New Yahoo Mail Smells Like Gmail (2012)

With ex-Google executive Marissa Meyer reigning the purple company as CEO, it is not surprising why Yahoo seems to be on trance in releasing many updates on  their key web applications and services. It is clear that Yahoo is determined in catching up  the competitors.

Ever since I reviewed the New Yahoo Mail in 2011, I used it once in a while only but it never replaced Gmail as my primary email client anymore. Then came the new Outlook.com in Q3 2012 which is a radical rebranding of Hotmail. At the moment I use Outlook.com more often than Yahoo already. Then a few days earlier I received the newly updated Yahoo Mail and Yahoo claims that it the best ever Yahoo Mail ever. Is it really the best update ever?

New Yahoo Mail Features

Below is the screenshot of the new email composer. Is it much more refined compared to the older version? I can\’t really remember. However, when compared to Gmail and Outlook  I think they are all about the same now. Gmail took a minimalist approach after they revamped the composer recently and it currently lacks emoticon support unless you switched back to the older email composer. Outlook has the most number of emoticons (or should I say emoji?) while Yahoo still sports their very old line up of standard emoticons.

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The features highlighted in 2011 are the following: visibly faster email, enhanced security, mobility and integration, ease of use, automatic organizer and personal archive.

This year, the features are somewhat the same, just in different packaging. At first you may not notice the difference but the user interface had been refined and simplified to make logging in and writing email faster than ever.

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The dark buttons are gone. Instead of words —  Reply, Reply All and Forward are now just big icons. Several buttons are labelled to make sure that you don\’t confuse them with other icons such as Delete, Move, Spam and Actions.

Other noticeable difference is the removal of Yahoo Messenger, Sign Out, Options and Help links at the top to make room for a generic Yahoo pull-down menu at the top right corner, followed by Yahoo Mail logo, search mail / search web, then finally user account links, options and a home icon linked to Yahoo.com homepage. Finally, Yahoo Mail has so much cleaner and intuitive UI.

Resemblance to Gmail

If you put Gmail and Yahoo Mail side by side, you\’ll start to notice the similarities. Gmail has one black menu bar at the top. Yahoo is using a menu icon (three stacked rectangles) where all other Yahoo services are linked. Then you have one big search bar, then you user account links and other options at the right.

Yahoo and Gmail both use monochromatic icons. The only reason my icons in Gmail are colored in the screenshot below is because I am using Gmelius.

Even the placement of Yahoo Contacts is reminiscent to Gmail, except that in Gmail you have to click Gmail to get access to a drop down option for Contacts and Tasks.

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I don\’t think Yahoo is ripping off Google here but Yahoo is dangerously going in that direction.

iPhone, Android and Windows 8

Perhaps the best part of this New Yahoo Mail update is that Yahoo updated their native apps as well.

Windows 8 in particular is treated with an interface designed only for Windows 8. It comes with notifications and live tile support exploiting new features of Windows 8.

I also like the Android and iPhone app because they offer superb mobile email experience similar to Gmail.

Conclusion

The New Yahoo Mail can be described in three words:  fast, easy and anywhere. It really is the best release of Yahoo Mail so far despite looking more like Gmail after each iteration.

The native apps on Android, iOS and Windows 8 gives a consistent experience across different platform and has very high quality, which shows Yahoo can really compete in the apps space when it really tries. Let\’s hope Yahoo will continue to come up with more innovations.

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10 Outlook.com Features That Makes It A Gmail Killer

Gmail vs. Outlook.com

\"Outlook.comI am testing Microsoft Office 2013 suite in my PC and I immediately recognized the change of Outlook\’s icon color from yellow to blue. I thought there has to be a reason for that change. Several weeks ago I had no clue what it meant but now its obvious. Outlook is the new free webmail service replacing Hotmail. I think for branding reasons Microsoft had to change the traditional yellow color of Outlook to blue so that it would be more recognizable in the web.

Gmail has been my number one choice since Google introduced it and I never looked back at Hotmail or Yahoo. Today, I still keep my old Hotmail and Yahoo email addresses for the sake of keeping one.

