Advantages Totally FREE service, efficient mailing and huge amounts of storage space
|Instructions / Help|
|Ease of use|
|Ease of Installation|
|Range of extra features / functions|
|Value For Money|
◄ MSN HOTMAIL ►
As I have just mentioned Hotmail is totally free service to anyone who signs up and makes an email account. Once this has been done, the user can send and receive mail to/from other Hotmail users and also users of different email providers, all over the world. Hotmail is undoubtedly the most well known free email service in world, and I'm sure most of you will know what I am talking about already, whether you are a user of this service or not. There are currently over 50 million active users of the service and, 25% of all web traffic is to msn.com, and 75% of all msn.com traffic is to Hotmail.msn.com, meaning that about 19% of all web traffic is to Hotmail. Quite impressive.Getting Started:
Some of the information may well be repeated here from my MSN review, as the sign up process is the same for both of the services. But I will take you through the process of signing up, how to do it, and what it generally involves. First of all, when you arrive on the www.hotmail.com home page, on the left hand side you will see a heading entitled "new to MSN Hotmail?" If you look down a bit further you will find a "sign up" button, which you need to click on in order to get started.The first page you will come to allows you to select which particular Hotmail service you are interested in using. The three options are 'MSN Hotmail,' 'MSN Hotmail Plus' and 'Microsoft Office Outlook Live' Following this choice box is a lot of information concerning the features of the different software packages, to help you to decide which one to go for. I will not go into a great deal of detail on this, as I would simply be repeating what is on the website already and you can go and have a look for yourselves. When you have chosen, you can click on the "get it…" button to proceed with sign up process. For the purpose of this part of the review, I will assume you have chosen the free version of Hotmail, although the sign up process is similar for each, just with the added payment details for those concerned.
The next stage is to enter in your account details and personal information. Firstly you must enter in your country of residence, and then choose upon a suitable email address. This is possibly one of the most difficult parts of the whole sign up process, due to the fact that as Hotmail has been around for a long time, a lot of the more common email addresses have already been taken. Thankfully however, for your help and convenience, there is a "check availability" button which allows you to see whether you will be able to have your chosen address before you proceed any further with the sign-up. The email address you choose can be any combination of letters, numbers, hyphens and underscores. Please note that other than this, no other characters are accepted. (* £ & %) Sign-in names must also be fewer than 64 characters.Next, you are required to create a password for use with your account, and it is suggested that you use a combination of letters and numbers in order to make it more difficult for unauthorised access to your account to take place. After this, you will need to sort your options for password reset. This involves creating a secret question which nobody else knows the answer too. If you by any chance forget your original password, you can enter the answer to your question, allowing you to choose a new password. As you may be able to gather, it is therefore vitally important that nobody else is able to know the answer to your question. From my personal experience, I have had a lot of friends, who when signed up, did not understand the usage or important of this feature and subsequently entered questions such as "what is my middle name?" or "what is my fathers name?" thus gaining undesired individuals access to their account. One further note on password selection… there is a rather useful feature that Hotmail have provided, whereby there is a strength indicator which shows you how strong your chosen password is on the scale "weak, medium and strong"
Next, is more general information, where you are required to enter your first and last name, gender, date of birth, country, postal code and also timezone. The final thing before signing up to the terms and conditions is something you may have seen before. You are required to type out a series of letters which are decoratively arranged in a picture. This may seem pointless, but is actually a sensible measure to ensure that only actual people, not automated programmes, are signing up to their service.Finally, you must "read" the sign-up agreement and terms and conditions, enter your email address and confirm that you accept. The reason I have put read in inverted commas is because I don't think it is entirely necessary to read through everything there is there, as it is often very long, and have never had any problems with any service I am a part of, as a cause of the fact I have breached the terms under which I signed up, But whether or not you choose to read them is entirely up to you. I suppose from the amount I have written about the sign up process, it may seem like a rather long-winded affair, but I can assure you that it will take you 3 minutes at the most.
