Thursday, June 01, 2006

Yahoo Mail Beta

I have been using the Yahoo Mail Beta for a couple of weeks now, and it is pretty cool. While I have a few issues with it, I would recommend using it if you get the chance.

The new Yahoo Beta Mail uses all sorts of AJAX niftyness to give you Outlook like functionality in the browser. Instead of comparing this with the old Yahoo Mail or Hotmail or Gmail, you really need to compare it with Outlook and other non browser email clients. Along with that you need to use it more like a stand alone email client. If you try using it like the old Yahoo Mail, you will probably not like it, but if you adjust, there is lots of goodness here for you.

The big adjustment that you have to make when using the new Yahoo Mail is that you need to open it in a browser window and just leave that browser window running Yahoo Mail all the time (as opposed to browsing to a new website and then coming back). The reason for this is twofold.

First, it takes about about 5-10 seconds to load the new Yahoo mail. This is way longer than other browser email clients but about the same as Outlook. Not a big deal if you just open it once, but annoying if you are constantly reloading it.

Second, it automatically checks for new emails every 10 minutes. When you want to see if you have new emails, you just switch over to that browser window and check. In this way you treat it like Outlook, where it is a separate application running in Windows and you switch to it whenever you want to check your mail.

There are 3 panes of information (like Outlook). One with your folders on the left, another with your inbox/selected folder listing on the top right, and the third is an email preview pane on the lower right. Instead of having to load one page to see your inbox, load another to see a message and a third time to see you inbox again, now you can view an email in your inbox in the lower right pane, while having the listing of emails stay in the upper right pane. Switching between emails then just requires using your up or down arrows. Much faster to browse through a lot of emails.

You can also open up multiple emails in Yahoo Mail tabs (not to be confused with browser tabs). This makes it easy to switch between multiple emails, if for example you are trying to copy from one to the other.

You can also use keyboard shortcuts like n for new message, m to check mail or Ctrl-Enter to send an email.

You can drag and drop emails from your inbox to the other folders.

They have also built an RSS reader into it, but I personally like Google Reader better so I haven't used it much. The contacts are much improved and easier to use.

Due to the multi-pane approach, the automatic checking of email, and the keyboard shortcuts, the new Yahoo Mail is much faster, more powerful and easier to use than the previous version. Overall the new Beta is good, but I do have some issues.

The search is improved but still needs work in my opinion. You can now search all your emails from a search field, and they all show up in a separate tab which is nice. But you have to specify things like "subject:" in the search box to just search subjects or "From:" for a particular person. There are no drop downs or checkboxes to walk you through what you want to search for. I am still not sure how to search just a particular folder or folders like you could with the old version. This sucks as it picks up emails in every folder including the trash and sent folders. And lots of times you just want to search one particular folder since you have organized your emails that way.

When you get spam, I still haven't figured out how to select the email without opening it before I click the spam button. Fortunately it take a second or two for Yahoo to actually open the email which is enough time for me to spam it without actually viewing it.

When you reply to an email it doesn't put > or a blue line next to the old text, so if you like to respond sentence by sentence, it is tough.

I wish there was a way to move an email to another folder with a keyboard shortcut, but no such option exists yet. I also wish that after I reply to an email, on that page there was a drop down box of folders to move the email to like in the old Yahoo Mail. Instead you have to close the sent email tab and then drag and drop the email to the correct folder.

If you use control right arrow to move to the next word when you are composing an email, there is an issue where it doesn't stop at periods or at the end of lines. This is real annoying if you use that keyboard shortcut.

Every once in a while Yahoo Mail spikes the CPU and makes your machine slow for around 10 seconds. Don't know if it is checking email or what is going on when this happens. Seems to happen more often when you are composing an email.

Overall it is good and I would recommend using it if you have the chance. Hopefully they clear up the issues I stated and then it will really rock.

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