However after the announcement was made and Outlook.com went live, it is very tempting to take a deeper look at Outlook.com. Microsoft made a very bold move in re-imagining  email from the failed attempts of Live mail and Hotmail brand.

The following are the top features which might give you a reason to dump Gmail for Outlook.com

1. Unlimited Storage Space

Gmail has more than 10GB of storage space and still counting (slowly). On the other hand, Outlook.com has virtually unlimited space. It allocates more space as you demand more space as long as you don\’t fill your inbox too fast or if you don\’t do anything shady.

If you deal with very large email and it is important to you, you will not worry about storage space at all. Outlook.com also has the functionality to manage big email eating up your inbox space. You can easily sort the size in ascending or descending order.

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2. Bigger File and Attachment Support

Outlook can support up to 100Mb attachment and if you link your account to SkyDrive it is upgraded to 300Mb file size limit. In contrast, Gmail only supports 25Mb. This is not a problem if you use Google Drive or Dropbox but the tight integration with SkyDrive gives Outlook.com easier sharing  of big files.

3. Email Alias

Hotmail email alias had been around for some time but Yahoo had this feature for the longest time I could remember.

It is a very helpful in giving a disposable email address. What is unique in Outlook.com is the functionality to completely change your email address and/or username. If you are switching from Hotmail.com email address, Outlook.com automatically creates an alias to forward incoming emails from your old Hotmail.com email address.

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4. Quick Views

Gmail has labels which essentially works like folders but unlike folders, you can put different labels on your emails with Gmail.

With Outlook.com, Microsoft is not throwing away folders but this time they are introducing Quick Views. With Quick Views Outlook.com can automatically detect newsletter, social updates, bills, and other content categories automatically so that you can organize and clean up your inbox faster.

If you want to view every pictures sent to you, you can just go to Photos category and Outlook.com will show all emails with pictures. You also get to preview and browse all the pictures in a slideshow. Same with documents. If you wish to get only the emails with attached documents, spreadsheet or slide presentation then you can go to Documents category and access your documents right away.

You can go to where you want faster in fewer clicks. For me, Quick View is  smarter than Gmail\’s priority inbox. It is more flexible and you can always create your own category depending on the rules you create. Think Quick Views like smart Libraries in Windows.

For power users Gmail is still more flexible in tailoring your own filter rules but for an average joe, Outlook.com gives powerful options that anyone can easily understand.

5. Sweep

This one-click clean up scheduling gives you a  convenient way to delete emails from  someone or move/archive all emails from one folder to another.

You can even set the age of the email that you wish to delete or move.

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This feature was inspired by Office Outlook; Added in Hotmail way back in 2010 and then carried forward in Outlook.com. Gmail has no equivalent feature to automate deletion of emails that you do not want to keep.

6. Recover Deleted Email

Outlook.com can recover deleted messages even if you have permanently emptied deleted email folder. Outlook.com will recover as much as it can recover and it is very useful when you accidentally deleted an email permanently. I know how stupid it sounds but it happens.

What I am not sure is how long Microsoft stores deleted emails. I am guessing there is a threshold on how long they keep deleted emails. However, there is a privacy setting to disable this feature if you are worried about Microsoft keeping your deleted emails.

7. Privacy

Speaking of privacy, Microsoft claims that they never scan email content. For some people this is great advantage over Gmail.

Also, there is no annoying ads in Outlook.com right now but that doesn\’t mean it won\’t have in the future.

What\’s interesting is that Outlook.com does not keep history of your instant messages by default. Compare this to Google and Yahoo — both companies keep instant messages record by default.

Microsoft\’s  selling point here is that you are in control of your data when you use Outlook.com. Let\’s hope so.

8. Office Suite Integration

Outlook.com comes with the online version of Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Not to mention it comes with SkyDrive integration as well. If you were able to test SkyDrive during its beta period you might have enjoyed the permanent 25Gb storage upgrade for free so it\’s great for storing your documents online.

The advantage of Office web apps over  Google Docs is still debatable. On one hand, Google Docs is a departure from the usual document editing that we go used to. However, Office web apps are trying to incorporate the same web elements in its Office web apps suite, for free! You got to love Google and Microsoft competition.