Once this main stage has been completed and approved (i.e. you have not missed out any information on your sign-in form, your passwords match and all of your other information is valid) you will be directed onto a page where you can sing up for special interests. Signing up for any of these basically entitles you to lots of junk mail, which in a few weeks I can assure you, you will no longer be interested in. So, if you take my advice, you will scroll to the bottom of the page and click continue… Having done this, your new email account will be ready for use immediately, and you will be directed onto your personal email interface.Using Hotmail after sign up:
Like I have just said, after having singed up to MSN Hotmail, your account will be immediately available for use, and you will find yourself on the appropriate page. When you want to use Hotmail on a different occasion, you will need to sign in with your email address and password on the Hotmail home page (which is www.hotmail.com) A further note on this is that if you close the Hotmail window, you will automatically be signed out, and it is not actually essential to use the "sign out" button on every occasion.On the Hotmail homepage, the sign in section is on the right hand side, next to the new account sign up area. Besides from the two boxes for your email address and password, you will also find a few other things. Underneath directly, is the "forgot your password?" button. This is where you can reset your password with use of your secret question and answer, as I have mentioned earlier. You can also adjust options here for whether or not Hotmail will save your email address and password, or just your email address, for increased convenience in the future. It is also possible, if for example you are on a shared computer, that neither your email address or password is saved.
After Sign In:After you have signed in, you will be at your account homepage, which is the page you first saw when you signed up. This is the place where you can begin to access all the exciting (free, depending on which account you signed up for) features. There is a short summary, which allows you to view any new mail in any of your folders (wanted email and junk email) Above this there is also a status bar indicating how much of your allocated mail storage (250MB) you are currently using. On that note, I think it is really amazing how much storage we are actually given, totally free of charge. I don't think I will ever find myself exceeding the limits, and currently I am on something like 4%.
Besides from this, on the homepage there are various tabs at the top, allowing you to easily navigate to the most important and key areas of your account, 'Today' (which is the introductory page which you are currently on) 'Mail' (which is where you can access all your email and view different folders) 'Calendar' and 'Contacts' (but more information on how to use both of them, later on in the review.) All of these links to different folders will display in brackets next to them the number of new (unread) emails currently in the folder.Your Inbox:
When you arrive at your inbox by clicking 'Mail' on the introductory page, you will automatically be directed towards your list of wanted mail. Any new mail in your inbox will be indicated to you by being a darker colour shade against the rest of the mail and with a closed envelope symbol next to it. Once the email has been read, this will disappear and the mail will appear exactly the same as all the others. There are also headings at the top of the list of emails giving information about the subject of the email, who it is from, the size of the email, and the date which it was sent.Also on the screen is a separate menu down the left hand side. This is perhaps for me, the key area on the Hotmail interface, as I use it principally for email, and don't use many of the other features very often. This menu provides access to your Inbox (which you are already in), your Junkmail, Drafts, Sent Messages, and Trashcan. In addition to all of these, any additional folders which you have created will display here, but more information on all of those later on.
Junkmail:The junkmail folder is where all the mail which is not from someone on your contact list, or when the sender is unknown, ends up. I tend to get quite a lot of junk mail, and am very grateful for this folder, as a lot of the stuff I get would get in the way a lot, and generally make sorting out useful mail from inbox much more difficult. In relation to this, in the settings (which I will talk about later on in the review) there are options for the level of junk mail security. This basically means how little or how much of your mail will end up in there. Regardless of what setting you choose to have active, I suggest you check your junkmail folder as regularly as you do your inbox, as it is always possible that something you would have wanted to receive, ends up in there by mistake, and all messages in the junk email will also be deleted after 5 days of receipt. Another thing, which may or may not apply to you, but it does to me, is that if you subscribe to a lot of websites, you may find that the confirmation emails end up in the junk email folder, as you will need to add them to your "safe list" before they will be delivered to your inbox. Also, a lot of companies have complex mailing systems that distribute emails to you, from a variety of differing addresses. Therefore you may find that some of their mail ends up in the inbox, but some don't. For this reason also, I suggest you make it a habit of regularly checking your junk email.
Drafts:This is a very useful feature, and basically does as you may expect it too. If you begin to write an email but for some reason have to leave it incomplete, you can save it to this folder, return at a later date, and then send it at your convenience. In order to save a message as a draft, you will need to click on "save draft" whilst writing the message.
Sent Messages:The sent message folder is a folder where you can optionally choose to store messages which you have sent to people. It took me a while to realise when I first got Hotmail, that this was not done automatically, and that if you want a message to be saved here, then you have to tick a box at the bottom of the message when you are about to send it. But this is not a great hassle.
Trash Can:This is another folder I find very useful. Every message that gets deleted, either on purpose or by accident, will end up in this folder. I think the main purpose of this is to provide some sort of back-up if a message of some importance is accidentally deleted. This folder is emptied every day to prevent a large build up of messages, so it is possible to retrieve an accidentally deleted message, supposing that is that you notice straight away. The folder can also me manually emptied by user choice, when necessary.
