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Using Windows Live Programs (part 2) - Using Windows Live Mail

3/15/2011 10:13:52 PM

3. Using Windows Live Mail

Windows Live Mail is the successor to Windows Mail, introduced with Windows Vista. Windows Mail, in turn, replaced Outlook Express, the e-mail client and newsgroup reader that was included with Microsoft Windows XP and other earlier versions of Windows. Windows Live Mail provides numerous improvements over its forebears. Among them

  • In addition to Hotmail accounts, Windows Live Mail supports other popular web-based e-mail systems, including Gmail and Yahoo! Mail. And Windows Live Mail brings mail from all these sources, as well as POP3 and IMAP e-mail accounts, into a unified inbox.

  • You can send high-resolution photos to e-mail recipients—without overloading the recipients' inboxes or clogging their slow internet connection. Windows Live Mail embeds photo thumbnails—optionally enhanced with caption text, templates, and picture frames—in the message. If you create the message while you're signed in to Windows Live Mail with a Windows Live ID, the photos in the message can be linked to full-size images on a website. Windows Live Mail also includes basic photo-editing tools for touching up photos before mailing.

  • Content feeds from sites that support Really Simple Syndication (RSS) go directly to folders in your inbox.

  • Windows Live Mail is tightly integrated with other Windows Live programs, including Windows Live Messenger (you can see when your contacts are online, for example), Windows Live Writer (you can start a blog post from an e-mail message), and Windows Live Photo Gallery (you can use it to view photo attachments).

Windows Live also incorporates contact-management and calendar functionality that used to be supplied via separate applications in Windows Vista.

Windows Live Mail and Windows Live ID Accounts

A Windows Live ID isn't required for using Windows Live Mail. However, certain features are available only with a Windows Live ID:

  • You must be signed in to Windows Live to send photo e-mail messages—messages that simultaneously send to your recipient thumbnail images and a link to full-size images on a Windows Live server.

  • Various instant messaging functions—including voice calls and text messages to mobile phones—are available only when you're signed in to Windows Live.

  • You can publish a blog post from Windows Live Mail only when you're signed in to Windows Live.

  • You must be signed in to Windows Live to view your online contacts list—the same one that you see if you use a web browser to view your Hotmail account. If you're not signed in to Windows Live, your local contacts list, which is completely independent of the online list, appears.

3.1. Creating a Mail Account

If you start Windows Live Mail without already having established a mail account, the program guides you through the steps necessary to create your first account. If you need to create an additional account, or if you declined to set one up at your first opportunity and are ready now to create your first account, click the Mail icon in the lower left corner of the Windows Live Mail window, and then click Add An E-Mail Account (near the bottom of the Folder pane). In the ensuing dialog box (see Figure 3), you'll be asked to supply your e-mail address, password, and display name. This dialog box gives you the chance to change the way your name is presented to recipients of your e-mail messages. Provide your account logon information, type your name as you want others to see it, and then click Next.

Figure 3. Click the Get A Free E-Mail Account link if you want to obtain a new Windows Live Hotmail account.


The Remember Password option in this dialog box is selected by default. If you're concerned that someone else might try to use your computer to access your e-mail account, clear the check box. You'll then be prompted for the password the first time you send or retrieve mail in each Windows Live Mail session.

If your e-mail account is with Hotmail, you're done! For accounts with other e-mail services, the next steps vary, but the wizard provides plenty of guidance. For example, if you're setting up a Gmail account and you haven't already enabled IMAP access in Gmail, the wizard provides a link to detailed instructions for making this simple change. Windows Live Mail knows the rest of the necessary configuration settings for well-known mail services, such as Gmail and Yahoo! Mail.

For accounts with lesser-known services, the wizard asks you to provide details about your mail server. You'll need to supply server addresses for your inbound and outbound mail. If you're not sure what to enter in this dialog box, contact your internet service provider (ISP) or network administrator. Windows Live Mail supports three server protocols for inbound mail: HTTP, POP3, and IMAP. After you've supplied the logon information, click Next and then Finish. You're ready to use your new account.

3.2. Creating a News Account

Creating a newsgroup account is similar to creating a mail account, except that you provide the address of a Network News Transfer Protocol (NNTP) server instead of mail servers. Click the Newsgroups icon in the lower left corner of the Windows Live Mail Window, and then click Add A Newsgroup Account; a wizard then leads the way. On the first two pages, provide your display name (the name that other newsgroup users will see when you post or reply to messages) and your return e-mail address. On the third page, supply the server details. If your news server does not require you to log on (many do not), leave the My News Server Requires Me To Log On option unselected. Most internet service providers maintain an NNTP server for use by their subscribers. If you're setting up access to a private news server or if you subscribe to a commercial news server—that is, a news server that does require a logon—select this option, and then supply logon details on the ensuing page.

