Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

Windows Live Hotmail has once again made changes to their web based email service, and once again some users are unhappy. Yet, Hotmail needs to change.

Hotmail's new format is horrible. It adds replies to other files I have and groups things I don't want grouped. Can you get them to stop all this? It attaches things together I want to get rid of and can't then get rid of. And I can't get in touch with Hotmail. Can you?

I cannot.

I also cannot get them to stop changing things.

However, I do have one recommendation on how to completely and permanently fix the situation.

Strike that - I have two recommendations.

Change Is Inevitable: Get Used To It

I have to put it that bluntly, but things are going to change. Period. There's no getting around it, and no avoiding it. There's also no going back.

In fact, as much as you might not like it, change is critical to Hotmail's very survival. If they don't change - if they don't keep up with, or even surpass other competing email and web services, they will eventually wither and die.

"... I'm willing to bet that more people like the new way than then old."

Hotmail must continue to change in order to compete.

You might not like the changes that they've made, but one thing that I can assure you they don't do is make changes frivolously or "just for the heck of it". Any changes you see are the result of research and ongoing tests to make Hotmail (or whatever service we might be talking about) more useful to more people.

Based on all that research and testing I'm willing to bet that more people like the new way than the old.

That doesn't help if you're not one of those "more people", but it is what it is. Hotmail has changed, and will continue to change so as to compete and be more useful to more people.

So, what if you don't like it?

I see two options.

Don't Use Hotmail on the Web

The changes we're talking about are all to the web interface to Hotmail. If you visit Hotmail and read your email through your browser (IE or Firefox or whatever) - by visiting hotmail.com or one of the Windows Live sites that then has a link to Hotmail - you're using the web interface.

Stop using that. That's what keeps changing.

Instead, get and learn how to use a desktop email program like Outlook, Windows Live Mail, Thunderbird or any of hundreds of others. Using those programs you'll download your email and read it on your PC. The interface you'll use is that of which ever email program you use. It won't change until or unless you upgrade or change it - it's totally in your control.

There are lots of pros and cons choosing web or desktop based email but one of the huge pros of a desktop email program is that you're in control.

Not good enough? There's one other option.

Don't Use Hotmail

Vote with your feet. Stop using Hotmail and you'll no longer be subject to the changes that they might make.

Naturally, I prefer that you move to a paid email account with real customer support, but if you want - another free email account like Google Mail, or Yahoo might make as much sense as any.

One warning, though: don't think that moving will isolate you from changes. Services like Google and Yahoo also have to compete and do, themselves, make changes from time to time. Perhaps you'll like their "flavor" of change better, but don't think that whatever you move to might not change.

Change is inevitable.

Particularly when it comes to competing web services.

Article C4396 - August 13, 2010 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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12 Comments
Saetana
August 17, 2010 8:41 AM

There is a very simple answer for this one - I always have my Hotmail on "view all", this shows all email received in time/date order, you actually need to select an option such as "contacts" "social groups" etc for it to show your email in this fashion. Hotmail does not move one single post of mine without me actioning it myself so you may wish to take a look at how you have Hotmail set up at the moment. I have been using Hotmail for many years, happily with no problems whatsoever and I haven't found the new changes to affect the way I prefer to do things at all. The one thing I wish they would change is how easy it is to accidentally deselect an item when clicking several boxes to select emails for deletion or movement to a folder. I personally think showing conversations in groups is a good idea, particularly if you get large amounts of email as I do myself.

pam
August 17, 2010 9:01 AM

you're exactly right - they all gotta keep up with the joneses if they don't want to lose business to the joneses. BUT there is one huge advantage to keeping our emails online - they won't be lost when computers crash.

i'd love to read what you have to say about the various paid email options but don't see a link at this story? i'll try searching and see if i can find the info...

thanks for helping us all better understand all things computer. :)

That's correct. Your email will instead be lost when your account is compromised or you otherwise lose your password or account access. There are pros and cons to either approach.

I talk about paid services here: What for-pay email providers do you recommend?
Leo
18-Aug-2010

David
August 17, 2010 9:42 AM

Often when any program changes, it difficult at first and you may not like it, but over time you adjust and often end up liking the new changes even better. If you were then to revert back to an older version, you wouldn't like it any more. I am not keen on a couple of the new changes in Hotmail, but overall the new improvements are worth a couple of small compromises. You have discovered one of the major pitfalls to cloud based computing (programs on the internet) and that is that the vendor controls what changes and when it changes. If you use a program that is installed on your local machine, you control when it changes.

