Hotmail just keeps adding features: live sidebar calendar, more… can we keep up?

By Kip Kniskern | Posted June 24, 2011 58 comments

Today on the Inside Windows Live blog, Dick Craddock introduced some new features in Hotmail, including new right click and keyboard shortcut functionality. What he didn’t tell you about was at least two more new feature we’re seeing, a live Calendar and Messenger contact list from within the sidebar:

hotmail live messenger

As you can see, the Messenger contact list has appeared in the sidebar, and is fully live, meaning you can open a Messenger conversation much more easily than before (clicking on a contact opens Windows Live Messenger if it’s available, or the web messenger if it’s not:

hotmail msgr box

Just below the Messenger list, a Calendar has appeared:

hotmail live calendar

…again, this is live, and you can click on a highlighted date to get events for that day, or add new events, or switch from Day to Month view.  You still have to click on the “old” Calendar link at the very bottom to open the full calendar, so this is more of a “quick view”, but still quite useful.

For the record, here’s a list of the changes Dick Craddock blogged about:

  • Right Click: While Hotmail users can already access some functions like “Delete,” “Junk,” and “View Message Source” through Right Click, they can now also Reply, Reply-All and Forward messages with the Right Click function providing a faster, more efficient experience.
  • Keyboard Shortcuts: Several e-mail shortcuts that are already popular in Outlook are now available in Hotmail. For example, users can hit Ctrl + N for a NEW message or Ctrl + Enter to SEND their message. You can view the full list here.
  • Personalization: Hotmail users can now set their own default font and create a custom signature for all of their e-mail messages.
  • Additional Updates:
    • Thanks to user feedback, the Hotmail team has adjusted the Back button so that it now works more effectively, and attachments now get saved to e-mail drafts.
    • Users can recover some lost emails through a new link in the Deleted folder (if you happen to accidentally delete something).
    • And some users may have noticed that their Hotmail account feels faster. That’s because the Hotmail team started rolling out speed improvements that combine smart programming with the best of HTML5 to make the inbox super-fast. We’ll have more about this in the coming days.

While all these new improvements are welcome, we have to say it’s a bit unnerving to try and keep up with them all, especially since the Inside Windows Live blog hasn’t been, umm,  keeping up lately.  Last week we told you about “Message pre-loading”, of which we haven’t noticed any official explanation, and there’s really no telling with Hotmail whether these features are available for all, are rolling out to selected markets, or just in testing.  We kind of miss the old days where every Program Manager had a blog – you had to pay attention, but you could be sure *somebody* was blogging about each new feature.  Now Windows Live spends more time making sure the “messaging” is right than they do bothering to tell us about new features.  What a long strange trip this has been!

Anyway check out Hotmail, are you seeing the Calendar and the Messenger sidebar?  Do you like the keyboard shortcuts and right click menus?  What do you think?

(thanks iRajesh, for the tip in the comments!)

Posted June 24th, 2011 at 12:16 am
  • Anonymous

    Agreed, Kip. The pace is a bit difficult to follow. Well, we griped about those long delays between “waves”…I guess this is another way to go, eh? Hey, not to hijack this Hotmail-centric thread, but a couple of other goodies I noticed today across Windows Live (in no particular order):

    You can now “like” Facebook updates in Messenger social via live.com. +2
    For those grandfathered groups that still support discussions, the WYSIWYG discussion editor is gone. It still supports HTML, but you have to enter the tags manually. -1
    The groups.live.com page, which used to provide a “What’s New” feed of your groups’ activities, now just provides a basic index of your groups. In fact, most group communication and management tasks are now accessible via Hotmail, Calendar, SkyDrive, and Messenger. Gotta wonder how long until the Groups UI is deprecated altogether. -1
    Messenger social has new verbiage for group updates (e.g., Greg edited Some Document for All Things Live). +1
    SkyDrive folder thumbnails now give you a count of items contained inside. +1

  • http://twitter.com/revanmj Michał Jakubowski

    I don’t have Calendar in sidebar on any of my accounts

    • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/CW3SETFCKRB5NRLX5QZK3EMRWY Joe

      I have outlook connector for hotmail and I have my outlook calendar as well as hotmail calendars in outlook and you can do the same with your outlook contacts and now with this new feature your live messenger contacts

