Review: Yahoo! Mail for Windows 8

In the world of web mail, Yahoo – with or without the superfluous exclamation point – has always been viewed as something of the black sheep of the family. Gmail is the cool older brother, while Hotmail/Live Mail was the sibling you were kind of forced into getting along with.

Having rather fallen by the wayside in recent years, Yahoo’s email service has undergone a makeover and there’s a brand new Windows 8 app to go along with it. And, believe it or not, it’s looking pretty good.

Yahoo is an email service that you might have to force yourself to try again. The timing of the release of the app is well thought through though, and if you have taken the time to reinvestigate the redesigned web site and have been pleasantly surprised by what you’ve found, you’re probably going to be similarly impressed by the Windows 8 app.

If you haven’t done so already, now’s a great time to give Yahoo’s web mail a second look.

If you haven’t done so already, now’s a great time to give Yahoo’s web mail a second look.

Being a Windows 8 app, it should come as no surprise that there’s a Start screen tile that can be used to keep track of the number of unread emails you have in your inbox. The value that is placed on this is something that will vary from person to person, but being able to see the subject line of new emails without having to explicitly launch the app is certainly useful.

Yahoo’s Start screen tile gives you a brief overview of the state of your inbox at a glance.

Yahoo’s Start screen tile gives you a brief overview of the state of your inbox at a glance.

App Interface

As is very much the norm for Windows 8 apps, the interface for Yahoo Mail is very clean – some might say sparse. The simple three column view enables you to see you inbox and folders, the contents of the currently selected folder, and then the contents of the currently selected email.

Sparse or clean and uncluttered? You decide what to make of Yahoo’s interface.

Sparse or clean and uncluttered? You decide what to make of Yahoo’s interface.

The uncluttered look extends to the toolbar area of the app where you will find a mere six buttons: reply, reply all, forward, delete, mark as spam and compose. The toolbar is completely free from labels – until your hover a button, at least – and this means that there is, at least initially, potential for confusion.

It would be very easy to mistake the reply button for a back button, and forward for a different type of forward button, and this is particularly true if you are used to accessing Yahoo Mail through the web site. The delete and spam button are also a little close together, and with no undo option it would perhaps have made more sense to have these options available within individual email. This is, however, something you can easily learn to live with.

The app toolbar is very uncluttered, but there is room for confusion when working at speed.

The app toolbar is very uncluttered, but there is room for confusion when working at speed.

App Options

Setting for Yahoo Mail are very few and far between – in fact there are only three or four settings for you to play with. Firstly you can choose to enable or disable an email signature and if you decide to enable it there is the option to customize it.

Yahoo Mail is not the most customizable email app but the basics are covered.

Yahoo Mail is not the most customizable email app but the basics are covered.

Other options are available in the Permissions area of settings where you can choose whether or not the app should be able to generate notifications and show status updates on the lock screen.

App Issues

If there are any complaints to be made about the app it would have to be that it does not necessarily make the best possible use of space. Just as many people complained when Gmail underwent a redesign that resulted in massive linespacing, so the same accusation could be levelled at this app.

Another example of space no being used to its full potential is apparent when multiple messages are selected. When you select two or more messages the focus for toolbar buttons is moved from the top of the screen to the bottom – which, it could be argued – open up the potential for confusion. The preview section of the app window is essentially wasted, with almost half of your screen being given over to indicating how many message you have selected. This area would seem the logical place to put the button you used to perform operations on selected messages.

Select several messages and batch operations are controlled by buttons at the bottom of the screen.

Select several messages and batch operations are controlled by buttons at the bottom of the screen.

A mail app or service is about more than just sending and receiving messages. You would also expect to find an address book to make it easy to manage a list of contacts, but this is something that is, oddly, missing from Yahoo Mail.

Another strange omission means that is it not possible to create folders from within the app to help keep your messages organized.

Summing Up

In terms of looks and speed, Yahoo Mail is a great app; it is not perfect, but it is still very good. There is a slight learning curve to endure, however. That’s not to say that the app is difficult to use, just that it is a very different experience from using the Yahoo web site or a more traditional email client.

There are a few changes that would be of great benefit to users, particularly the ability to create folders and use drag and drop or keep things organized. These are forgivable oversights in version 1 of an app, but more is to be expected from as big a name as Yahoo; despite these issues, the app is still great overall.


Summary

A wonderfully speedy and good looking app that will be welcomed by Yahoo Mail users.

9