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Friday, January 20, 2006

The New Yahoo Mail is Really Good

I’ve had the chance to check the new Yahoo Mail (well, it’s rather new, and still in Beta – login to your account to see if you got it too). It feels a lot like Microsoft Outlook... which is really impressive, because it’s still only a web application, with no special plug-ins.

After logging in, you find the typical three panes layout: To the left there are your folders – inbox, drafts, etc. – and to the right is a list of your messages on top, as well as the message you’re currently reading below it.

Watch the video [WMV] if you don’t have the new Yahoo Mail.

Yahoo Mail has a lot of nice desktop-like features. You can drag and drop everything, flag messages, order the columns by clicking on the column header, you can resize columns, add smileys to your text (and then resize them as well), and so on. Yahoo Mail supports quite a few short-cuts so you will get the feeling you’re looking at a Windows application: for example, you can hold the shift-key, select a number of message all at once, and then hit the delete button. This is very intuitive, and allows you to handle your mail very quickly.

Yahoo Mail is also an “office center” of sorts. There’s an RSS reader, a calendar, and a notepad application. With all of these tools you can see someone was focusing on usability, even when some of the dialogs tend to be somewhat cluttered.

Through-out all of this, the new Yahoo Mail’s ads manage to remain completely unobtrusive. This is quite a change from the old Yahoo Mail, which often pushed annoying in-between pages to the user.

Will Gmail users want to switch now? It depends. If you’re used to an office email client like Outlook, you might prefer Yahoo’s approach because you don’t have to rethink email. Yahoo Mail is almost as fast as Gmail, losing out only by split seconds. Still, I wouldn’t want to miss Gmail’s conversation thread, its storage, its spam filter, and its devotion to keeping the interface as simple as possible. And of course, Yahoo’s a little late to the game to convince me to switch now (I would have instantly switched from Hotmail if I were still using it). But finally, Gmail’s got some competition.


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