A closer look at Windows Live Metro style apps on Windows 8: Mail and Calendar

By LiveSide | Posted September 20, 2011 62 comments

Last Tuesday Microsoft gave us a first glimpse into the future of Windows Live during its BUILD conference, with Chris Jones, Corporate Vice President of Windows Live, demoing several Windows Live Metro style apps on Windows 8. Unfortunately these new Windows Live apps were not made available in the Windows 8 Developer Preview distributed to the public, leaving many wanting to test them out disappointed. We at LiveSide took the time last week and had closer look at what was demoed during the BUILD conference, and we’ll try our best to show you what we know about these apps. In this first part, we’ll show you what we know about the Mail and Calendar apps, looks to replace the functionalities of Windows Live Mail.

Mail

Windows 8 - Mail

The Mail app powered by Windows Live greatly resembles the one in Windows Phone. By default when you launch the Mail app, you’ll see the Inbox column on the left. Selecting a message in this list will display the actual contents of the email on the right pane. The app bar on the bottom allows you to quickly compose, reply, forward, and delete emails. To select and view a different folder, all you need to do is tap the folder icon on the left of the app bar. The Mail app, similar to Windows Live Mail and the one on Windows Phone, also supports multiple email accounts – whether it be Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo! Mail, or more. And just like its Windows Phone counterpart, Microsoft Exchange accounts are also supported, which is also a significant improvement over Windows Live Mail.

Windows 8 - Mail - Share ContractWhat makes the Mail app different is it’s integration with the Windows 8 Charms. From any Metro-styled apps, with a simple swipe from the right, you can access Charms such as “Share”, which allow you to share things like photos, documents and videos to your contacts via e-mail through the Mail app (see screenshot on the left). We believe the Mail app also integrates tightly with the Search Charm, allowing users to quickly search for the e-mail they’re looking for.

Mail Live TileThe Mail app will also support Live Tiles, displaying your unread count as well as your most recent emails right on your Start screen (shown on the right). Any unread email counts will also be displayed on the Windows 8 lock screen, much like the Windows Phone counterpart.

We’re yet to see whether the Mail app will also support conversation view, as well as many other standard email features like flagging and message rules. But remember not everything was shown during BUILD, so there may be hidden gems that we have yet to discover.

Calendar

Windows 8 - Calendar

Another closely related app is the Calendar app. Also once part of Windows Live Mail, in Windows 8 it appears to be a separate app just like its Windows Phone counterpart. From what we’ve seen, the app does what it says it does, providing a scrollable two-day view, a week view, as well as a month view. You can also add new events using the app bar, which we expect to work very similar to Windows Live Mail and the Windows Phone app. We expect it will sync with your Hotmail Calendar, Exchange calendar, as well as any other calendars coming from Exchange ActiveSync (like Google Calendar). We’re yet to see whether it’ll also pull in your Facebook Calendars like its Windows Phone counterpart does, but with tight Windows Live integration, it seems very probable that it will be included.

Windows 8 Lock ScreenWhile the calendar in Windows Live Mail doesn’t support any alerts or notifications, we expect that this Metro-styled Calendar app to support this, similar to the Windows Phone version. Your upcoming event will also be displayed on the Windows 8 lock screen (as shown on the right), as well as the Calendar Live Tile, making it really easy for you to view your schedule at a glance (particularly on a tablet).

We know these new Windows Live Metro-styled apps are still in its early stages of development, but it appears that Microsoft is going the way of making them work in a similar fashion to their Windows Phone counterpart, which doesn’t necessarily mean a bad thing. In the next part, we’ll give you a closer look at the People and Messaging apps, which seem to be particularly interesting given the various wireless capabilities of Windows 8. Before next time, let us know in the comments what you think of these new Windows Live Metro-styled apps, and if there are anything in particular that you’d like to see in these apps.

Posted September 20th, 2011 at 3:00 am
  • JT

    Exchange support is good. Anything that obviates the need to install Outlook is a good thing IMO.

    I do wonder what’s going to happen to lots of the other options that WL Mail currently offers. For example, I use the “Add to calendar” option for emails quite a bit – with Win8’s apparent push to “slimming down” everything that’s on the app bar – where do options like “add to calendar” go?

    Actually, given the plethora of options available in Word & Excel I suspect they’re going to have an even bigger issue trying to cram all of their features into a metro-style app.

    • Anonymous

      For such things there may be a “…” icon on the appbar that allow you to put all the things that didn’t fit in the Metro UI.

    • Anonymous

      For other applications, I guess they’ll provide a “good” implementation of a ribbon “for Metro Apps” ;-)

  • jkth

    Exchange support is good. Anything that obviates the need to install Outlook is a good thing IMO.

