Software Development

Dealing with Windows 8 Mail

The Mail app that arrives with Windows 8 is essentially a web mail system and has no tools to set mail rules or automate spam deletion. But can one man get by on that alone?

In my last column, I discussed the new IE10 available on the Windows 8 modern UI. The other apps I use frequently on the Windows Surface RT are Mail, People, Calendar, and News.

(Screenshot by Tony McSherry/TechRepublic)

The Mail app was initially disappointing for my partner, who has been a long-time user of Outlook on the desktop. It is essentially a web mail system and has no tools to set mail rules or automate spam deletion, etc. These functions are now moved to your mail server, and whether it may be Gmail, Exchange, or Outlook.com/Windows Mail, you are expected to set up any of those requirements on the server using a browser. Outlook users may also be confused by not having an integrated Contact list and Calendar, until they realise that these are now separate apps — although they have the same degree of interconnection as Outlook.

Mail offers the familiar three-column view of Outlook, with your mail providers and folders in the first column, a list of emails, and the content of a selected email in the third column. You may select multiple emails by right-clicking with the mouse or a making a tick gesture with a finger. This will also pop up a bottom menu allowing you to move the emails to other folders, or mark them as read or unread. You can also use the Trash icon at the top right of the screen to delete them.

(Screenshot by Tony McSherry/TechRepublic)

Clicking or selecting the Add or Reply button at the top right of the screen will take you to a full screen to compose your message. As you begin to type in the To input field, it will display a scrollable list of matching People, or you can simply click or touch the plus sign next to the field to directly select from the People app.

(Screenshot by Tony McSherry/TechRepublic)

When you are entering your text, you can swipe up from the bottom or right-click to display the text-formatting controls. These allow for font selection, bold/italic/underlined text, colour, and emoticons. You may also save a draft, add attachments, or paste information or images. The More button gives you formatted lists and Undo and Redo.

Adding an account or editing account properties is, as usual, available with the Settings charm.

(Screenshot by Tony McSherry/TechRepublic)

Account properties will vary depending on the type of account, and Mail will support Exchange or Outlook accounts as well as the familiar Gmail. POP3 accounts are not supported. You may redirect mail from these accounts to Outlook.com or another web mail server to retrieve them in Mail. Microsoft also suggested seeing if your email provider supports IMAP or EAS instead. Nevertheless, the lack of support for POP3 accounts may cause difficulty for some potential users.

Account settings allows you to select how often to download new emails, what type of content to sync (which may include contacts and calendar), whether to automatically download email images, and whether to use an email signature.

I'm used to the complexity of Outlook, with its multiple icons and menus, as well as browser-based email systems, so the deceptive simplicity of the Mail app was at first a little confusing. For a mouse user, right-click no longer brings up menus but instead selects emails, there's no drag and drop, but the usual Ctrl/Shift with mouse left-click selection functions. I was puzzled as to how to select multiple emails with touch, until a quick web search showed me the tick gesture (touch the email and then slide to the right).

However, the consistency of the modern UI makes it easy to use even unfamiliar apps. Your Search and Settings are available from the right side of the screen, context-sensitive bottom and top menus will appear if you swipe or right-click, and clicking or swiping the left side of the screen will display your currently running apps and allow you to swap between them.

I've now replaced my Outlook desktop and web applications, as well as browser access to my Gmail account, with the Mail app on Windows Phone 8, Surface RT, and Windows 8 desktop. Having my email available under the same tile on multiple devices is worth it, despite some of the restrictions I've mentioned.

However, despite the spam winnowing of my various mail servers, I'm still getting spam (although the most offensive seem to be disappearing) and having to go to the browser to use the tools on my web mail servers to block domain names etc is annoying. I hope there will be some improvement in this area in future updates.

About

Tony is the owner and managing director of Microcraft eLearning and is one of the creators of the AUTHOR eLearning Development System.

