With your shiny new Windows 8 device or upgrade booted up, tiles gleaming at you and winking with useful information, you might take a few moments having a look around before you get the chance to look at the email client.
I should add here that not all versions of Windows 8 come with the Microsoft Mail client pre-installed. It really depends on the version and the manufacturer of your Windows 8 computer.
The thing about email in Windows 8 is that while there are quite a few Windows 8 email apps to choose from (a surprising amount given the fact this is a new operating system) they all focus on different areas of emailing. As a result, it’s hard to find a single application that does everything that you might expect an email client to do. In addition, if you’re looking for an email client that makes the best of the Metro/Modern UI, you might be sorely disappointed with the options.
Below, we will take a look at the Windows 8 email apps that makes use of the Metro/Modern UI; before the end of the article, you’ll find a mention of a couple of desktop alternatives.
Microsoft’s Mail App
There is much to recommend with Microsoft’s Mail app, available as a combined download from the Microsoft Store with Calendar, People and Messages. Unfortunately, it’s a little flaky.
Handling multiple accounts (POP or IMAP), Mail is the perfect fit for Windows 8’s tile-based UI and stylish lettering. In many ways, it is one of the archetypal implementations of software for the new look Windows.
The problems come when you least expect it, however. Although usable in most cases, Mail has a habit of closing without warning, often when sending and receiving messages. This makes the app frustrating to use, and at times useless. However there is every reason to expect Microsoft to issue a fix for this problem, perhaps with an upgraded app.
Identifying a target demographic for its email app, the developers make it quite clear that they are hoping for silver surfers and baby surfers alike to take advantage of this tool with its heavy reliance on pictured tiles. The email inbox displays not a list of messages, but images representing the names of your contacts, which it relies on the People app for. With these picture tiles come labels identifying how many messages are unread from that person, and when opened messages can be easily read and replied to.
The focus for this app is on images and ease of use; as a result one key element is the presentation of image attachments as a gallery view.
Seemingly more robust that Mail, AgelessEmail is a useful alternative that skips on many common email tools in favour of ease of use.
If you’re happy to use webmail but need regular updates as to when messages appear in your box – and you’re a Gmail account holder – the Gmail Alerts app is probably your best bet.
In fact, it might even be the best option of all of those here – at least based on its ability to deliver what it promises.
Once installed, Gmail Alert needs a Google account to be entered, and a few moments later you can either click the app to see all unread messages (in tile form) or simply leave the live tile on your desktop to highlight new messages as they arrive. When you click a tile, Gmail Alerts opens your email inbox in the browser – it really is just an alerts tool, and a good one at that.
The Desktop Alternatives
Those listed above are the email tools currently available for the Metro/Modern UI, easy to use for touchscreen. They’re not the only email tools for Windows 8, however. Also in the Windows Store, you’ll find a useful email client called Inky Mail for Windows 8, but this can only be installed through the browser and run on the desktop.
Alternatively, you might be fortunate enough to be using Windows 8 with Microsoft Office – in which case Outlook is already built into your machine. If this is attractive but the cost prohibitive, Outlook.com (the new name for Hotmail) is designed along very similar lines to its desktop brother, and can be accessed from most browsers.
Of course, desktop email apps designed for Windows 7 will also run in Windows 8.
There Could Be More Windows 8 Email Apps
All in all, unless you’re willing to pay a lot of money for a copy of Outlook 2013 (or the whole Office suite) there are no robust and reliable email clients for Windows 8.
While AgelessEmail brings something interesting to the table in terms of touch interaction, it is low on features. Similarly, Gmail Alerts provides nothing more than notices (as the name suggests) and once clicked opens the Google Mail account in your browser.
There’s so much focus on the Microsoft option, Mail, Calendar, People and Messages, which can be installed straight from the Store (or might even be pre-installed on some computers) but its general flimsiness (in the email portion – the other component apps seem to work without problem) means that it isn’t really reliable enough for the big time.
All of which means that the Windows 8 email apps that use the Metro/Modern UI are lacking in key, important functionality. Your best bet is to rely on the paid Outlook, take a chance with Inky Mail (you might be pleasantly surprised) or head for a web-based solution.