  • http://gregsedwards.wordpress.com/ Greg Edwards

    Agreed, Kip. The pace is a bit difficult to follow. Well, we griped about those long delays between “waves”…I guess this is another way to go, eh? Hey, not to hijack this Hotmail-centric thread, but a couple of other goodies I noticed today across Windows Live (in no particular order):

    You can now “like” Facebook updates in Messenger social via live.com. +2
    For those grandfathered groups that still support discussions, the WYSIWYG discussion editor is gone. It still supports HTML, but you have to enter the tags manually. -1
    The groups.live.com page, which used to provide a “What’s New” feed of your groups’ activities, now just provides a basic index of your groups. In fact, most group communication and management tasks are now accessible via Hotmail, Calendar, SkyDrive, and Messenger. Gotta wonder how long until the Groups UI is deprecated altogether. -1
    Messenger social has new verbiage for group updates (e.g., Greg edited Some Document for All Things Live). +1
    SkyDrive folder thumbnails now give you a count of items contained inside. +1

  • http://revanmj.pl/ Michał Jakubowski

    I don’t have Calendar in sidebar on any of my accounts

    • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/CW3SETFCKRB5NRLX5QZK3EMRWY Joe

      I have outlook connector for hotmail and I have my outlook calendar as well as hotmail calendars in outlook and you can do the same with your outlook contacts and now with this new feature your live messenger contacts

  • Anonymous

    I concur. Must be server-specific.

  • http://gregsedwards.wordpress.com/ Greg Edwards

    I concur. Must be server-specific.

  • Rahadyan

    I don’t have calendar in sidebar, but the right click menu addition (reply, reply all etc) is there and so is the message pre-loading option.

  • Rahadyan

    I don’t have calendar in sidebar, but the right click menu addition (reply, reply all etc) is there and so is the message pre-loading option.

  • http://www.andrewtechhelp.com/ Andrew Tech Help

    Isn’t this EXACTLY what we wanted? We wanted Microsoft to keep updating their Windows Live websites with features (like Google does with their services) as they’re ready instead of holding off for 18 months for a new “Wave”

    This is goood :D

    • http://twitter.com/jamiet Jamie Thomson

      totally agree.

  • http://www.andrewtechhelp.com/ Andrew Tech Help

    Isn’t this EXACTLY what we wanted? We wanted Microsoft to keep updating their Windows Live websites with features (like Google does with their services) as they’re ready instead of holding off for 18 months for a new “Wave”

    This is goood :D

    • jkth

      totally agree.

  • http://cid-280a1538334a1cb9.profile.live.com/ Seika

    sn105w
    No calendar in sidebar yet.

    But isn’t the sidebar messenger list already there ever since the current wave is rolled out ?

  • http://cid-280a1538334a1cb9.profile.live.com/ Seika

    sn105w
    No calendar in sidebar yet.

    But isn’t the sidebar messenger list already there ?

  • Zaarin

    The Messenger list isn’t new. It’s been there for quite a while – months I think. The screenshot you’ve posted doesn’t look different to what’s already there, though I’ll confirm when I get home on a desktop browser.

    • http://www.LiveSide.net Kip Kniskern – LiveSide.net

      Yes, Messenger in the sidebar has been around a while, forgot that (looks like I need to spend more time in Hotmail!).  Don’t think we’ve seen Calendar in the sidebar before, however, as some of you aren’t seeing it at all.  Glad to have the changes, even if we’re having a bit of an issue keeping them all straight!

    • Leo

      Agreed. The Messenger list is available for months.

  • Zaarin

    The Messenger list isn’t new. It’s been there for quite a while – months I think. The screenshot you’ve posted doesn’t look different to what’s already there, though I’ll confirm when I get home on a desktop browser.

    • http://www.LiveSide.net Kip Kniskern – LiveSide.net

      Yes, Messenger in the sidebar has been around a while, forgot that (looks like I need to spend more time in Hotmail!).  Don’t think we’ve seen Calendar in the sidebar before, however, as some of you aren’t seeing it at all.  Glad to have the changes, even if we’re having a bit of an issue keeping them all straight!

    • Leoberto J. P. Junior

      Agreed. The Messenger list is available for months.

  • Bill

    Not seeing the calendar yet.

    • Leo

      Me neither.

  • Bill

    Not seeing the calendar yet.

    • Leoberto J. P. Junior

      Me neither.

  • http://www.rodrigoghedin.com.br Rodrigo Ghedin

    I already have calendar widget on sidebar.