Paul Lancaster
August 17, 2010 10:44 AM

The changes to windows live are great. I have tried webmail, blogs and even my own website since the broadband services sped up.Its remarkable how well the internet network is now but it does put your business under the control and surveillence of other unknown parties.

ChrystinP
August 17, 2010 1:53 PM

I agree that downloading to a desktop e-mail program is a great option. I also use Yahoo (and pay for it through SWBell), but will always use Yahoo whether or not I stay with my current ISP. Yahoo has their old e-mail version and their new version and users can choose the one they prefer.

I can access the web when I'm not on my own computer and check mail. When I'm on my own computer everything drops into Outlook from all my e-mail addresses that I've set up to drop (I have AOL, Yahoo, SWBell, and others). I have different accounts for different things: real mail I care about, corporate sites that request an e-mail address, my credit card company notices, etc.

My computer based program allows tremendous flexibility in keeping everything in one place, can be backed up (Yahoo keeps things a LONG time, though), can be transferred to other computers (via a special backup program I have), and is just about the best thing going in the computer world in my opinion.

Pocket Rocket
August 18, 2010 3:38 AM

Leo, good advice as always especially the recommendation re desktop e mail app. I currently run Outlook 2007 whilst my wife still clings to Express on XP. I have Yahoo also, but my e mail is routed via a gmail address. I only use gmail when on travel assignment. I for one cannot stand the conversation feature in gmail and the decision of the part of the Masters of the Universe at Google not to allow users of gmail the option to turn off conversation and return to standard threading. I consider myself somewhat computer literate but gmail conversation I find to be utterly incomprehensible and I think you will find it to be the number 1 complaint in user forums vis a vis gmail likes/dislikes.

Michaels
August 18, 2010 6:17 AM

Windows Hotmail and Windows Live are one in the same, is that correct?????/

No. Windows Live is an umbrella name for a bunch of different services. Windows Live Hotmail is one. Windows Live Messenger, Windows Live Spaces, etc are all part of Windows Live.
Leo
18-Aug-2010

Lee Doan
August 18, 2010 9:28 PM

I am surprised that people still use Hotmail. I too have had problems with Hotmail. There are better webmail services. GMail is probably the best. GMail has great spam filtering. I also had problems with Mail.com - so now I have GMail fetch my mail from Mail.com -and I check it in Thunderbird. Works for me.

bill
August 31, 2010 7:06 AM

I suspect that Lee's comments are why Hotmail seems to change their interface so often and drastically.
They want to capture the position of leader and recognize that the interface is a major part of the choice for people. That is a recipe for many significant changes as they try to find what people will like.

Neil Smith
April 21, 2011 9:44 PM

I also don't like the way that hotmail has added replies to the original email.I have forwarded a copy of an email to a friend & don't want the original party to find out, but if they reply everything is added, & I am sure that the original party can see everything when they look, or send another email.

Mark J
April 22, 2011 12:41 AM

@Neil Unless the reply is also sent to the first sender from your friend, the original sender will never see what you forwarded. But there is no guarantee that your friend won't accidentally or purposely send it to the original sender. You might want to think about not forwarding any emails that you don't want coming back to haunt you. The Internet is a bit like Vegas.
What happens in the Internet stays in the Internet... FOREVER!

Anon-e-mouse
September 22, 2011 3:25 PM

Quote "Change Is Inevitable: Get Used To It"

Just because SOFT-ware CAN be changed doesn't mean it should be. A professional development environment means that there should be self-control and self-discipline to RESIST changing already-proven and familiar software. Sadly, the largest software companies on the planet change things for NO REASON. The majority of the "changes" are NOT user requested but rather a result of "we're fancy" and "look at us" arrogance. A majority of the time, i.e. with google, microsoft, yahoo, fb, things are "changed" and "invented" without the option to turn it off or preserve FAMILIARITY and *that* is pure arrogance. A statement of quote "Change Is Inevitable: Get Used To It" just proves what side you're on and that you're a part of the problem instead of encouraging others to speak up, stand up and complain about frivolous changes and get a movement going to confront and stop the arrogant behavior of software monopolies.

A tiny little edit box, now THAT is something that should be fixed, not pretty-colors and the "rearranging" of things for no reason (i.e. google).

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