Friday, October 23, 2009

What's the Best Free Webmail Service?

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Vol. 9, #83 - Aug 11, 2009 - Issue #391



 What's the Best Free Webmail Service?


  1. Editor's Corner
    • What's the Best Free Webmail Service?
    • Follow-up: Killer Apps
    • Quotes of the Week

  2. Cool Tools
    • Tools We Think You Shouldn't Be Without

  3. News, Hints, Tips and Tricks
    • Avoid this problem when setting up XP/Win7 dual boot
    • XP Mode RC now available
    • How to use MSCONFIG to diagnose XP boot problems
    • Nvidia's new netbook graphics platform aimed at XP

  4. How To: Using XP Features
    • How to increase the space for icon text

  5. XP Security News
    • Nine security patches coming for August

  6. XP Question Corner
    • XP destroys my system restore files on Vista

  7. XP Configuration and Troubleshooting
    • Safe Boot Options in XP
    • You don't get the option to install SP3 when you use Windows Update

  8. Fav Links
    • This Week's Links We Like. Tips, Hints And Fun Stuff

  9. Product of the Week
    • WebCam Monitor : Turn your PC and Camera into a Motion /Sound Detector Video Security and Surveillance System.






Kiss Your Antivirus Bloatware Goodbye

We asked users of antivirus products what they didn't like about their AV software. They told us they are resource hogs and slowed their computer down. They told us that scan times took way too long, and that the AV software nagged them. In short, old-style AV software takes too much Memory and CPU. Time to switch to VIPRE! It gives you malware protection that combines antivirus, antispyware, anti-rootkit and other technologies into a seamless, tightly-integrated product. Even if you run "free" antivirus software, it hijacks 20% of your PC, so it's really not free at all! Get VIPRE now and see how fast your PC can really be:
http://www.wxpnews.com/3UDXV2/090811-VIPRE





 Editor's Corner

What's the Best Free Webmail Service?

Last week, we discussed "killer apps" and whether web applications can ever replace the "real thing" on the local computer. More about that in the follow-up. Meanwhile, this past week I spent some time with the three most popular webmail services: Hotmail, Gmail and Yahoo! Mail. My opinions are, of course, only opinions, and yours may differ due to personal preferences and how you use the services. Here are my impressions of the good, bad and ugly pertaining to each.

I've used Hotmail and Gmail for a long time, but I use the web interfaces only when I absolutely have to - that is, when I'm forced to use a computer other than one of my own (and thus one that doesn't have Outlook installed and set up to get the mail from those accounts). This past week, I bit the bullet and worked with the web apps for those mail services, and I also set up a Yahoo! Mail account to see how it compared. Here are my experiences:

First I discovered that Yahoo is really serious about keeping kids from signing up without parental permission. I mistyped the birth year on the signup page (which asks for way too much information, in my opinion) and consequently got a message saying "Please get your mom or dad." I went back and put in the right birthdate, but Yahoo! didn't care - it kept giving me the same stupid message, even when I started over completely. I tried deleting cookies - nope. I tried using a different alternate email account. I tried using a completely different name, birthdate and alternate email account. Kept getting the message to get my mom or dad. Screw this up once and you can forget about signing up. I also discovered that in order to give parental consent for your child to sign up, you have to provide a credit card (which will be charged fifty cents).

I suppose, from the point of view of the parent of a young child, this is a good thing. But couldn't they just make you answer a series of questions that a minor wouldn't be able to answer, like "name all four of the Monkees and tell us which one was under 5'5" tall" or "Who performed the first heart transplant" or "Who played the role of the flying nun?" Finally I managed to sign up for an account, using a different browser on a different computer. Now I had all three inboxes open, in separate browser windows, for comparison purposes. Hotmail has the cleanest interface, with fewer buttons across the top. Gmail has the busiest interface, making it the most difficult for quickly finding the right link to perform simple functions. Gmail has the least total space taken up by advertising - but the ads are incorporated into the mail interface itself, whereas the larger ads on Hotmail and Yahoo! are instantly recognizable as ads and thus easier to ignore.

The default view for Hotmail and Yahoo! include a preview pane; Gmail doesn't. A quick look at the Settings doesn't turn up a way to turn one on. To me, this is one of the primary reasons I hate the Gmail web interface. I don't want to have to open a message to read its contents. I like that with Hotmail, I can quickly and easily (from the Options menu) choose to place the reading pane on the bottom or right, or turn it off if I wanted to. This means I can set it up so the display is more like Outlook, with the message list in the middle and the previewed message on the right.

