Windows Live Mail: slow, bloated, and not very usable

I wrote about Windows Live Mail before, back when it was apparently having some server problems. Those problems have been solved, but the issue of quality and usability remains. While I don’t like uninformed bashing of Microsoft products just for the sake of doing so, Windows Live Mail has some real problems with usability that need to be resolved before it goes out of beta and becomes “live”.

Slow

First of all, Windows Live Mail is quite slow to load – considerably slower than Gmail or even the previous Hotmail – the main page takes quite a while to load before you can even do anything. I’m not sure if it’s because of the server-side scripts they’re using, or whether it’s due to the potentially huge amount of client-side scripting they’re doing – I didn’t bother to look, and why should I? The fact remains that it’s slow to load, and this detracts from the “rich experience” quality significantly. Microsoft is obviously concerned about making this web application perform more like a regular desktop app, with all their Ajax-like features in the interface. However, the first thing they should be concerned about is responsiveness – no one’s going to care about anything else if things are slow to load.

Usability

I don’t like the default right-pane preview, but thankfully the preview pane can be moved to the bottom or turned off completely. However, you can’t resize the ratio between preview pane and message list, unless you’re using, you guessed it, Internet Explorer. I thought this sort of underhanded action was a remnant of the browser wars of the late 1990’s, but apparently not, as this is the case with other Live services, it seems. I refuse to believe that Microsoft doesn’t have developers smart enough to work through compatibility issues; thus this must be part of the bottom line to increase Microsoft market share. (However, note that I have issues with offline e-mail clients such as Thunderbird as well)

Another problem is that it’s hard to select multiple messages. Normally in web-mail clients, standard checkboxes are used to select messages; even the old Hotmail does this. Microsoft, however, elects to use JavaScript-enhanced checkboxes that, when not checked, or hovered over, look like envelopes. While it’s nifty, it violates the usability rule of commonality, and furthermore, they messed it up, bigtime. In order to properly check a message, you must click right in the middle of the scriptized checkbox. Click just to the left or right, and you end up selecting the message for the preview pane, which coincidentally, results in only that message being checked off, and all others being deselected. At first I thought this peculiar problem was a result of using Firefox, but in IE, the problem remains. Imagine my dismay when I had checked off a dozen or so spam e-mails for deletion, only to miss the checkbox on the last one, and be forced to recheck all of them again.

Spam

Which brings me to my next point – the spam filters on Hotmail or Windows Live Mail don’t seem to be as good as on Gmail. However, this may be just because it’s been around for much longer than Gmail, and hence, is targetted more by spammers.

The memory remains

Thankfully, there is a “basic” version of Windows Live Mail that resembles the “old” Hotmail. No fancy JavaScript-enhanced checkboxes, just a plain-old list that you click on to see an e-mail message. Plain, simple, and easy to understand, and no blatant use of Ajax just for the sake of it. It actually looks a little more simple than Hotmail, and you can guarantee I’ll be using this version of Windows Live Mail on my accounts when it comes out of beta, or sticking with Gmail. (I opted on of my Hotmail accounts into the Windows Live Mail beta program for this test.)

21 Comments »

  1. I couldn’t agree more with your comments (and I am glad to learn it wasn’t just my malcoordination that was preventing me from using the check boxes). I am giving it till I get back from holidays, and if it hasn’t improved I will be moving to Gmail. Given the hassle involved in changing addresses (i.e. informing friends and companies, changing mailing list subscriptions) it indicates the extent of the hash Microsoft have made of this that I will even consider quitting.

  2. I’m also hoping that the developers on Microsoft can overcome these problems. I’m sure they read the feedback on their products, such as Live Mail, on the Internet, so I hope they’re aware of these problems.

    Personally, I think a lot of the problems come from the fact that they’re trying too hard to “one-up” Gmail. They’re using way too much JavaScript/Ajax for something simple like webmail, and this results in the interface being not only cumbersome, but slow to respond. Gmail gets it right – they only use Ajax to enhance small areas of the application, not every single action – and thus avoid the slowdowns that Live Mail has because of all the client-side scripting. (Though Gmail’s not without its problems too, mainly accessibility, though they’ve improved that by making basic versions available.)

