for example, unread messages. You can search your inbox with key phrases through Bing, or search the Internet from your inbox. Alternatively, flag your emails and they will also show up in the Flagged folder for easy access. You can’t assign different flags for different topics/senders, however. Search for documents, presentations and spreadsheets you’ve been sent using the Quick View files category.

Organize conversations by turning on conversation view in Hotmail. You’ll then see all messages with the same subject grouped together. Unlike with Gmail, this is an option and doesn’t happen automatically, but it can be very useful when you’re keeping track of a subject.

For organizing your time, add events straight from your inbox to your calendar. Your events display daily in this section of your Hotmail account.

Email creation

Creating an email in Hotmail is simple, with a rich text editor as well as an HTML function. Highlight text, change the font and size, add a signature and spell check your message before you send it. You can also send to multiple recipients and to contacts by typing in the name, which is automatically filled from your address book.

Ease of use

Windows Live has a clean, simple design and everything is on the homepage where you need it. Access your inbox with one click. Further down the left-hand side of the page are the junk, deleted and sent mail folders, which are also accessible with a single click. It’s simple to reply to emails, create emails and delete emails. None of the more advanced features are difficult to handle. The only thing that may not be obvious, until you are used to the system, is how you log into Messenger without accessing Windows Live, or how to go straight to your inbox in Hotmail without going to the Windows Live homepage.

Help & support

If you’re having problems with Windows Live your first step is the extensive Help Section with a list of commonly asked questions. If your question isn’t answered, ask it in the Hotmail or Windows Live forums. For specific issues, like illegal action in your account, you can get more individual feedback from Windows Live but otherwise support is limited to the forums and Help Section.


Windows Live is the over-arching account and within it you’ve got Hotmail, the email account. Alongside the email offering is Messenger, Windows’ chat function. Add in a variety of email and chat features and you’ve got all you need to keep in touch.

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See our side-by-side comparisons and in-depth reviews

1. Gmail
2. Microsoft Outlook
3. GMX mail
4. Aol Mail
5. Yahoo! Mail
7. Fastmail
9. Lycos mail
10. Hushmail