I do like that Yahoo! Mail gives you quick access to your calendar and notepad in the left folders pane. I don't like that when I opened the calendar, it had an ad (the same ad) on every single day of the week. In Day view, this is no big deal. In Week or Month view, it's extremely annoying because it takes up the entire day's space on the calendar. And if you add your own appointments or events, they show up after the ad, making the month view for the calendar (which is my preferred view) essentially worthless.

Making your own folders is much easier with Yahoo! than with either of the other two services. There is a My Folders section in the left pane and you just click the Add button and there's your new folder. Name it, and then drag and drop mail messages into it. Creating a new folder in Hotmail requires you to go into the Manage Folders interface, click the New button and get another screen where you type the folder name, then you can drag and drop messages to it - but only after clicking the Select checkbox for the message.

In Gmail, it's not immediately obvious how to make a new folder. Oh, that's because Gmail doesn't use folders n(except the built in ones for Sent Mail, Drafts, Deleted Mail, Junk Mail, etc). From the Help section called Folders: "To help you organize your mail more effectively, Gmail uses labels instead." So instead of dragging and dropping a message into a folder, you click to select it, click Labels, click to create a new label, type in the name, and click Apply. Now the label name appears beside the subject line but the message stays there in the one long Inbox list. Wow, is that ever annoying.

Now if you want to find all the messages with that label, you filter by labels. The labels show up (like folders) in the left pane and you can filter by labels by clicking the one you want. You can drag and drop messages onto the label and they leave your Inbox (thank goodness!). Google says labels are better than folders because you can put more than one label on a message. Okay, that's a good thing - but on the rare occasions that a message fits multiple criteria, I can always put copies of it in different folders. I know some people really like this feature. I don't. I've been working with folders (or directories) for decades and I like that structure. Now, I would love to be able to use labels within folders ... that would be the best of both worlds (like the Categories in Outlook).

How about composing messages? The composition windows are similar. I prefer the Hotmail interface because it looks like Word, with which I'm intimately familiar. I like that I can select an actual font size in Hotmail and Yahoo!, whereas with Gmail you can only pick small, normal, large or huge. All three have spell check, options to send in plain text, highlighters, numbered and bulleted list options, insertion of emoticons and so forth. I do like that Gmail has a button for quickly removing formatting. Gmail's "Quote" button could also be useful in some circumstances. Yahoo! has a Stationery button with which you can quickly apply stationery from a fairly large selection, if you like that sort of thing.

Several times, I tested comparative performance. I sent an identical message from all three services to my Exchange address, clicking one right after the other so they were sent almost at the same time. The Yahoo! message invariably got there first, then Gmail, then Hotmail, although all three showed up within less than two minutes, so performance is good for any of the services.

If you get a lot of mail, storage space limitations may be an important consideration. Hotmail offers 5 GB of free storage, Gmail offers 7.3 GB and Yahoo! Mail advertises "unlimited" storage. There are, of course, other options for web-based mail besides the big three. One of the newest contenders, which rolled out in beta on July 30, is MySpace Mail. Like Yahoo!, it claims to give users unlimited storage:
http://www.wxpnews.com/3UDXV2/090811-MySpace-Mail

My conclusion: for me, Hotmail and Yahoo! are far easier than Gmail to work with. The interfaces are not so cluttered, it's easier to find/figure out how to do things intuitively, they use the familiar folder method of organizing mail, and most important, they have the preview pane. If I had to use one of them all the time, it would probably be Yahoo! because of the extra storage space. But it's really just a matter of personal preferences. All three services work.

Tell us what you think. Do you use webmail at all? If so, do you use it as your primary email account or just as a backup? Do you manage your mail through the web interface or set up Outlook to download it (or forward it to another POP or IMAP account)? Which webmail service do you prefer, and why? What features are most important to you in a mail service? We invite you to discuss this topic in our forums at
http://www.wxpnews.com/3UDXV2/090811-Forum-Discussion


Follow-up: Killer Apps

In one of the most pertinent forum posts on this subject, Jim wrote: "I have no problem with someone liking one app over another - but I am bothered when people say they like one app over another, because the second doesn't do something when it actually does. Many times what these people are really saying is I like app A because I know how to use it, and I haven't learned how to do the same things in app B (which it should be ok to say)."

It's a good point, but when someone who has spent a bit of time in an applications says it "won't do this," and it will, that may mean the application makes it inordinately difficult to do that if an intelligent person can't intuitively figure it out. For instance, I hadn't used Yahoo! Mail before, but I was immediately able to create folders and drag messages into them - because Yahoo! made it easy and obvious. In Gmail, I had to resort to the Help link to discover that no, you can't create folders - you have to create labels instead. Maybe there's even a way to get a preview pane in Gmail; if so, please let me know.

