Guide Review - Windows Live Hotmail
Starting with the interface, Windows Live Hotmail is simple in both a very good and not so good a manner. You can search all your mail easily and use custom folders in tandem with filters to sort it. Windows Live Hotmail does not include search folders, though, or folders that learn from your actions.
Automatic folders collect all emails containing photos, emails with Office documents attached, or emails categorized in certain ways. You can create and apply categories yourself, of course, but Windows Live Hotmail comes with a handy assortment (including "Bills", "Newsletters", and "Social updates") built in — and applies them automatically, too. You can also zoom in on mail from contacts or sort out social networking updates and discussion groups fast in any folder. Flags, by the by, smartly pin messages to the inbox's very top (this, alas, does not work in any other folder, though).
To automate inbox cleaning, you can set up filters not only to delete or file incoming mail automatically, but also to archive old mail from certain senders (say, a newsletter) automatically, or to keep just the most recent copy of another sender's missives.
Organized or not, Windows Live Hotmail comes with solid security and privacy — it scans for viruses and does not display privacy-infringing images unless authorized, for example. Windows Live Hotmail's spam filter performs reasonably well, erring towards the odd junk in your inbox rather than letting a good email disappear in the "Junk" folder. You can also allow only mail from known senders into your Windows Live Hotmail Inbox.
If Windows Live Hotmail still feels too much like web-based email to you, you can use Windows Live Mail and Outlook for yet more Windows-like experiences or download your messages to other email programs and mobile devices via POP. IMAP access, alas, is missing. Of course, you can also opt for the Windows Live Hotmail web interface as your email program, downloading mail from other POP accounts and sending using any of your email addresses.
While Windows Live Hotmail does include solid address book and calendar components, the latter in particular seems secluded and not interested in too much interaction with Windows Live Hotmail qua email.
(Updated December 2011)