    Messenger’s contact list is there for a while and, IMHO, it’s redundant since the exact same list is on top menu. Why TWO contact lists?

    The main improvement I wait from Hotmail is side banner gone. Hope they get rid of that ridiculous ad soon! :-)

    []‘s!

    • http://twitter.com/jamiet Jamie Thomson

      Yes. Clearly everything you do online should be free to you and be paid for by some mysterious benefactor, right?

      Wrong. Ads pay for your free service. No ads, no hotmail.

      • http://www.rodrigoghedin.com.br Rodrigo Ghedin

        There are so many ways to get money from online services… At least put text-based ads, they’re much less intrusive and don’t stands upon the rest of UI.

        Gmail has ads too, but almost no one cares ou even notice them (except for privacy concerns, which is another subject).[]‘s!

  • http://www.gemind.com.br Rodrigo Ghedin

    I already have calendar widget on sidebar.

    Messenger’s contact list is there for a while and, IMHO, it’s redundant since the exact same list is on top menu. Why TWO contact lists?

    The main improvement I wait from Hotmail is side banner gone. Hope they get rid of that ridiculous ad soon! :-)

    []‘s!

    • jkth

      Yes. Clearly everything you do online should be free to you and be paid for by some mysterious benefactor, right?

      Wrong. Ads pay for your free service. No ads, no hotmail.

      • http://www.gemind.com.br Rodrigo Ghedin

        There are so many ways to get money from online services… At least put text-based ads, they’re much less intrusive and don’t stands upon the rest of UI.

        Gmail has ads too, but almost no one cares ou even notice them (except for privacy concerns, which is another subject).

        []‘s!

  • Anonymous

    I know they said they’ve made performance improvements, but I’m seeing the opposite. Performance has been worse than usual the last couple of weeks.

  • burrr

    I know they said they’ve made performance improvements, but I’m seeing the opposite. Performance has been worse than usual the last couple of weeks.

  • Anonymous

    I agree with a few people on here. We are glad that Windows Live is doing the update process for Wave 5 different this time. It gives us time and practice on using the features instead of having them all at the same time and being confused. Most important, we don’t have to wait forever on the hotmail server to release them. Very good Windows Live.

  • JSYOUNG571

    I agree with a few people on here. We are glad that Windows Live is doing the update process for Wave 5 different this time. It gives us time and practice on using the features instead of having them all at the same time and being confused. Most important, we don’t have to wait forever on the hotmail server to release them. Very good Windows Live.

  • jnt

    I would definitely rather see them do it this way than the way it was before… “Hey we have this new feature coming… in 6 months!”   It sounds like the calendar thing isn’t fully live yet, which is probably why they haven’t said anything about it.   Not seeing it on any of my accounts either.  Under promise, over perform…

  • jnt

    I would definitely rather see them do it this way than the way it was before… “Hey we have this new feature coming… in 6 months!”   It sounds like the calendar thing isn’t fully live yet, which is probably why they haven’t said anything about it.   Not seeing it on any of my accounts either.  Under promise, over perform…

  • http://doctorwhofan98.wordpress.com/ doctorwhofan98

    I haven’t got the calendar yet, but it will be a nice improvement. By the way, Web Messenger in the sidebar isn’t new. It came with Wave 4. This is Wave 5.

    I’m surprised they haven’t blogged about message pre-laoding yet.

  • http://alexsimkin.tumblr.com/ Alex Simkin

    I haven’t got the calendar yet, but it will be a nice improvement. By the way, Web Messenger in the sidebar isn’t new. It came with Wave 4. This is Wave 5.

    I’m surprised they haven’t blogged about message pre-laoding yet.

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/6G3ZZJCHOLYP3S5CRCIHQ7WDSE MVIM

    Messenger moved to the sidebar but the calendar isn’t there yet. What’s the delay? Since the new update rolled out to my account, shouldn’t that include all of the new features?

    • http://doctorwhofan98.wordpress.com/ doctorwhofan98

      Messenger has been in the sidebar since Wave 4 (released around July 2010). This is Wave 5.

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/6G3ZZJCHOLYP3S5CRCIHQ7WDSE MVIM

    Messenger moved to the sidebar but the calendar isn’t there yet. What’s the delay? Since the new update rolled out to my account, shouldn’t that include all of the new features?