It was interesting to read about what various folks consider to be their killer apps. Many of you have hung onto old applications (one person mentioned Corel Venture 10). I understand the love for an old program; I kept using Corel PhotoPaint 10 for many years, not liking the changes that were made in subsequent versions. I finally did upgrade to the newest iteration of PhotoPaint, which comes in the CorelDraw X4 Graphic Suite, and I like it - but not enough to make it really worth the upgrade price. I was thrilled to see several of you mention OneNote as a killer app. I've used it on the laptop for several years, but I think it is really going to come into its own with Office 2010 and some interesting new developments such as the canvas view.

Now that we've talked about the applications that loom largest in our computing lives, in a future editorial I want to talk about the "little apps" that I can't do without, and find out which ones our readers like most. These are the small, usually free programs that only do one thing, but do it well. I find there are a few of these that are invariably the first things I install on a new system after loading Office, my photo editing programs and a couple of other "biggies."

I find it a little funny that one reader implied that the reason I like Outlook better than Gmail is because I'm a "Microsoft lacky." I guess the only reason I liked Yahoo! best of the webmail apps is because they just became search partners with Microsoft? Wonder why it is that I hate SharePoint, then? Oops - my "lackiness" must be slipping.

'Til next week,
Deb Shinder, Editor
feedback@wxpnews.com

PS: Did you know this newsletter has a sister publication called VistaNews? You can subscribe here, and tell your friends:
http://www.wxpnews.com/3UDXV2/090811-VistaNews

And for IT pros, there's our "big sister," WServer News, at
http://www.wxpnews.com/3UDXV2/090811-WServerNews

Look up the WXPnews Fan Page and join us on Facebook!

Quotes of the Week

Part of the inhumanity of the computer is that, once it is competently programmed and working smoothly, it is completely honest. - Isaac Asimov (1920 - 1992)

Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it. - Mahatma Gandhi (1869 - 1948)

The best armor is to keep out of range. - Italian proverb






Keep The Bad Guys Out With The Sunbelt Personal Firewall

Why do I need a firewall? Together with antivirus and antispyware, a firewall is a "must" to protect your computer. PC Magazine gave the Sunbelt Personal Firewall a "Very Good" rating with 4 Stars and a conclusion of "good protection". Check out the Reviews on the site and it will be clear why you need the Sunbelt Personal Firewall to protect your PC. One good example: Unlike the Windows XP and Vista Firewall, you can tell the Sunbelt Personal Firewall to look carefully at the data leaving your browser, so that sensitive information like your credit card numbers, email address, bank account, social security number and PIN code do not get stolen by hackers!
http://www.wxpnews.com/3UDXV2/090811-SPF





 Cool Tools

Tools We Think You Shouldn't Be Without

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Spotmau PowerSuite Professional 2008: Fantastic! All the tools necessary to fix most common computer problems. Clone and backup too!
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Fully automatic back ups to the "Cloud", and only $5/month for unlimited storage. Nice!
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WebCam Monitor : Turn your PC and Camera into a Motion /Sound Detector Video Security and Surveillance System.
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PC Tune-Up: 4 Easy Steps That Eliminate Frustrating Slow Computer Problems:
http://www.wxpnews.com/3UDXV2/090811-PC-Tune-Up

Registry First Aid 7.0 - New Release Is Faster, Safer and Even More Effective
http://www.wxpnews.com/3UDXV2/090811-RegistryFirstAid

Improve your English writing skills with WhiteSmoke a smarter solution for high quality writing. Download the free trial version here.
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Rip DVDs for your iPod/iPhone or Apple TV. Bundle includes video converter too! Try it free!
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Vista gets bogged down very quickly! Advanced Vista Optimizer will tweak Vista for Max performance. Easy to use:
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 News, Hints, Tips and Tricks

Avoid this problem when setting up XP/Win7 dual boot

If you plan to install Windows 7 on your XP computer and dual boot the two operating systems, it's important to pay attention during setup or you might inadvertently destroy your XP installation in the process, as the author of this article did. As he notes, it's not Windows' fault; it's a matter of paying attention to what you're doing. To avoid that problem yourself, read this first:
http://www.wxpnews.com/3UDXV2/090811-DualBoot


XP Mode RC now available

For those who are now using the Windows 7 RC or RTM, the release candidate of the XP Mode for Windows Virtual PC has been released. This is the updated version of the virtual machine that you can run on Windows 7 (with WVPC installed) to run your older applications on XP but integrated into the Windows 7 host operating system so they appear to be running like any other application on your Windows 7 desktop. The beta has been out for a while, but the RC fixes some of the issues that beta testers complained about and added some new functionality, such as the ability to access USB devices in integrated format, better integration with the Windows 7 taskbar, and the ability to disable drive sharing between the XP applications and Windows 7. Read more here:
http://www.wxpnews.com/3UDXV2/090811-XP-Mode-RC