16 comments
Rocco Basso
Rocco Basso

Is it possible to add formatting to an email signature? I wan't one line to be bold all the time, seems pretty simple, but the mail app won't let me do that in the signature box and removes it when I copy and past in

sandeepgambhir
sandeepgambhir

I have started using mail app that comes with windows 8, but when I try to view an old attachment of mail, attachment sign is very much there, but I can't see any attachment. It is so very frustrating. Can somebody help me on this?

erikaford
erikaford

I've adapted pretty well to Windows 8 on my Surface and phone, but here's my whinge - the mail app really sucks. I keep Outlook on it's tile next to my mail app, and at least once a week I deal with the uninvited spammers and add them to blocked lists, clear deleted files and generally do the housework! Really hoping Microsoft get this sorted in future upgrades, it's really letting the side down!

chrisbedford
chrisbedford

I don't get Windows 8, and I don't get this new Mail app. I am at the moment setting up a new PC for a little old lady who was challenged enough as it is with WinXP and Outlook Express - how in the name of all that's sacred do I explain to her that so shut down the computer, instead of clicking Start - Shut down - Shut down, she now has to find the Start menu screen (whatever the hell it's called - the Big Blue one with all the tiles, and who knows how to get to that *consistently* and simply? Sometimes hitting the Windows key gets me there, sometimes Esc, sometimes I bang and swipe around all over the place before I find it) THEN it's a simple matter of moving the mouse a-a-a-a-l-l the way over to the right, carefully going down the bottom corner, waiting for the so-called "charms", clicking the "Settings" one, then clicking "Power" and only *then* "Shut Down". How bizarre. Can someone please explain how this is more productive? And as for Mail - "sorry, we don't do POP3". Actually, they don't even say sorry. You just have to use IMAP, which is great if your ISP happens to support it and better still if they let you keep a big mailbox; but her in the Third World a 50 MB limit is more or less typical, with some offering larger (2 GB is the biggest I have come across) but at a price. More to the point, a little old lady who doesn't have a tablet or smart phone and pretty much only uses the PC to communicate with the grandchildren across the ocean, hardly has a need for IMAP or anything fancier than the POP3 she has been comfortable with for 10 years. Why go to the trouble of creating a whole new mail client when they have only just started getting Windows Live Essentials into a decently workable state? Seems to me the whole "change for the sake of change" brigade has well and truly taken over at Redmond and they are forcing it down our throats. Not that that is anything new, of course.

KJSanders
KJSanders

I don't like the mail app as it is too limited. Must set up folders on web account before you can use them in the app. Also no empty button to get rid of deleted/junk emails. Cannot set up a group mailing. Cannot figure out how to sync Outlook 2010 calendar with the calendar app either. Hope Microsoft makes some changes in the next updates. So I will continue to use Outlook 2010.

TNT
TNT

Not having bullet/number lists and indents is the biggest frustration for me. Even Live and Outlook Express could handle that. But I'v ebeen using it as my only email program for 3 months now so it is workable. I imagine someone will create a better mail app for RT. I also imagine MS will upgrade this 1.0 application and include some of the missing features.

hometoy
hometoy

At least that should allow you to install Thunderbird if Mail is not to your liking. Unfortunately RT users don't get that option (unless I am wrong and it is in the store)

Gisabun
Gisabun

Microsoft is expected to release a Windows 8 RT release of Outlook. When? Who knows.

chamma@ccr.ca.gov
chamma@ccr.ca.gov

I believe that the Windows RT mail app is probably comparable to the Microsoft Mail app in Windows 95/98. It got people in the door, but it is not a substitute for a full-featured suite like Outlook.

radleym
radleym

... who declared the Playbook a disaster for not including a 'native' mail app. At least it could be paired with a phone for sophisticated mail functionality. Can W8?

amj2010
amj2010

report it to Hotmail...........

tonymcs
tonymcs

Text formatting is available for emails on the bottom menu. The More button will give you a pop-up for numbered and bulleted lists.

eileenone
eileenone

@hometoy absolutely love Thunderbird Mail.....it was that mail that I turned to when Windows 8 almost drove me nuts.

th3_sniff
th3_sniff

the free option of windows live mail