Hands on: new Hotmail review

New Hotmail
Hotmail finds messages about parcels and packages with tracking numbers and gets the live status of where the package is and when it will (or did) arrive

What's in your Hotmail inbox? If it's crammed full of special offers, newsletters you can't seem to unsubscribe from and all the other detritus that clogs up most inboxes, you'll want to try the new version of Hotmail (coming in June or July this year).

It still has Microsoft's SmartScreen filters for spotting and blocking spam, but it also has two handy tools for dealing with message that aren't actually junk – even though you might be marking them as junk to get rid of them.

We sign up for online newsletters – or more often we order something or sign in to a site and forget to tick the box saying we don't want the newsletter – and then we never unsubscribe.

Having users mark all those unwanted messages as spam makes it harder to find the real spam, and it's bad news for legitimate senders who get a reputation as spammers when it's just us users being lazy.

Hotmail hover menu

CLEAN UP: Just hovering your mouse over an email gets you the option to delete all the messages from a mailing list you no longer want

Hotmail will be adding a new Sweep menu with two new commands, Move all from and Delete all from (as well as the self-explanatory Mark this folder as read and Empty this folder).

If you want to keep a newsletter but you don't want it clogging up your inbox, you can move it – and all the previous copies of it you haven't got around to reading - and the next time that newsletter arrives, it will automatically get moved, too. Delete the mail and you have the option of deleting all future mails, too.

Hotmail sweep junk

QUICK CLEAN: Choose to delete all messages and you can block future messages at the same time

Hotmail Quick views

That's enough to reclaim a Hotmail inbox you haven't been able to use for years, but the new Quick views are just as useful. You can see just the messages you've flagged, just the emails with photos or documents attached - or just shipping notifications.

Initially this only works with US Post Office deliveries, but it will work with UPS, Fedex and other delivery services around the world; not only does it filter the shipping messages but you also get a live view of where the package is and when it's going to arrive and you can click to get a popup with the details from the shipping site.

Hotmail flagged view

FLAGGED VIEW: See just the messages you've flagged to deal with later

You can filter the main inbox or the Quick views to show unread messages, messages from people who are in your address book, messages that show you what's going on in your social network or messages from the mailing lists you've decided to keep.

Filtering your inbox like this lets you look through to see what's interesting and important very quickly. If none of that finds what you're looking for, not only does search filter messages as you type, and autocomplete to match names in your email – but it also lets you choose to further filter messages by searching for from, to or subject. Hotmail's always had powerful search but this is much easier to use.


Mary (Twitter, Google+, website) started her career at Future Publishing, saw the AOL meltdown first hand the first time around when she ran the AOL UK computing channel, and she's been a freelance tech writer for over a decade. She's used every version of Windows and Office released, and every smartphone too, but she's still looking for the perfect tablet. Yes, she really does have USB earrings.