Live Mail is Hotmail's companion application, and it gives you many more tools than its web-based sibling.

Hotmail can aggregate multiple email accounts. Live Mail can do that too (now including Exchange), but it also gives you one place for managing multiple online calendars, RSS feeds, contacts and newsgroups.

If you're used to Outlook Express, Live Mail can replace it, and do a lot more as well. For example, email is the most common way of sharing photos. Live Mail works with this by making images attached to email appear in a filmstrip at the top of the message. When you send photos, they are automatically arranged into an album on SkyDrive.

Unlike Hotmail, Live Mail doesn't let you change the date when albums expire, but you do get other options, including the ability to change the file size, make images only available to the people you email and complete very basic tweaks to images before sending.

Productive changes

The new ribbon interface is particularly useful in this app, making the options for writing email easy to find.

Contacts and calendar open in the main window, but you can type in events and to-do items in the calendar within the Mail view. This is extremely useful, especially after you've been using it for a few days.

You can choose which of the eleven Quick Views you see in the folder pane. Outlook Express-style views and filters remain, but Quick Views are much more useful for finding the mail you need to deal with.

The new conversation view is clear and simple – messages in a thread are nested and you can expand or collapse them at will with a single click.

Live Mail has a remarkable amount of functionality packed into a neat and friendly interface. There are some oddities, but overall this is one of the best mail apps available out there, especially for Hotmail users.

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