'Manage Folders:'This is an option given at the bottom of the list of folders, and is where you can view stats about your existing folders and also add/remove other folders. If you are someone who will be a heavy user of this service, it can be very useful to see stats in this level of detail, so that you can choose what to delete and when, if there are any problems with a shortage of memory.
Writing a Message:Writing an email to someone is a very simple process, and I will now take you through it in as much detail as I can. If we go back to the home page, you will be able to locate a button entitled "New Message." If you click on this, you will arrive on the compose email screen.
As you will see, there are boxes where email addresses can be put in, and underneath a larger box where you can add your message. The message can be as long as you want, and there are various different formatting options to make your message that little bit more interesting. The font colour and style can be changed, as well as the font size. You can also make any of your texts formatted with bold, italics or underline, as well as aligning your text on the page in the way that best suits your purpose. The colour of the background is also fully changeable. All of these features are flexible, and can be applied to the whole document, or very small, individual sections of your email.There are a few other features, like bullet points or a numbered list, for added convenience. The last thing on this, is that you can choose from a small range of MSN Messenger Emoticons, to liven up your email, but however please note that this is by no means the full range that you would find on the latest version of MSN Messenger.
Once you are satisfied with your email, you can enter in who you want it sent too, in either to "To" "CC" or "BCC" boxes. The email can be sent to as many people as you like. Before you click send, you can add an optional subject line, to let people know what your email is about before they open it. For further convenience with who the email is sent too, a list of contacts is shown on the left hand side, where the email addresses can be simply clicked on in order to add them too the "To" list. This proves a lot quicker than typing them all out yourself.Finally, next to the "send" tab there a few other options to do with the email. Firstly, there is a built in dictionary, thesaurus and spell check. (which to be honest, before researching Hotmail for this review, I didn't actually know myself) There is also a feature which allows you to attach files, pictures, or contact information to your email, up to a limit of 10MB. The process is easy, you just browse for the file you are looking for, and then either click "OK" or "OK and attach another" depending on how many files you need to attach. All files attached, and downloaded are scanned automatically with virus scanning software used by Hotmail, to prevent the inadvertent distribution of unwanted viruses.
Contact List:The contact list, is not personally something that I have used very much in my time as a Hotmail.com user, as I don't generally send many messages to large amounts of people at once, and can simply remember the address of the individual I am sending a message to. Having said that, the contact list is perhaps one of the most sophisticated aspects of the overall Hotmail package. You can view all your present contacts in A to Z, skipping by letter to easily retrieve a contact you are interested in. If you are a user of MSN Messenger, and contact you have already on there, or add on a later date, will automatically be put onto your Hotmail list, to save you doing it twice. In the same light, any contact groups you set up on your MSN, will automatically be replicated on your Hotmail contact list.
Adding a new contact to your list is relatively simple, and just involves you entering in their information. A "quickname" and email address are required, but other information such as actual name and phone number can be added at the users preference. Any contact on the list can also be removed or deleted in an equally easy manner.As I mentioned earlier, when talking about writing a new email, a list of your "favourite" contacts can be set up, and these will be the ones which appear first of all on the list when writing an email. This can be done with the menu at the left hand side entitled "edit favourites."
Calendar:The calendar is a feature on Hotmail which I have never had any use for, so as far as personal experience goes, there is not going to be a great deal included in this section… Basically, the calendar allows you to set notes and reminders so that you don't forget anything of importance. It also obviously allows you to see what day and date it is, but if you really need to resort to Hotmail to find that out… then… well…
General Options:Hotmail also has an options centre, where many different things in relation to your account, can be changed or altered. On this screen, there is a left hand menu, which splits the different options into categories; Personal, Mail, Calendar, Contacts, and Upgrade. I won't go through all of the different options available, just some of the most important ones. For example, this is where you will be able to change your password, if that is ever necessary, and also update your personal information. Another thing is the settings for Junk Email Protection and levels of general security. In general though, if you are looking to change something, then this is the best place to go looking.
Overall:Phew, well I have tried to cover everything I can think of where Hotmail is concerned, and I hope this review will prove helpful for all those who read it, whether you are totally new to the service, or are an existing member, looking for an answer to an unanswered question. Well that just leaves me to say, I hope you enjoyed reading, and I hope also that you take advantage of the most popular and worthwhile email system out there.
© Chris Wynne 2005
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