    Whenever I really want to test the usability of a program, I give it the “Mom” test – that is, I get my Mom to use it. She’d been on Hotmail but when she opted into the Windows Live Mail beta, she was so put off by the interface she switched over to Gmail completely, and hasn’t had a problem with it.

    Admittedly, any time you change the interface to a commonly-used program, you’ll get complaints – but here I believe a lot of the complaint’s aren’t just about change, but about real usability problems.

  3. Hi,
    I’ve been a hotmail acc holder since 1997 and this beta window is truly awful.The worst viewing panes in the world.I don’t claim to be any computer whizz and have little or no interest whether systems are compliant with another, the microsoft conspiracy!!
    They do seem to have forgotten oe thing tho.Regardless of what pretty colours you can customize a system such as hotmail with, or what great flash adverts you can have constantly moving – IF THE SYSTEM IS RUBBISH IN GENERAL – it is not fit for use.If my hotmail account was something i’d bought from a shop i’d return it.UNfit for use.
    Sorry for the little rant.They have even managed to destroy the basic system.Why did they have to do that.ok release the beta, let the 15yr olds get all giggley cos it’s new and shiny.But let the rest of use carry on as normal until your’ve ironed out any , if any improvements.
    Windows beta- smells distinctly like what the mobile phone companies done.Mobiles do 101 things now from video to spreadsheets. But 99% of them never do anything apart from phone and text, calculator and alarm clock.hUge investment no returns.Maybe microsoft should look around at the world a little closer.

  4. The regular version of Windows Live Mail really is too slow and bloated for me – I agree. You also have a very good point about developers adding “too many” features, resulting in a huge feature set, 99% of which is never really used by the majority because it’s not practical.

    Whenever I use Windows Live Mail, it’s always in “Basic” mode, which is actually usable.

  5. WLM is best among all the webmails if you consider only the look and feel of it. otherwise it’s quite slow. Other things I have noticed that if somebody gets a mail with 10-15 small attachments then while forwarding that mail all the attachements arranged in a vertical way on the top of the compose section and there remains no space for futher writing. This is bug.

  6. If you hold ctrl you can select multiple boxes

  7. Thanks for the tip – selecting multiple messages is now easier! However, while holding CTRL restores “normal” functionality to the checkboxes, I don’t think this should have been required.

  8. I only like that you can click the first mail and shift click the last and select all the email in between. I have been using live beta just cause its easy to delete junk. I have experienced the opening a mail when i just wanted to click the box as well.

  9. I really hate this windows live hotmail…
    Its damn slow al though I have 256Kbps connection..even its not letting me to go to my previous changes..I dunno why this live hotmail is necessary…It sucks…

  10. Sigh of Relief!!

    ITS not the CPU!

    Believe me I just crawled out from under my desk with a can of Super Duster in my hand. I was actually contemplating buying a new computer, thinking I’d made too many changes to my Old Faithful Compaq Upgrade or something. I thought the CPU was working so hard (100% most of the time) on IExplorer because it was slowly developing a heat problem or something like that.

    I just found this site by googling “Windows Live Slow” out of curiosity. I’ve actually resorted to using an old MSN8 program I keep on my HD for dialup as a backup in case Comcast lets me down again, as it does from time to time. I love that old Hotmail drop down which lets me access all of my mail at one time instead of having to go through page after page.

    SPEED IS WHAT I NEED, when I play Wall Street in real time. I just lost a thousand dollars, (made only 400 instead of 1400) because I was waiting for this damned program to load, so I could check some financial news, so I missed the Bernanke bail-out, for a long while.

    BTW before I go, could I still have a CPU problem since my CPU is still going 100% on iexplore as I write? Is that normal? Also, my HD is almost maxed out,so could that cause the CPU to work harder than usual? Anyone?

  11. YES IT IS PURE CRAP!!!!
    slower than postal mail, i might as well buy a roll of stamps!
    WHY do they feel they must constantly change things? hotmail used to work, now this stupid hunk of garbage called windows live mail has made me start searching for something that i can compose & send an email in under 15 minutes!!
    it also doesnt work with outlook express!!
    who’s faster?
    who should i switch to?

