Over a month ago, I got an invitation to try out Hotmail evolved: Windows Live Mail Beta. I decided to go for it, since I don't use my Hotmail account for anything critical and most of my colleagues have switched over to using my Gmail account when they want to send me an email. I was disappointed but not surprised to find out that Windows Live Mail Beta is nowhere near fully functional in Firefox and Opera. The ony things you can do are: Read your mail, Delete your mail and Write a New Message. You can't attach files to mails. You can't edit in rich text mode. You can't even reply to mails that you get from within Firefox/Opera. This is a significant step BACKWARDS in functionality that already existed in Hotmail!

There is a message that says :

Is something missing? ... the web browser you are using does not yet support all Mail Beta functionality. You can still use this browser to access basic Mail Beta functionality, like reading and composing messages. We will make more functionality available for this web browser soon.

Nice choice of wording there. That's funny, because from what I can tell, every bit of functionality that Mail Beta has in Internet Explorer is perfectly do-able from Firefox/Opera. i.e. rich text editing, asynchronous JavaScript, etc. What might not be do-able is the actual implementation approach (for instance, using right-click context menus to manage messages).

But what I really don't get is: if I can compose a message in Firefox, why can't I reply to a message in Firefox? The restriction seems so arbitrary. Outlook Web Access allows you to do this. OWA allows you to reply, forward, check your calendar and a host of other things, albeit in a traditional web app way - no Ajax sexy-ness with non-Microsoft browsers. In OWA they did a great job of at least ensuring parity across IE and Mozilla-based browsers. In Mail Beta it seems no attempt was made at parity across browsers.

Ok, so how long before they start to support other browsers? A month is a long time to leave a percentage of their users out in the cold without basic functionality like replying to email. I know I can opt out and return to plain ol' Hotmail, but they give you a stern warning that says if you opt out you might not be able to get back into the Beta. Like some sort of punishment.

I so rarely fire up Internet Explorer these days - maybe that's the goal, to get me to fire up the creeky battleship?

Occasionally I'll need to reply to an email in Hotmail/Mail Beta. When I fire up IE, I'm greeted with an interface that, at first, looks like a good idea. There's a preview pane. There's a "Find in mail" edit box. When new mails arrive, the browser window updates in-place (no refreshing required). You can right-click messages and get Reply, Forward, Delete, etc. You can select multiple messages in the traditional ways (ctrl or shift+mouse click). For the most part, Mail Beta acts just like a desktop application but has ads.

But then I started to try and use it. I've got a column of folders on the left. When I select "Inbox", I've got my messages listed in the next column. In the next column I've got a preview of the currently selected message. And in the next column I've got a big graphical ad for JC Penney.

Wait, 4 columns? How wide do Beta Mail developers like to keep their web browsers? I feel that the preview column/pane is much too constrained horizontally. I prefer either a) the traditional 3-pane (2-column) approach from Outlook: folders on left, message list in the upper right pane, message preview in the lower right pane or b) the 2-pane approach by avoiding the Preview pane altogether (in the case of Junk Mail folder, I definitely DO NOT want a Preview Pane forcing me to see at least one piece of spam). But I couldn't figure out a way to configure the view. Desktop applications are almost always highly configurable. I hope they add this in a subsequent release.

I also feel that they should allow you to sort by "Read/Unread" status. I've been looking for a way to do this in Outlook 2003 for awhile now...

§227 · February 14, 2006 · Ajax, Firefox, Microsoft, Opera, RIA, Software, Technology, Web · · [Print]

6 Comments to “Windows Live Mail: Still Prejudiced”

  1. Mauriat says:

    Quit your whining, try using Lotus Notes for a week 😀 … Just kidding. Although, for this post, pictures speak louder than words. One or two screenshots would have been cool.

  2. Rob says:

    Really though, as an email application Lotus Notes makes a great database. Thunderbird has plenty of shortcomings, but at least I can sort by read/unread status.

  3. marielle says:

    how do you delete ???????? sorry it is not working out for me! 🙂

  4. Jasbir says:

    I have downloaded the installation file of windows live mail desktop beta. when i try to install it it say that it requires windows XP SP2 or higher. I am using windows XP SP1

  5. christian says:

    i dont like the program. it gives me probles but now i cant erase it

  6. mesa de ruleta says:

    Windows live mail is the most dull and ill operated mailing systems I have ever seen, mailbox keep on opening for a long period of time and then it would be connection time out msg being displayed there. I am just fed of windows live mail.