Not too long ago Microsoft rebranded Hotmail to Outlook.com. Anyone who had a Hotmail.com e-mail address, and odds are just about anyone who has been on the Internet for long had one, will be able to continue using their Hotmail address. Typically, I use Gmail as my web-based e-mail, but I use Outlook to send and receive e-mail when I'm at my computer through my Gmail account.
Anyone that signs up going forward will be able to get a Hotmail account will instead have an e-mail address ending in Outlook.com. Outlook.com has some interesting features and reminds me more the little of Gmail. The machine features include the ability to schedule the cleanup of your inbox and any other folders you might have. The scheduled cleanups can, for instance, delete all email except for the last one you received from a specific person if you want to.
It's a great way for getting rid of old e-mails that you no longer need, especially if there were hordes of replies back-and-forth during an e-mail conversation. One the coolest features of Outlook.com is the ability for the e-mail service to pull information from social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, and even LinkedIn.
Outlook.com can show you status updates along with e-mail messages from people who have accounts on those social networks. In today's modern world, you can bet the vast majority of the people you e-mail with have social networking accounts on at least one, if not all, of the services. There are some caveats to being able to display photos and other information from social networks though. For instance, the e-mail address the contact e-mails you on has to be the address used for the social networking accounts.
That means if you e-mail with somebody on a work address, and you also have the private address for non-work related items you may not see social networking information depending on which address the person used to e-mail you. Probably the best feature of that social networking aspect is that you can view post your friends make right from Outlook.com rather than having to open a new window or tab and go to Facebook. You can even like the posts right from your Outlook.com window.
Visually, Outlook.com is clean and very easy to use. Again, it reminds me a lot of the web interface for Gmail. On the left-hand side is a pane for your folders, including inbox, junk mail, drafts, sent mail, deleted messages, and a link to make new folders. You can make as many new folders as you like to sort your e-mail as you see fit.
Much like Outlook or Outlook Express, you can also create any number of rules to send e-mails from specific people or organizations directly into a folder you want. There are also quick links that pop-up when you right-click over any e-mail in the inbox that will allow you to list that particular message as junk mail and perform other duties.
Interestingly, you can import some of your e-mail from Outlook Express and other e-mail programs so you can have all your information, and contacts stored online. In all, Outlook.com is a fully featured online e-mail service that's powerful enough to use instead of desktop software. You can also use other e-mail addresses within Outlook.com just as you can with Gmail and most other major e-mail services.
I think the biggest benefit of Outlook.com compared to Gmail would be the tight integration with Facebook and other social networks. For people who spend a lot of time answering and receiving e-mail being able to check out Facebook posts without having to open the Facebook website can be a big benefit. If you don't care about social networking, there isn't a lot to separate Outlook.com from Gmail or any other e-mail offering out there.