I like both Google Docs and Offices web apps so Gmail vs. Outlook.com is not as easy as choosing between apple vs. orange.

Of course, for people who use Office suite exclusively Office web apps is a no-brainer.

9. Social Integration

Get updates and connect with your friends right from your inbox. You can chat with your Facebook friends not to mention you can also link Twitter and LinkedIn. It\’s like having a simpler version of Rapportive built inside Outlook.com. It totally rocks!

Later on, Microsoft will also integrate Skype which is like de-facto standard for online voice and video calls. I\’m sure that it will drive a lot of interest, too, but Microsoft is yet to show us how it will be done.

Gmail is only integrated with Google+ and Hang out is a unique feature only found in Google+. Still, Social integration in Outlook.com is one step higher. You get multiple social network support which is much-needed by social media enthusiasts.

10. Refreshing Design and Mobile Experience

For me, the most important reason why you should take a look at Outlook.com is the refreshing design concept and modern look. Microsoft has made a very  clean user interface — in fact much cleaner than Gmail in my opinion. There is no menu for other Microsoft services but it is integrated deeply with other services.

The UI is responsive and the Windows 8 inspired design speaks for itself. The design is also optimized for mobile devices and shows the dedication of Microsoft in delivering the best mobile experience for users.

To use Outlook.com on your phone or tablet, you can use the instructions from Microsoft.

I have included a short walk-through of Outlook.com — let me know what you think in the comments below.

What\’s your opinion about Gmail vs. Outlook.com?

 

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Enhance Gmail and Fix Common Annoyances with Gmelius

I love Gmail. It is my primary web email client and I use it in Google Apps for Business as well. My only gripe is that you can\’t really control how it looks and there are little options to modify the user interface the way you like it. You get themes and Gmail labs experimental features but there are basic things that Google left out that\’s why I still look for ways to enhance Gmail using userscript and browser add-ons or extensions. Then comes Gmelius!

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Here are the features that I like in Gmelius:

Gmail without Ads

I don\’t hate ads. Some ads fit their purpose but for some people who really don\’t like ads, this is a great feature.

Clickable Gmail logo

For inexplicable reason Google removed this basic navigation practice to put a home link to Gmail logo. Gmelius puts the missing link back to Gmail logo.

Colorize Navigation Icons with Labels

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Google use monochrome icons for the archive, spam and delete in the latest version of Gmail. This is my number #1 annoyance in Gmail for me because it is easy to confuse yourself with the gray icons even if you know the order already. Gmelius can put the text labels back and also add colored icons to make the navigation more intuitive again. It\’s one of the best feature that really enhances Gmail UX. Great work!

Put Google Reader on the Black Navigation Bar Menu

It is fairly simple option that Google doesn\’t give to users. Finally, there\’s an easy way to put Reader in the top navigation menu. One caveat is that it replaces Google News so if you use both Google News and Google Reader, you have to make a choice. I use Google Reader much more than Google News so it is an easy decision for me to enable this feature.

Toggle Header and Footer to Save Space

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With Gmelius you can also remove the header and footer to get more viewing area for your email. The header could be toggled using shortcut (experimental) and with this feature, you can immediately click sign out at the upper-right corner.

More Features

Of course, there are more features available but those are my personal favorites.

See the screenshot below for more available features.

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You can get Gmelius for Chrome, Firefox and Opera.

There are more Gmail tweaks out there. Let me know what\’s your favorite so far and let me know if you like Gmelius.

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New Gmail Sign In Page

Have you seen the new Gmail Sign In page yet? You can see it below.

The new Gmail Sign In page design seems to be similar to the  new themes that you can find in Gmail. It shares similar colors with Google+

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If you don\’t like it you can switch back to the old design for a limited time only. Maybe you should send Google some feedback if you really don\’t like it. I think it\’s okay because it\’s part of  a larger redesign of Google products spearheaded by Google+.

You can learn more about this new Gmail Sign In page here.

So do you like the new sign-in page?

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New Yahoo Mail (2011)

Update 2012-12-16: If you are looking for the New Yahoo Mail 2012 update, click here. Otherwise, proceed reading.