  12. ADS. if they stopped the ads and trackers, it would be faster. I tested it with AdMuncher on, and off. If you block the ads, it just keeps thinking it has to keep loading them and you never get to open your mail. I turned off AdMuncher and it worked reasonably, but my other adware and spyware program detected multiple 127.0.0.1 loops from this site. Nearly as bad as YAHOO the way they sneakily put trackers, loggers and other unscrupulous “BadWare” in a program and tell you it is “Clean”.

    Anyway. It’s been over 15 mins now with ad blocker on and mail screen is still trying to load (that bar on the bottom right).

  13. OOPS, Bottom left “Loading..” zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

  14. Please boycott Windows Live or hotmail. ITS WAY TOO SLOW! Please switch to Gmail.

    Down with Windows Live™
    Down with Hotmail
    Anti-Windows Live™
    Anti-Hotmail

    They are going from bad to worst. I urged everyone to migrate to using Gmail.

  15. Good god MS, fix this thing, it’s not live, it’s dead. Slow and disfuntional. Dont wait another 2 years or whatever speed is what we want. Take the bells & whistles and give’m back to Santa. Today!

  16. Its not slow for me… hah ms haters…

  17. I don’t care for all the fancy stuff. I want to be able to open my mail, read it and process it without waiing 2 or 3 minutes between functions!
    I still have dial-up access at home (in the sticks) and I pretty much avoid trying to even sign on to hotmail while there. At my workplace we have fiberoptic connection and hotmail is so slow there I only open it when absoutly necessary and if I have a spare 15 – 20 minutes (almost never. PLEASE GET THIS ADDRESSED!!

  18. I don’t use Live Mail but and trying to help my wife out of a bind. How do you switch to the basic mode?

  19. We support multiple ‘regular’ users, which don’t always clean up their mail or close their programs properly. It’s been raining WLM complaints since the day we’ve introduced it.

    For us WLM is all of the following (any version of it):
    – Slow to start up
    – Slow handling anything more than 10 mails in the inbox.
    – Slow to handle attachments
    – Unstable, likes to crash randomly
    – Has a default 5 minute first startup when you launch it, after that, you can actually click and select stuff in it.
    – An absolute pain in the…neck…

    Frankly anti-virus developers should quarantie and delete WLM automatically like any other malicious coding.

  20. I upgraded to windows 7 from XP. I wish 100 times over I had never done that. Outlook express which I loved so much for the ease and speed is now gone. It takes over 10 minutes for live mail to open. If I click on most any icon it whites out and takes another 10 minutes to come back. The entire time it Task manager tells me Windows Live Mail is not responding. I go make a cup of coffee and vola.. its back. I am afraid to use it for fear it will freeze with every key stroke. I don’t know what to do. I have a new computer with 8 gig of Ram and a terabyte hard drive. everything screams. It is a very nice fast CPU….. until you touch live mail. It is totally frustrating and unusable. How do I find another email program that I can switch to and not loose all my email history that goes back several years.

  21. This is my second blog here. I’m on 24Mbps download, so my speed is not an issue here. I run 6 core AMD 1055T with 8 GB RAM, Win7 64 bit.

    HERE WE GO AGAIN: –

    Why do I have to end the process tree WLIDSVC.EXE (includes WLDSVCM) 3 times before it actually quits from memory?

    Why doesn’t the WLIDSVC.EXE and the WLIDSVCM.EXE close from memory when WL Mail and Messenger is closed.

    Why is it so slow to upload a basic small file?

    Why is it so slow to download a basic small file?

    Why is this program so freeeeeeeeeekin HUUUUUUUGE?

    Why is this program so bloated with POXWARE?

    Why is this program so overly bloated with useless bells and whistles?

    Why oh why does this program make the crapware/spyware/bugware YAHOO look good now.

    Why oh why can’t we get optional “OUTS” of some portions of the unnecessarily included crapware.

    Why oh why is it mandatory to update this BS every time there is an update if we need to continue using this program.

    Are the programmers really a bunch of corporate numbskulls that think bigger is better? YEP!

    More on this increasingly unuseable program later.

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