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Windows 8 Feature Focus: Mail (App Preview)

As with the other App Previews, the version of the Mail app we see in the Windows 8 Consumer Preview is not complete. But it's in far better shape than some App Previews and provides a pleasant, full-screen experience for managing multiple email accounts.


If you're familiar with the Windows Phone Mail app, you'll grok Windows 8's Mail app immediately, as it's essentially a single screen version of that app that, sadly, is missing one critical feature: The ability to link inboxes into a single view. But the Mail app comes through on the most-needed functionality, including the ability to access multiple email accounts using an interface that’s optimized for bigger, touch-enabled screens. It supports  common email features like urgent messages, attachments, CC and BCC support, and the reading of textual and graphical emails.




Depending on the situation, Mail provides a two- or three pane view. In the more expansive three pane view, you can see the major elements of the Mail user interface. In the two pane view, the leftmost pane is hidden. To see more options, right-click in any empty area of the app.




These include:


Accounts pane. This leftmost pane provides access to each configured account. The number of unread messages for each account will appear next to the account name.


Mailbox folder pane. Displays the current folder in the currently selected email account. (The default is Inbox.)


Reading pane. Displays the currently selected email message.


New. Click to create a new email message.


Respond. Click to reply, reply to all, or forward the currently selected email message.


Delete. Click to delete the currently selected email message.


If you display Mail’s app bar, you will reveal several other commands, including:


Accounts. This button toggles the display of the Accounts pane.


Folders. This button toggles the Folders view for the currently-selected account, switching it with the accounts list in the Account pane.




Move. Click this button to move the selected message to a new folder. When clicked, the Folders view will temporarily appear—with the rest of the app grayed out—so you can pick a new location for the message.


Mark as Read/Mark as Unread. This button toggles the “read” state of the selected message. By default, a selected message is marked as read.


Sync. Click this button to manually check for new email messages at each configured account.


As with the People app, the Mail app lets you add accounts to the system, but in this case you're limited solely to Exchange Active Sync (EAS)-compatible mail sources like Exchange, Hotmail, and Google. (It's unclear if other mail service types, like Yahoo!, IMAP, or POP3, will eventually be added.)  The first time you use Mail, you’ll see an Add email accounts box in the bottom of the Accounts pane, providing quick links for adding a Hotmail, Google, or Exchange email account. That Add email accounts box is cute for first-time users, but the grown up interface for adding email accounts can be found in Mail settings. As with other Metro-style apps, this interface can be found via the Settings pane. So display that (WINKEY + I or via the Charms bar), and then click Accounts.


As you add accounts, you'll notice that each is accessed separately: There's no linked inbox view, as with Windows Phone.  Email management works pretty much as expected--you can right-click multiple emails to select them and then choose an action, like Move, via the app bar. But you can't drag and drop messages, which also seems like an odd limitation.




Email searching occurs as per any Metro-style app, using the system-wide Search charm. The easiest way to invoke it is with the WINKEY + Q keyboard shortcut, or via the Charms bar.




Overall, the Mail app looks pretty solid, though linked inboxes would put it over the top.

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