I should have done this review long ago but I haven\’t paid much attention to the New Yahoo Mail service until I received the service announcement last week that Yahoo is upgrading all non-beta users to the New Yahoo Mail. It\’s almost a year now since I have participated in the early beta and now the public can already upgrade to the latest version of Yahoo Mail.

Before I continue,  I need to confess something: my Yahoo Mail account has collected cobwebs since I switched to Gmail but I do log in occasionally to keep my account active.

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Key Features of the New Yahoo Mail

Faster Email

Yahoo claims that this version is 2x faster and I really feel that this version is faster than the previous incarnation of the \’improved\’ Yahoo Mail 2 years ago. It also allows instant previews of photos and videos, and you can play it right in your inbox. I tried linking a Video video and it was not recognized so I think that the instant slideshows and playback is only limited with official supported sites Flickr, Picasa and Youtube.

Quick Reply looks like Gmail\’s  in-line reply but unlike Gmail where you can edit the subject and recipients on the fly, Yahoo Mail\’s Quick Reply works like an instant message only. You can only type your reply and there\’s no other option. It\’s very useful for quick one-liner response and that\’s all there is to it.

Enhance Security

Yahoo boast a better spam protection and to some degree I agree that they do have a better spam protection because I receive far less spam in my Yahoo inbox than in my Gmail inbox even if my Yahoo email address had been around longer.

Mobility and Integrations

Yahoo Mobile Mail is available in major mobile devices like iPhone, iPad and Android.

Instant messaging and SMS is now highly integrated with the new user interface.  Apart from email, you can also choose instant messages and SMS when composing new message.

You can also optionally connect your Facebook friends to chat with them right in your inbox. Personally, I will not integrate my Yahoo account with my Facebook account for reasons that I have discussed in my blog in the past.

Ease of Use

While it\’s true that the new Yahoo Mail  is faster than ever before and it fully supports all major mobile devices, some of the basic features that I am looking forward are still missing

There is still no threaded messages. Somehow when you got a  taste of Gmail, it\’s hard to come back to Yahoo or any conventional listed emails.

Also, I\’m a bit surprised that clicking reply on the top navigation does not copy what you have written on the quick reply area. What if in the middle of a \’quick\’ reply  I change my mind and I want to format my message? In order to keep what I written on the space below, I have to copy it – click reply – then paste it; still not as useful as I thought it would be.

Yahoo Mail breaks the back button. Click the back button does not return you to the previous action. If you click the back button you will most likely end up on the sign-in page. How can they miss this?

On the positive note, when I tested the beta version last year, there is still no page-by-page navigation. I have requested this over and over for the last 2 years and that\’s the best thing they have added from my feature requests. At last, my Yahoo inbox works like how I wanted it.

Automatic Organizer

If you activate the automatic organizer application by Otherinbox, your lower priority emails will be automatically organized in folders which leaves more important messages from family and friends in your inbox. It seems like a good idea but I am not comfortable enabling a 3rd party application right in my inbox. I find the implementation of priority inbox in Gmail more useful than this.

Personal Archive

Ever since Yahoo took heavy competition from Gmail, Yahoo started offering unlimited storage. It is awesome even for casual users. Gone are the days that you have to worry about your mail inbox limit.

When sending attachments, you can attach large files as many as 50 files or as big as 100mb in a single email using Yousendit 3rd party application. Take note that  standard attachment size is still 25mb which is the max message size limit.

Yahoo Mail Overall Impression

Overall I think this is the best Yahoo Mail ever since Gmail came out. I think Yahoo listened a lot from loyal fans and translated that feedback to this latest version of Yahoo Mail. Even if it took so long to achieve this status I think it is worth all the time and effort put into this product.

The integration of Yahoo Messenger, SMS and Facebook right in your inbox looks very attractive for avid chatters and babblers because it gives easy access to all your online friends even on the web.

Good things put aside, let me enumerate what I found missing. I already mentioned the broken back button and remarkably limited quick reply but there\’s more.

Secure HTTP connection or HTTPS is still not available in this version of Yahoo Mail. Gmail and Windows Live have this for some time now. It shows that Yahoo do not care if your inbox is vulnerable to session  side-jacking. Session hijacking is not new but it is getting more accessible using free hijacking software readily available on the web like Firesheep.