    I do wonder what’s going to happen to lots of the other options that WL Mail currently offers. For example, I use the “Add to calendar” option for emails quite a bit – with Win8’s apparent push to “slimming down” everything that’s on the app bar – where do options like “add to calendar” go?

    Actually, given the plethora of options available in Word & Excel I suspect they’re going to have an even bigger issue trying to cram all of their features into a metro-style app.

    • FremyCompany

      For such things there may be a “…” icon on the appbar that allow you to put all the things that didn’t fit in the Metro UI.

    • FremyCompany

      For other applications, I guess they’ll provide a “good” implementation of a ribbon “for Metro Apps” ;-)

  • Chris

    No use for me. i use google. Manily because I have a google phone but because I love the new web interface on the gmail and google calandar.Its how it should be. no empty space with over sized fonts and static colors. 

    • Tuxplorer

      Gmail and Google calendar UIs suck big time. That’s why I use Hotmail and Windows Live Calendar. And the new Metro UI versions of these apps look simply GORGEOUS. I can’t wait to get my hands on them.

      • Chris

        Correction. The OLD UI sucked. The new one is great.

        Yes there is a new UI on Google services.

        • markiz

          only if you have resolution larger than 1280×720. i have that monitor resolution and the new skin does not fit.

          • Chris

            Doesnt mean it sucks…. then again kids will say anything they have no clue what its about. 

          • markiz

            first of all i’m not a kid. second of all, i never said it sucks, just that it does not fit on my screen. third of all, it does suck. on the google for example, there is now some kind of a bar, and the only thing on that bar is the inscription “Search” and the number of results. all would be well if the bar did not take up half of the screen. the new ui is wasteful to the epic proportions.

          • Chris

            and over sized fonts and static colors and white space isn’t wastefull? 

          • markiz

            if you are referring to metro design language, i don’t know what to tell you. i love it. it works for me. it feels so human. large fonts fit well in the overall look. they are interactive and have clear purpose.

            the example i gave, google.com, the whole bar is not interactive, it’s not even informative. it only says “search” and gives the number of search results. I obviously know where the search results are, and i don’t believe number of results means anything to anybody. it just does not belong there.

            Tell me honestly which one do you like better:
            http://bit.ly/n4IO46
            http://bit.ly/oLP83K

      • Jmikel5110

        the only problem with W live calendar is that multiple calendars don’t all sync with Windows phone calendar. the latter only syncs with the WL master.  still waiting for this functionality

    • john

      No empty space? Are you joking? The new interface they are rolling out wastes more space then any email client I have ever used. Many people have complained about it on the support forums and blogs.

      And quite frankly, I think its ugly. Hotmail is too, but at least the future of the UI looks bright.

    • Galileo Vieira

      You’re referring to the Web interfaces right? Not the Android interface.

      • Chris

        Yes. Unlike you I know what I’m talking about. I’m an american after all… Plus I even said “web interface” in my post. 

        • Galileo Vieira

          So do you prefer to use email+calendaring+chat services via a Web interface or via a local client?

          • Chris

            It used to be local. But I’m on the go a lot now. I have a mac now as well plus I sync my hotmail up with gmail who since getting the new UI has a much better UI then hotmail. Hell yahoos new mail UI looks better. Email shouldn’t have to be boring.

          • Galileo Vieira

            I hear you Chris. I’d say that in terms of functionality and usability, Hotmail’s pretty decent. We won’t discuss taste, obviously, so if you find it boring I totally respect that. You’ll see some new features coming out soon enough. Would love to get your thoughts on those when they’re out. 

    • Guest

      Then stick with Google. What are you doing there on a Windows Live focused post promoting your love for Google?

      • Chris

        Because kid. People are free to love more then one product. I’m sorry to see you think you have to devote your love for one product and one product only. Thats not how the world works kid. Get over it. 

  • Chris

    No use for me. i use google. Manily because I have a google phone but because I love the new web interface on the gmail and google calandar.Its how it should be. no empty space with over sized fonts and static colors. 

    • Tuxplorer

      Gmail and Google calendar UIs suck big time. That’s why I use Hotmail and Windows Live Calendar. And the new Metro UI versions of these apps look simply GORGEOUS. I can’t wait to get my hands on them.

      • Chris

        Correction. The OLD UI sucked. The new one is great.

        Yes there is a new UI on Google services.

        • markiz

          only if you have resolution larger than 1280×720. i have that monitor resolution and the new skin does not fit.

          • Chris

            Doesnt mean it sucks…. then again kids will say anything they have no clue what its about. 