3.3. Subscribing to an RSS Feed

With its message-based system of displaying feeds, along with the ability to search the content of all the RSS messages you receive, Windows Live Mail is a reasonably good RSS feed reader. One weak spot is its process for subscribing to feeds, which you do by clicking the Feeds icon in the lower left corner of the Windows Live Mail window and then clicking Add Feed. You then see a dialog box that asks for a single piece of information: the URL of the RSS feed. Windows Live Mail doesn't offer to visit the site or seek out the URL in any other fashion; you need to know it already. For this reason, the better way to add RSS feeds is to set up your subscriptions in Internet Explorer.

3.4. Setting Security Options

Before you begin using Windows Live Mail, you should open the menu (click the dropdown arrow on the menu button, directly to the left of the Help button), choose Safety Options, and then click the Security tab to review your security settings. Make sure that the following options are selected:

  • Restricted Sites Zone (More Secure)

  • Warn Me When Other Applications Try To Send Mail As Me

Both are selected by default, but it's a good idea to check anyway.

Windows Live Mail shares the settings for the two most restrictive security zones available in Internet Explorer—the Internet zone and the Restricted Sites zone. By setting Windows Live Mail to follow the security restrictions observed in the Restricted Sites zone, you get the maximum protection that you have set for this zone in Internet Explorer. This setting goes a long way toward warding off potential viruses and Trojan horses. If something does make it past your defenses, the Warn Me option will provide protection against viruses that replicate themselves by trying to hijack Windows Live Mail and its mail-sending capabilities.

It's worth noting that ActiveX controls and scripts are always disabled in Windows Live Mail, even if you've enabled them in the corresponding security zone for Internet Explorer. Also, the Warn Me capability is useless against modern viruses and worms that incorporate their own SMTP server to send infected messages without getting involved with Windows Live Mail.

3.5. Managing Contacts

To get to the contacts feature of Windows Live Mail, which is called Windows Live Contacts and runs in a separate application window, click Contacts in the lower left corner of Windows Live Mail—or press Ctrl+Shift+C.

Adding contacts is straightforward; click New, in the upper left corner of Windows Live Contacts, and enter data. The contact form is tabbed. Click Contact, right below Quick Add in the tab array at the left side of the window, to get to the most essential part of the form. Here you can enter several phone numbers and e-mail addresses. If your contact has multiple e-mail addresses, use the Primary E-Mail Address drop-down list to specify which one Windows Live Mail should use as default.

Windows Live Contacts initially shows your contacts in a view comparable to Tiles in Windows Explorer. If you prefer a list, choose View, List. Many columns are available in addition to the few that are shown by default. Right-click a column heading and choose Add Column to see the possibilities:

Inside Out: Import existing contacts into Windows Live Contacts

Windows Live Contacts is integrated with other parts of Windows Live; if you add a contact in Windows Live Messenger, for example, that person will appear in Windows Live Contacts as well. Windows Live Contacts is completely un-integrated with the Windows Explorer Contacts folder (which lives, by default, at %UserProfile%\Contacts). The latter can be a useful repository of contact information if you do not use Windows Live, but because Windows Live does not share its information with this Windows Explorer folder, the redundancy can be a source of confusion. If you already have contacts in %UserProfile%\Contacts but don't plan to use the folder any more, you might want to import those items into Windows Live Contacts. To do this, open the drop-down menu in Windows Live Contacts and then choose Import, Address Book For Current Windows User. Be aware that the import process will make no attempt to deal with duplicate entries. You might want to scroll through your list after importing and delete any duplications you find.

Windows Live Contacts can also import sets of data from Microsoft Outlook and from comma-separated values (.csv) files, as well as individual business card (.vcf) records.

3.6. Using the Calendar

Windows Calendar, a separate application in Windows Vista, has become a feature of Windows Live Mail in Windows 7. To get to it, click Calendar in the lower left corner of Windows Live Mail. The calendar feature is an easy-to-use scheduling application that can display multiple calendars (yours and your spouse's, for example). If you are signed in with a Windows Live ID, the calendar you work with from within Windows Live Mail is synchronized with the Calendar web service in Windows Live. In the latter context, on the web, you can share your calendar with selected other users and subscribe to public calendars (arts calendars, calendars of athletic events, notices of public meetings, and so on); subscribed calendar information can be updated automatically at specified time intervals. The web-service calendar also includes to-do list and agenda functions that are absent in the Windows Live Mail calendar.

Initially, three calendars are included: one for your appointments and events, a second for birthdays that you have entered in your contacts records, and a third for your country's holidays. The names of these calendars appear in the left pane of the window, with check boxes:

Calendars are color-coded. If you don't like the default color for a calendar, click its name and choose Properties. To hide a calendar, clear its check box. To add a calendar, click the drop-down arrow beside New, at the left edge of the toolbar, and then choose Calendar. To delete a calendar, click its name and choose Delete (note that the birthday calendar cannot be deleted; if you don't want it, hide it).

Entering an appointment is straightforward: select the appropriate calendar location, and click New on the toolbar. In the New Event form you'll find, in addition to the customary date and time fields, a versatile set of recurrence and reminder options. If you are signed in with your Windows Live ID, you can specify that your reminders be sent to any combination of your e-mail address, Windows Live Messenger, or your mobile device. To express your wishes in this regard, open the menu (press Alt+M or click the Menus icon) and choose Deliver My Reminders To.

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