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Soon and very soon Hotmail is going away and with it the stigmatism of having a Hotmail address.

We all know that for many years Hotmail was not the best webmail service out there.  It was rampant with SPAM and spammers however, in the last few years they have made major strides in cleaning up the clutter in our email inboxes.  The New, now old, Hotmail let us sweep up our inbox to even get rid of those old newsletter subscriptions we had.  Hotmail has really become a very solid webmail service and I think we were all suspecting it would get the Metro Makeover like so many other Microsoft sites are receiving.

I am not sure we really expected this level of a change though and for it to be Outlook.com and not Hotmail.com.

This is a huge, calculated risk for Microsoft because Outlook is one of their brands and mainstays in their Office software suite.  They can not afford to have Outlook gain a reputation like Hotmail did in those early days.

Add on to all of that the fact that this was another major event at Microsoft and it was kept well under the radar.  First the Microsoft Surface and now Outlook.com – well done Microsoft.

So what does the new Outlook.com, which is actually in preview mode right now, bring to the table. 

Here are some highlights:

  • Modern experience for modern browsers and devices: A fresh, clean user interface that’s intuitive to use, works across your devices with Exchange ActiveSync, and gets the clutter out of your way with 60% fewer pixels in the header and 30% more messages visible in your inbox. Plus no display ads or large search boxes that take up that extra space. 
  • Connected to friends and co-workers, wherever they are: Outlook.com preview is connected to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google, and soon, Skype. You can view pictures of your friends, messages, status updates, chats, calls – all powered by an always up-to-date contact list that is similarly connected to those networks. 
  • Smart and Powerful: Outlook.com automatically sorts your messages from contacts, newsletters, shipping updates, and social updates, and with sweep you can move or delete them in a few clicks. Plus, the service includes free Office Web Apps – Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote, as well as SkyDrive. 
  • Puts you in control: Keeps your personal mail personal (no ads in person-to-person mails and no scanning your personal mail to serve ads), and has great tools for power users 

Want to get the new interface now? Just log into your Hotmail.com/Live.com account via your web browser and look for the Options menu on the right side of the browser window.

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Click on the Upgrade to Outlook.com menu entry and you will then get this confirmation dialog:

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Click the blue highlighted button and your account will now use the new Outlook.com interface by default.  Your email account still remains on the original domain of either Hotmail.com or Live.com.

If you want to grab up to five aliases on the Outlook.com domain, which will be delivered to your current Hotmail/Live account, then go to the Options menu in the upper right hand corner of the browser window. The options menu, which is represented by a gear, just needs to be clicked on and then you can select More mail settings in the drop down menu.

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On this full Options menu page select the Create a Outlook alias which will give you this screen:

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You can create up to five aliases using @Outlook.com and then choose to either have them delivered directly to your inbox or you can opt to create a folder where they will go instead.

If you want to create a separate @Outlook.com email account you will need to visit www.outlook.com and not be signed into any of your other Microsoft/Windows Live accounts to sign up. 

So what do you think? Did Microsoft surprise you with this new web based email or what?