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Microsoft Refreshes Live Mail Beta

Windows Live Mail, the successor to Hotmail currently in limited beta testing, was given a facelift Tuesday in what Microsoft calls the “M6” release of the service. Notable additions include support for Firefox, mail signatures and vastly improved performance.

By making use of advanced Web technologies such as AJAX and DHTML, Windows Live Mail does away with the clunky Hotmail interface for a more application-like experience. Users can access right click menus, drag and drop messages between folders, and view messages without refreshing pages.

M6 brings Firefox 1.5 support to the service for the first time. Microsoft previously only supported the alternative browser through the “Hotmail Classic” layout scheme.

“We’ve been working away and more is finally here, Firefox 1.5 now gets all the same cool features like the reading pane, drag and drop, right click menus, and more, that you’ve seen on Internet Explorer. There are still a few features we’re working on, but we didn’t want to hold back any longer,” said WLM Program Manager Steven Kafka.

M6 re-enables signatures, and adds the ability to subscribe to a user’s contact information. Much like with third party services such as Plaxo, if a user changes their address, phone or e-mail details, a message will be sent to those friends and colleagues that are subscribed.

Other new features include changing colors on the fly, changing the way contact names are displayed, composing new messages from any page, and the saving of sent mail until it is manually deleted.

Microsoft says 3.5 million people are already using the new beta service, which is expected to launch publicly sometime this year. For the time being, interested Hotmail users can apply to join the beta by visiting ideas.live.com.

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