HotmailPeevesTo anyone who has used GMail, it would be a no-brainer. Hotmail is simply much harder to use. I enumerate some of my frustrations with Hotmail and how the experience compares against GMail. In a future post, I will show you how to move your main email account from Hotmail to GMail in an organic manner.

It started with Unread Emails

I am like most people in that I leave some emails unread after determining from the subject/sender information that it is of no particular importance right now. But it might be relevant at some point, and since it doesn’t really take up too much space, I might as well keep it – which means, I leave the email unread and undeleted.

Every so often, I go through my unread emails to either read them, mark them as ‘read’ or delete them. While doing it this time around, I realized that I had 18 unread emails in my Hotmail inbox that were pretty old. On GMail, I’d simply type ‘is:unread’ into the search box displayed prominently on top of the window. Older versions of Hotmail used to have an envelope icon in the header row of the email list that you could click to show only unread emails. The header row has changed on the latest version of Hotmail and the only options are a checkbox that selects/deselects all emails on the page and a ‘Sort By’ dropdown list. The logical conclusion would be that there is a ’sort by unread’ option in the Sort By dropdown list. Well, there isn’t. Hmm..well, there is one other thing on the header row – a Search box! Maybe Hotmail changed its behavior to that of GMail’s. So, I type ‘is:unread’ in the search box. Zero results. Just ‘unread’? Nope – dun’t work. Maybe they have a list of operators that can be used in the search box. I run a Google(!) search for ‘hotmail search operators’. Not relevant hits. Serves me right to use the competitors search engine. I’ll appease Ballmer and ‘Bing’ instead (full disclosure – I know the video is satire, not a true event). Hello there – what’s the 3rd result on the list? “Search Tips | Yahoo! Search Help”. Seriously?
So, it turns out there are no search operators. You just type in words and the search engine matches them in your emails. And if you read some of the complaints on the support forums, even that seems to fail past the first two pages of emails at times. We had better search technology in the 2004 version of Hotmail!!

The only option I now have is to trudge through each page of emails in the list. Well, I know the unread emails were not from within the last 9 months. So, I should probably skip to page 9 of the 44 pages. Umm.. no I can’t! I first have to click ‘…’ to go to ‘5 6 7′, ‘…’ again, and then I can click 9. This is starting to get exasperating. Oh well – I finally find 2 unread emails on page 22. I’m not sure what’s in one of them, so I click on the email and read it. Nothing important. I can delete it. Done – and Hotmail automatically moved to the next email in the list. Not so bad. Let’s go back to the list. Click ‘Inbox’. Wo .. hold on Buster! I’m back on Page 1!!! And I can’t go back to page 22 without clicking on ‘…’ 7 times and then clicking on 22. What if I didn’t remember which page number it was. Well, you are an SOL, aren’t ya?! You will have to go through each page again!

After 5 more rounds of this, I’m truly exhausted. I will come back to it tomorrow. Now it’s tomorrow, I’m down from 18 unread to 10, each time doing the jumping back to page 1 and trudging through ‘…’s. Then I notice something. There is a ‘x’ on the header row when I read the emails. Couldn’t be ‘delete’ since that’s a separate link in the header. What is it? Click. Wow! It takes me back to the current page on in the list. Thank heavens. But really, did you have to make it that obscure??

Junk Mail Identification

Well, this thing just doesn’t work when you compare it to GMail. In my 6 years using GMail, I’ve had exactly 2 non-junk emails falsely identified as junk. Hotmail randomly chooses to label marketing emails I do want to read as junk. And at some point in the future, it can decide that you are now mature enough to read marketing material and will ‘unjunk’ the same source. You could of course go and mark the source as ‘Not Junk’. But that only marks the sending email address as trusted. And we all know how stable the source email addresses for marketing emails are!

Nobody at the Helm?

I pointed out only one major problem I experienced recently. I am sure readers will have their own stories. And I will have more stories if I sat down to think about it. Bottom line – Hotmail is just not up to snuff. Hotmail was the first webmail hit back in 1996 or so. Then Microsoft bought it at some point and became complacent. Improve technology on Hotmail? Why? We already have the largest user base! (Same strategy they have applied to Internet Explorer!)

So, with GMail providing a hugely improved user experience and Yahoo maintaining the market lead, Hotmail has become irrelevant. And whoever is leading the product (if there is anybody leading it at all!) doesn’t care to capture a larger share of the market or even retain their existing market. Pretty good reason to bail out/jump ship/make a beeline/any other metaphor. Mind you, I’d still use my Hotmail account for signing up on random websites – all the spam can go into Microsoft’s servers while my GMail/Yahoo account stays sane.

Next post, a quick, generic guide to switching email service providers.