Yahoo! has been working on a new beta version of their standard email service. Currently, it is in beta testing to shake the bugs out of it before unleashing it to the general Yahoo! membership. At first glance, it looks to be a force that other email providers will have to reckon with. I’m not sure they will be successful, as the beta is simply awesome.
Although I’ve always been a Yahoo! fan, I have not loved their email. It sported a clunky interface that required too many clicks to get to what was necessary. I resorted to subscribing to a Yahoo! Mail Plus account to be able to get POP access and I have been using a third-party email client — Thunderbird, to be specific — to access my email. Although I love Thunderbird, I will no longer have the need for it with the new beta.
Yahoo! has replaced the old multi-screen interface with one that resembles a third-party client, very similar to Outlook Express or Thunderbird. Graphics are clean and sharp. Presently, it comes in shades of white and grey, but there are hints that colors will be coming as the beta testing continues. The left sidebar has the standard folders, such as the inbox, drafts, sent, spam, and trash folders. One’s personal folders are below. Despite Google’s move toward tags, I still prefer the folder structure and was glad to see it retained. Much of the screen real estate, however is taken up by the Inbox section (tabbed no less) that resembles that of Outlook Express or Thunderbird and lists each email by sender, date, subject, and a column for flags. The bottom portion of the screen, which is resizable, boasts a reading pane. Highlight an email in the list and one can read it in the reading pane below. Double clicking on an email opens it completely in a different tab with more screen space. In short, the Yahoo! interface is effectively an email client.
Yahoo! has also incorporated an RSS Feed reader into the new Yahoo! Mail. It was easy to load my feeds into the reader. Click the “add” button, provide the URL and the feed is added to the list. A small sun burst in the upper right hand corner of the feed icon lets one know that a blog or site has been updated. Highlight the “All RSS Feeds” line and all new articles, regardless of which feed they come from, appear in one screen. There is no need to jump from one feed to another.
Another change is in the Addresses, which is now called Contacts. All my contacts are still there, but now with a much more streamlined look.
Yahoo! still has some improvements to make for me to be completely satisfied. First, many testers complain about the system being slow. In my case, I have not found that to be the case. I’ve found the interface to be fast and very responsive. I like to embed photographs or add images to my emails, but that is not supported yet. I also would like to have the option of having multiple signatures.
Although there are links to the Calendar and Notepad, those areas remain untouched and it feels very disjointed to go between the Calendar and email, as the two look totally different. They simply don’t feel integrated anymore. I’ve even stopped using the calendar because of this. I am hearing, however, that the calendar is also being upgraded and we may see something come from the calendar team soon. Notepad, however, is being neglected at the moment.
My overall impressions are that as the beta is released to a wider audience, other web-based email providers are going to feel the heat, as nothing out there can touch this.