Hotmail Gets A Facelift, Adds Features You’ll Actually Use

That free webmail service we all used before Gmail came along has finally made a move, revealing a new look and integrated features that encourage users to make Hotmail their one-stop home page.

The new Hotmail is giving users free access to Microsoft Office web apps, which will come as good news to those of you always emailing documents to yourself. You’ll be able to view, create, edit and share Word, PowerPoint and Excel documents from directly within Hotmail.

A one-click filter bar will let you toggle what emails you see – great for when you want to quickly get Facebook or Twitter notifications out of the way, or when you only want to see emails from certain people. There’s also a new “sweep” functionality, which is basically Hotmail’s take on email rules. It’s similar to Gmail’s “move to” function, but takes it one step further by redirecting all emails – past, present and future – from specified senders.

And you’ll finally be able to send grandma those 200 high-res photos of your sleeping baby in a single message. Hotmail will upload up to 10GB in attachments to Microsoft’s free file-storage service, SkyDrive, and your recipient will be sent the thumbnail previews as well as the option to view the files in a slideshow or download them from your SkyDrive. You can even watch YouTube videos and accept LinkedIn invitations from within the email. I hope they add more providers - it would be the perfect way to handle Facebook friend requests.

ninemsn claims that the new Hotmail will work on all browsers and on all platforms, but we’ll have to wait to see if that's really the case: Delivery of the new Hotmail will be staggered over “the coming months”, but they don’t know - or won’t say - when they expect to complete the rollout.

And if you don’t like it, too bad. Everyone's getting the new design, but it's probably for the best anyway...

[Windows Live]

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