          • markiz

            first of all i’m not a kid. second of all, i never said it sucks, just that it does not fit on my screen. third of all, it does suck. on the google for example, there is now some kind of a bar, and the only thing on that bar is the inscription “Search” and the number of results. all would be well if the bar did not take up half of the screen. the new ui is wasteful to the epic proportions.

          • Chris

            and over sized fonts and static colors and white space isn’t wastefull? 

          • markiz

            if you are referring to metro design language, i don’t know what to tell you. i love it. it works for me. it feels so human. large fonts fit well in the overall look. they are interactive and have clear purpose.

            the example i gave, google.com, the whole bar is not interactive, it’s not even informative. it only says “search” and gives the number of search results. I obviously know where the search results are, and i don’t believe number of results means anything to anybody. it just does not belong there.

            Tell me honestly which one do you like better:
            http://bit.ly/n4IO46
            http://bit.ly/oLP83K

      • Jmikel5110

        the only problem with W live calendar is that multiple calendars don’t all sync with Windows phone calendar. the latter only syncs with the WL master.  still waiting for this functionality

    • john

      No empty space? Are you joking? The new interface they are rolling out wastes more space then any email client I have ever used. Many people have complained about it on the support forums and blogs.

      And quite frankly, I think its ugly. Hotmail is too, but at least the future of the UI looks bright.

    • Galileo Vieira

      You’re referring to the Web interfaces right? Not the Android interface.

      • Chris

        Yes. Unlike you I know what I’m talking about. I’m an american after all… Plus I even said “web interface” in my post. 

        • Galileo Vieira

          So do you prefer to use email+calendaring+chat services via a Web interface or via a local client?

          • Chris

            It used to be local. But I’m on the go a lot now. I have a mac now as well plus I sync my hotmail up with gmail who since getting the new UI has a much better UI then hotmail. Hell yahoos new mail UI looks better. Email shouldn’t have to be boring.

          • Galileo Vieira

            I hear you Chris. I’d say that in terms of functionality and usability, Hotmail’s pretty decent. We won’t discuss taste, obviously, so if you find it boring I totally respect that. You’ll see some new features coming out soon enough. Would love to get your thoughts on those when they’re out. 

    • Guest

      Then stick with Google. What are you doing there on a Windows Live focused post promoting your love for Google?

      • Chris

        Because kid. People are free to love more then one product. I’m sorry to see you think you have to devote your love for one product and one product only. Thats not how the world works kid. Get over it. 

  • Ariel Bermúdez

    It would be very good that the calendar app displays the month view on the left  and the day view you select on the right.

  • Ariel Bermúdez

    It would be very good that the calendar app displays the month view on the left  and the day view you select on the right.

  • Anonymous

    I appreciate the “slimming down of these apps but there is one thing I don’t understand. Windows 8 apps do not seem to want to take advantage of the “…” or ellipsis found on Windows Phone 7 command bars. When you tap these up it brings up a “drawer” of additional commands. Perhaps it is the early nature of the Preview but I would hope this would be a part of the final product. Windows Phone currently displays additional commands in text. While I find that solution to be visually stunning, it is not the most efficient use of space. I personally wish to see the text switched to metro icons that represent commands. The default view when the command “drawer” is pulled out would show the icons as well as the names of their functions directly beneath each one. Which brings me to another inconsistancy with Windows 8 apps: labelling commands. Some apps put the names of commands underneath them while other leave you to guess at what the icon represents. Again the “…” solves this in Windows Phone 7. Even if there are no more additional commands in the app, pressing the “…” brings up labels for the first row of commands. Make it happen Microsoft.

    Right now Windows 8 seems likea  decidely Windows Team way to do Metro on Windows and I don’t mean that in a good way. Some ideas are great but then they are not implemented in a consistant manner. Some things live in Metro but then require you to go to Desktop for additional functionality (aka Control Panel). Some things live entirely in Desktop (looking at you Windows Update and Windows Defender). Multitasking is going to be less powerful than that of Windows Phone 7.5s implementation based off of what I see so far. Notifications (while metrofied) are still appearing as little system pop ups in the bottom right hand corner (?). There is very little consistancy in Windows 8 in general and it seems like even less between it and Windows Phone 7.5. I know by the time Windows 8 ships Windows Phone 8 will also be shipping. I imagine the Windows Phone team will be implementing alot of the functional and design choices that the Windows Team has opted for. Lots of work for the Windows Team these next 12 months. Hope Service Packs will be treated as more of a way to add (NEEDED) features than simple performance updates.

    • Mmmm

      Absolutely agree.

      Windows 8 looks like WP7, but in terms of fit and finish, it does not seem to be at the same level as to WP7 when it was first announced. 

