Guide Review - iCloud Mail
Once you've found where to get an iCloud Mail @me.com email address — in the iCloud control panel on your Mac or iOS device —, adding that email account to Outlook, Mac OS X Mail and iPhone or iPad Mail is a single-click snap. Since iCloud Mail comes with standard IMAP access, setting it up in most other email programs and on most devices is relatively straight-forward as well. POP access is missing from iCloud Mail, though.
iCloud Mail Spam and Archive Folders
iCloud Mail comes with a spam filter, of course, that could be more precise at times but manages to separate out the junk for the most part — no matter the email program you use. Marking messages as spam is a matter of moving it them to the "Junk" folder.
Speaking of folders, iCloud Mail also comes with a sensible "Archive" folder to keep mail you want to retain without pondering a structure and method. Email programs that include a button and keyboard shortcut for archiving make keeping the inbox clean particularly easy.
iCloud Mail on the Web at icloud.com
On the web at icloud.com, iCloud Mail comes with an "Archive" button, of course, and a keyboard shortcut for the action, too. A simple set of buttons, dragging and dropping of messages and, most of all, a handy set of key commands make operating iCloud Mail's other aspects just as easy.
You can compose emails and replies using rich formatting, mark mail as junk, flag it (which synchronizes with most email programs) and file it to custom folders (in addition to "Archive").
Inside each folder, iCloud Mail offers not the fastest but quite comprehensive search that lets you find messages by sender, subject, recipient or content. Search operators and search across all folders would be welcome, though.
New messages from the most important senders are easy to find if you make those senders VIPs, for which iCloud Mail automatically creates special searches that shows their messages (from the inbox). VIP senders synchronize with OS X Mail.
iCloud Mail Could be Even More Helpful
Speaking of more precision and options, iCloud Mail's rules are immensely helpful, but could be even more so if more criteria were available and could be combined, and if there were more actions for filters to take. Currently, you can have them file, delete or forward mail.
You can also set up iCloud Mail to forward all your incoming messages to another address — and an out-of-office auto-responder to reply on your behalf. While iCloud Mil lets you create (up to three) additional @me.com addresses for the account to use, it cannot download mail from another POP or IMAP account, and you cannot send mail from your old (or other) email addresses using icloud.com either.
While iCloud Mail's focus on folders (and as few as possible) is sensible, free-form labels and search folders could be helpful on occasion. Message templates would prove helpful, too.
(Updated November 2012)