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Webmail war: Gmail vs. Outlook.com vs. Yahoo Mail

Serdar Yegulalp | March 4, 2013
Does Google, Microsoft or Yahoo now deserve your webmail business?

The new Yahoo Mail is uncluttered and clean but lacks many of the advanced management and categorization features of its competitors.Click to view larger image

If you prefer to use the free version, then (like most free webmail), Yahoo Mail is ad-supported. The AdChoices ads on the right side of the page are served via flash, making them easy to block if you wish -- either by blacklisting flash for the mail.yahoo.com domain in your browser or by disabling flash, in which case the ads drop back to static images.

I did like the option for a preview pane when reading email, which made the experience a bit more like working with a full-blown desktop client. The only other customization options are sets of color themes, and the spacing between lines on the display (the latter akin to a feature Gmail offers).

I also liked the way opened emails and search results are placed in their own tabs within the Yahoo Mail window so they can be kept open and referred back to if needed. Unfortunately, those tabs don't persist if you close and reopen Yahoo Mail, and you can't retain tabs for several searches at once except by performing the searches in entirely different browser windows.

While Yahoo does support IMAP connections, they're supposed to be used only on mobile devices and not desktops, although there's no practical way to prevent people from using the connections as they want to. POP is supported only if you buy Mail Plus, although third parties like YPOPs have created proxy systems to allow POP access. Likewise, no direct way exists to back up or migrate email out of Yahoo, save for using IMAP or a third-party product like MailStore Home.

There's a box at the top of the main mail window for searching either your email or the whole Web, the latter courtesy of Bing. The resulting searches can be narrowed by various criteria -- sender, date, folder, etc. Interestingly, the contents of certain types of email attachments do seem to be indexed for search. (I got results from my PDFs and my legacy Word DOC files, but not the more recent Word DOCX files.)

Email attachments are scanned by Symantec's Norton AntiVirus before being downloaded, and recognized image file types (JPG, GIF) can be shown inline as a thumbnail before being downloaded. Email messages forwarded as attachments will also have the text of the attached message show up inline, which saves you the trouble of unpacking the attachment. Another nice touch: If someone emails you a whole pile of files, you can click "Save All to Computer" to download them all in one go.

 

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