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Yahoo! Mail vs GMail vs Windows Live Mail

The 2007 e-mail shootout - GMail vs Windows Live Mail vs Yahoo! Mail Beta - Which web based email is right for you ?

Are you ready for the state of the art, next generation email services which are very comparable to your desktop clients (Microsoft Outlook or its free brother Outlook Express or Mozilla's Thunderbird)? If yes, then you have few choices.

This review of three major free web-based email services will hopefully help you decide which one to go with.

We are talking about, Yahoo Mail Beta (YMB, an upgrade to your yahoo account), Gmail (web-based email service from Google) and Windows Live Mail Beta(WLMB, an upgrade to your existing Hotmail and MSN e-mail accounts).

We will evaluate them based on a set of parameters and see which one excels.

User Interface - Yahoo Mail Beta has probably the neatest interface which gives a non-cluttered look and feel. Their multi-tab view feature makes it very convenient for a user to stay on the same page.

Both Gmail and Windows Live mail lack this feature. Infact, Gmail has the most basic text interface and does not use icons which may help end users easily associate with actions like Reply, Forward, etc. [Winner: Yahoo]

Spam Controls - The spam control filters in Gmail and Yahoo Mail Beta seem to be more efficient than those in Windows Live Mail. But despite all the rules, all these services are found to mark genuine emails as spam so make sure that you check your spam folder at regular periods. [Winner: Gmail]

Storage Space - GMail offers more than 2 GB of storage space which is continuously increasing while Yahoo Mail Beta and Windows Live Mail both provide just 1 GB of storage space. All three email services let you send email attachments up to 10 MB in size. [Winner: GMail]

[If you want more space, try Lycos - it offers 3 GB of storage space and they have removed all restrictions on the email attachment size.]

Speed - In terms of response to user actions and speed of loading, Gmail's AJAX interface is the fastest and then comes Yahoo followed by Windows Live mail. Infact, the AJAX implementation of Windows Live Mail seems to have some bugs and many a times you get a message saying "Working on your request" but nothing really happens. [Winner: GMail]

Advertisements - Both Yahoo and Windows Live Mail have banner advertisements. Gmail has contextual advertising based on the content of your email. The ad placements are non-intrusive and sometimes even help in getting additional information. [Winner: GMail]

Hotmail vs Gmail vs Yahoo! Mail

And here's a list of additional features that are found in one email service but missing in others:

» All email services provide support for sending email in rich text format thought Gmail does not have support emoticons and smileys.

» Windows Live Mail and Gmail let you send email using another email addresses but Yahoo Mail Beta does not.

» With Windows Live Mail, you can flag flag messages as "High Importance" and "Low Importance". Gmail has a similar feature where can star a message.

» Only GMail provides you POP access to access your email messages from a client like Outlook or Thunderbird.

» Only GMail lets you forward emails automatically to another email account.

» Yahoo, Gmail and Windows Live Mail integrate well with their corresponding messenger clients but Gmail provides their messenger even in their web-based email client.

» Yahoo and Windows Live Mail support folders but Gmail has taken a different route, it supports "labels". This allows end user to apply multiple tags to a single message. With folders you are restricted to putting messages in only one folder

» Google Mail can scan your email and automatically suggest events for adding to the Google Calendar. Yahoo Mail shows up any important events for current date from the Yahoo! calendar which is really useful.

» You can open Word/Excel documents received, as attachment, directly in GMail using Google Docs and Spreadsheets. Gmail also provides the ability to view PDF, Word or Excel spreadsheets as text HTML. This feature is useful on machines which do not have Microsoft Word/Excel/Acrobat Reader installed locally or the attachment is too large for downloading.

» Gmail provides a threaded view of the email correspondence, which allows user to keep track of entire conversation. The email conversation can be updated even while the message is open.

Final Thoughts - Although all three email providers have significantly spruced up the email offerings, Yahoo and Gmail are definitely better products.

Yahoo has the best interface - simple, elegant, very easy to use and resembles your desktop software. Like Outlook, you can preview message in the lower third pane without leaving the Inbox view. You can drag and drop messages into folders, messages open as tabs in the same window plus there's an integrated RSS reader that's connected to your MyYahoo! account. Very impressive overall.

Gmail has a simple no-frills interface but offers loads of storage, excellent search capabilities, seamless integration with Google Docs, POP access and powerful labels. This is for geeks and power users.

The author, Vikas Sah, is a Chemical Engineer from IIT Delhi and is currently based in US.

He blogs at on technology and start-ups.