Until today you still have to pay premium fee for POP access and it is just sad because it should have been free long time ago. You can use IMAP in mobile free of charge and there is a work around to make it work in PC but you have to do some research.

Threaded conversation is also absent. I\’m not sure if this feature is not requested by many Yahoo Mail users at all or Yahoo is just reluctant to copy yet another Gmail pioneer feature. Windows Live already gave an option to group email by conversation long time ago for the benefits of Live users. Why can\’t Yahoo do the same?

Then there is the ongoing concern with Yahoo\’s updated Privacy Policy which I will discuss after I have done a review on Yahoo Messenger 11.

You can watch the \’trailer\’ video below and you can also watch it New Yahoo Mail overview.

Wrapping Up

Let me wrap this up by saying that to me, Gmail is still the best free email provider, IMHO. Competition is good and it creates a lot of options for consumers like you and me. Yahoo\’s effort to modernize the look and feel of Yahoo! Mail is certainly welcome. There are some good new features thrown in but it still fall short on my expectation.

Let me know what you think of the new Yahoo Mail in the comment section.

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Google Black Navigation Bar: Remove, Disable or Change It

\"GoogleOver the last few weeks, Google rolled out black navigational bar in Google search and it  got mixed reactions. A lot of people started seeing this when Google+ grand beta invitation draws nearer so people started questioning the change in Google search UI. No one really knows what the black menu bar is for, not until recently when Google officially announced an evolved design and experience across Google products.

Long story short, the Google Black Navigation Bar (codename \”Sandbar\”) is a toolbar that attempts to unify all Google properties according to this article and if you read between the lines, it have stemmed from the Google+ social project.

You might consider it ugly or distracting but the black bar reminds you that you are using Google products. To make the design more consistent across Google products, there is also a new Gmail theme available for preview and Calendar was already redesigned to give the same look and feel.

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Now that you know how the black bar came to be, it\’s really up to you if want to get rid of it. Personally I would keep it black but the best part is you are not constrained to that color thanks to browser extensions.

For Firefox users, you can use this userscript available for Greasemonkey  to go back to classic Google Bar.

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For Chrome users, you can also go back to the old white Google navigation bar by installing this Chrome extension, Remove Black Bar from Google.

Alternatively, you can try this Google Plus bar color changer extension so that you could change the black menu bar to any color that you prefer.

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For other browsers, it seems that your only option is to run Greasemonkey userscripts in those browsers.

So now that you know your options, will you remove, disable or change the color of Google black navigation bar? Let me know.

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Facebook Messages, Your Social Inbox

\"FacebookAfter a few days of media fasting, I sifted through all the articles that I can read about Facebook Messaging or Facebook Mail. Earlier this week, most of them were speculating that Facebook is lunching a free email service. Apparently, that\’s not a case because Mark Zuckerberg said it\’s not email.

Dubbed as the next generation messaging, the goal of Facebook Messages is to make messaging seamless, informal, immediate, personal, simple, minimal and short. It is not a \”Gmail killer\” explained Mark Zuckerberg because it is about messaging and not email. To mark the difference, Facebook created their own version of inbox and called it social inbox. Messages will be delivered in here regardless of the medium.

To understand more about social inbox, Facebook released a video explaining the inspiration in making this next generation messaging. Watch it below.

In the light of the subject, Facebook privacy settings will play a big part in controlling what messages reach your social inbox and which will be blocked. I like the concept of having your own personal do-not-email list.

Just like a new product, it is already criticized for a number of reasons. For instance if you are enjoying Gmail, you are not likely to use Facebook messages soon. Facebook messages also wants to throw everything in your social inbox but some people wants to separate different channels of communications. And last but not the least, Facebook privacy issues are still hot and cold. No one knows how secure it will be. In emails you can at least sign them with certificates. In Facebook there is no option to use HTTPS permanently and it even failed in security tests on HTTP session hijacking.

It is interesting how this will impact the use of email in the long run. Right now the feature is still not rolled out in my account. I\’ll make a review as soon as I get it.

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