      And by fit and finish I mean the fluidity of transition animation, the consistency and standardization of margins, font sizes and paddings, as well as the coherence of a color scheme. It also lacks a certain development dedication, e.g. every animation in WP7 is meticulously thought out, from People hub’s live tile down to the title of Messaging app. The tiles in W8 always seem to be sliding just up and down, and worse in a rather random and distracting pace. 

      The use of screen space – if you think WP7 is bad (and I think it’s fine) – is definitely wasteful here – they seriously can’t show more than 5 options in one screen for the Photos app? 

      Microsoft seriously needs someone to audit all the design aspects of W8 before shipping, or it may result in an incoherent mess of colors and misalignment. 

      Just two cents from a graphic design perspective.

  • cmwind

    I appreciate the “slimming down of these apps but there is one thing I don’t understand. Windows 8 apps do not seem to want to take advantage of the “…” or ellipsis found on Windows Phone 7 command bars. When you tap these up it brings up a “drawer” of additional commands. Perhaps it is the early nature of the Preview but I would hope this would be a part of the final product. Windows Phone currently displays additional commands in text. While I find that solution to be visually stunning, it is not the most efficient use of space. I personally wish to see the text switched to metro icons that represent commands. The default view when the command “drawer” is pulled out would show the icons as well as the names of their functions directly beneath each one. Which brings me to another inconsistancy with Windows 8 apps: labelling commands. Some apps put the names of commands underneath them while other leave you to guess at what the icon represents. Again the “…” solves this in Windows Phone 7. Even if there are no more additional commands in the app, pressing the “…” brings up labels for the first row of commands. Make it happen Microsoft.

    Right now Windows 8 seems likea  decidely Windows Team way to do Metro on Windows and I don’t mean that in a good way. Some ideas are great but then they are not implemented in a consistant manner. Some things live in Metro but then require you to go to Desktop for additional functionality (aka Control Panel). Some things live entirely in Desktop (looking at you Windows Update and Windows Defender). Multitasking is going to be less powerful than that of Windows Phone 7.5s implementation based off of what I see so far. Notifications (while metrofied) are still appearing as little system pop ups in the bottom right hand corner (?). There is very little consistancy in Windows 8 in general and it seems like even less between it and Windows Phone 7.5. I know by the time Windows 8 ships Windows Phone 8 will also be shipping. I imagine the Windows Phone team will be implementing alot of the functional and design choices that the Windows Team has opted for. Lots of work for the Windows Team these next 12 months. Hope Service Packs will be treated as more of a way to add (NEEDED) features than simple performance updates.

    • Mmmm

      Absolutely agree.

      Windows 8 looks like WP7, but in terms of fit and finish, it does not seem to be at the same level as to WP7 when it was first announced. 

      And by fit and finish I mean the fluidity of transition animation, the consistency and standardization of margins, font sizes and paddings, as well as the coherence of a color scheme. It also lacks a certain development dedication, e.g. every animation in WP7 is meticulously thought out, from People hub’s live tile down to the title of Messaging app. The tiles in W8 always seem to be sliding just up and down, and worse in a rather random and distracting pace. 

      The use of screen space – if you think WP7 is bad (and I think it’s fine) – is definitely wasteful here – they seriously can’t show more than 5 options in one screen for the Photos app? 

      Microsoft seriously needs someone to audit all the design aspects of W8 before shipping, or it may result in an incoherent mess of colors and misalignment. 

      Just two cents from a graphic design perspective.

  • markiz

    the more i see of metro, the more i’m “in love”. hopefully functionality will not suffer much.
    Heavy multitasking seem to be impossible from what i have seen.

  • markiz

    the more i see of metro, the more i’m “in love”. hopefully functionality will not suffer much.
    Heavy multitasking seem to be impossible from what i have seen.

  • caywen

    To me, the ui looks attractive, but a bit too dumbed down. There is a tremendous amount of gratuitous space waste for the sake of ostensible readability, but many email users are coming from the world of thunderbird or outlook. Chromeless isn’t supposed to mean adding centimeters of white space and humungous fonts to delineate logical sections. Overall, I am not entirely happy with that trend, as much as I like the basic tenets of metro.

  • caywen

    To me, the ui looks attractive, but a bit too dumbed down. There is a tremendous amount of gratuitous space waste for the sake of ostensible readability, but many email users are coming from the world of thunderbird or outlook. Chromeless isn’t supposed to mean adding centimeters of white space and humungous fonts to delineate logical sections. Overall, I am not entirely happy with that trend, as much as I like the basic tenets of metro.

  • Владан В.

    I think this is just a prototype, it will definitely look better (hopefully like on Windows Phone, especially Calendar app).

  • Guest

    I think this is just a prototype, it will definitely look better (hopefully like on Windows Phone, especially Calendar app).