    • http://alexsimkin.tumblr.com/ Alex Simkin

      Messenger has been in the sidebar since Wave 4 (released around July 2010). This is Wave 5.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1254702990 SîmõnTang ÑîñêÊlêvênSûçks

    I think I’ve had the Messenger list for a year, at least :$

    But doesn’t it take a long time for you guys to load the contacts list? :(

  • SimonTang

    I think I’ve had the Messenger list for a year, at least :$

    But doesn’t it take a long time for you guys to load the contacts list? :(

  • http://cid-280a1538334a1cb9.profile.live.com/ Seika

    Is it just me or there has been growing number of new Chinese services in Windows Live’s connected services ? Sadly no sign of Twitter or other English language services.

    http://profile.live.com/Services/?category=All

    • http://doctorwhofan98.wordpress.com/ doctorwhofan98

      I’m surprised Twitter isn’t there. I thought Microsoft would add it with Wave 5…

  • http://cid-280a1538334a1cb9.profile.live.com/ Seika

    Is it just me or there has been growing number of new Chinese services in Windows Live’s connected services ? Sadly no sign of Twitter or other English language services.

    http://profile.live.com/Services/?category=All

    • http://alexsimkin.tumblr.com/ Alex Simkin

      I’m surprised Twitter isn’t there. I thought Microsoft would add it with Wave 5…

  • Anonymous

    I don’t have the calendar, but everything else is there. The improvements are welcomed and the last thing I’m going to do is complain about the pace. Faster=better! However, improving the coverage of those changes really is a requirement to increase users and users using the new features.

    My guess is that Apple’s recent iCloud announcments have a lot to do with Microsoft’s accelerated implementation of features. I’m sure this stuff would have waited for Wave 5 otherwise. Or maybe there won’t be a Wave 5 and things will just get implemented as they are completed, which I really prefer. That’s why competitors are always in the news, constant improvements with corresponding coverage lavashed all over it. It’s a smart strategy that Microsoft would do well to emulate.

    • http://doctorwhofan98.wordpress.com/ doctorwhofan98

      This is Wave 5… I think.

      • Damaster – LiveSide.net

        As we understand it, Microsoft is gradually moving away from large “wave” releases for its Windows Live web services, rather moving towards smaller incremental releases like these Hotmail changes and the recent SkyDrive update.

        According to Omar Shahine, Group Program Manager for SkyDrive: “Our intent for SkyDrive is to ship when we have interesting stuff to ship :-)” (http://windowsteamblog.com/windows_live/b/windowslive/archive/2011/06/20/introducing-skydrive-for-the-modern-web-built-using-html5.aspx)

        • http://doctorwhofan98.wordpress.com/ doctorwhofan98

          Oh, good! I used to hate having to wait about a year and a half for new features all in one wave so it was kinda overwhelming. Now it’s great!

  • Super2online

    I don’t have the calendar, but everything else is there. The improvements are welcomed and the last thing I’m going to do is complain about the pace. Faster=better! However, improving the coverage of those changes really is a requirement to increase users and users using the new features.

    My guess is that Apple’s recent iCloud announcments have a lot to do with Microsoft’s accelerated implementation of features. I’m sure this stuff would have waited for Wave 5 otherwise. Or maybe there won’t be a Wave 5 and things will just get implemented as they are completed, which I really prefer. That’s why competitors are always in the news, constant improvements with corresponding coverage lavashed all over it. It’s a smart strategy that Microsoft would do well to emulate.

    • http://alexsimkin.tumblr.com/ Alex Simkin

      This is Wave 5… I think.

      • damaster

        As we understand it, Microsoft is gradually moving away from large “wave” releases for its Windows Live web services, rather moving towards smaller incremental releases like these Hotmail changes and the recent SkyDrive update. Judging by the version number, this marks the beginning of the “Wave 5″ update, but this is not it.

        According to Omar Shahine, Group Program Manager for SkyDrive: “Our intent for SkyDrive is to ship when we have interesting stuff to ship :-)” (http://windowsteamblog.com/windows_live/b/windowslive/archive/2011/06/20/introducing-skydrive-for-the-modern-web-built-using-html5.aspx ) I guess the same can be said for Hotmail and the rest of Windows Live.

        • http://alexsimkin.tumblr.com/ Alex Simkin

          Oh, good! I used to hate having to wait about a year and a half for new features all in one wave so it was kinda overwhelming. Now it’s great!