How to use MSCONFIG to diagnose XP boot problems

Bootup problems can be among the most frustrating for computer users, and they can be among the most difficult to diagnose. Luckily, XP includes a built-in utility, MSCONFIG, which can help you troubleshoot those problems. Many casual computer users don't even know it's there, since it doesn't show up in the Start menu. And others who have discovered it may not be sure how to use it to full advantage. Bill Detwiler demonstrates what you can do with this tool in a video at
http://www.wxpnews.com/3UDXV2/090811-Boot-Problems


Nvidia's new netbook graphics platform aimed at XP

Despite all the talk about how well Windows 7 will run on netbooks, Nvidia has targeted its newest graphics chip for netbooks directly at Windows XP. The ION LE supports the DirectX 9 graphics technology in XP rather than versions 10 and 11, which come in Vista and Windows 7, respectively. Why did they go this route? You can find out here:
http://www.wxpnews.com/3UDXV2/090811-Nvidia





 How To: Using XP Features

How to increase the space for icon text

Here's a common annoyance: the text under your desktop icons wraps because the space is too narrow for the words. The secret: the width of the icon label is dependent on the setting for horizontal icon spacing. Here's how to increase that size:

  1. Right click an empty space on the desktop
  2. Select Properties
  3. Click the Appearance tab
  4. Click the Advanced button
  5. In the drop-down list of items, select Icon Spacing (Horizontal)
  6. Increase the number in the Size box (the default is 43)
  7. Click OK in each dialog box
You should now have a wider space for the text under the icons.




 XP Security News

Nine security patches coming for August

This month's Patch Tuesday is expected to bring nine security updates, five of which are rated "critical" and four "important." Some of the issues affect Windows operating systems, including XP. Others affect Office, Outlook Express and Windows Media Player. Find out more here:
http://www.wxpnews.com/3UDXV2/090811-Patches





 XP Question Corner

XP destroys my system restore files on Vista

QUESTION:
I have XP and Vista dual booting on a computer with two different hard drives. Generally it works well with one exception. Whenever I boot into XP, it seems to destroy my restore points in Vista. When I go back to Vista, my previous restore points are gone. What can I do about that? Thanks. - Lloyd T.

ANSWER:
XP creates a system restore file for each drive. When it sees the one created by Vista, it appears to be a duplicate so it deletes it. Oops. If you have Vista Ultimate edition with BitLocker, you can use BitLocker to encrypt the Vista partition. Then XP won't be able to see the system restore file on that drive and delete it. If you don't have BitLocker, you can use a third party program to hide the Vista drive from XP. One example is Acronis Disk Director.





 XP Configuration and Troubleshooting

Safe Boot Options in XP

At some time, you've probably pressed F8 during the boot process to access the Safe Boot Menu. But do you know what's involved with each of the options there? Which option should you choose if you've changed the video settings and now the monitor won't display the operating system correctly? Find out about all the different Safe Boot options in KB article 315222 at
http://www.wxpnews.com/3UDXV2/090811-Safe-Mode-Boot


You don't get the option to install SP3 when you use Windows Update

If you haven't installed Service Pack 3 on your XP computer, but Windows Update/Automatic Updates doesn't give you that option, it can be due to one of several causes, including having IE 8 installed or having Norton Antivirus 2008 installed. To find out all the possible causes and how to resolve each of them, see KB article 955307 at
http://www.wxpnews.com/3UDXV2/090811-ServicePack3





 Fav Links

This Week's Links We Like. Tips, Hints And Fun Stuff

Disclaimer: WXPNews does not assume and cannot be responsible for any liability related to you clicking any of these linked Web sites.





 Product of the Week

WebCam Monitor : Turn your PC and Camera into a Motion /Sound Detector Video Security and Surveillance System.

Going on vacation? WebCam Monitor keeps watch over your home, office, or any location. It detects motion or noise, and triggers customizable Alerts that can record video and audio of the incident, notify you by e-mail or text message, or sound an audible alarm. It can also begin recording at pre-set intervals to maintain a record of events. It's as simple as connecting a camera to your PC, or an IP camera to your network. Using the configuration wizard, your surveillance system can be up and running in minutes. Using multiple cameras, it's easy to monitor large areas from a single PC. WXPNews readers can get an exclusive $10.00 off now. Buy or try with the free trial download.
http://www.wxpnews.com/3UDXV2/090811-WebCamMonitor




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