Outlook InboxHotmail, in its heyday, was one of the most popular email services out there. But it stumbled and soon became second fiddle to options such as Gmail, which basically dominates resumés across the Internet. Microsoft just unleashed a brand new Metro-inspired service that just might make you think twice about where you want to receive email going forward.

Say hello to Outlook.com

Microsoft’s new email service is a from-the-ground-up reimagining of how users experience webmail.

“We think the time is right to reimagine persona email, from the datacenter to the user experience,” said Chris Jones, Microsoft corporate vice president of Windows Live. “So today we’re introducing a preview of Outlook.com.”

Metro Inspired UI

Rather than giving Hotmail a slight makeover, Microsoft designed a brand new email system to closely match the look and feel of Windows’s new Metro appearance. If you’ve followed Microsoft’s progress with Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8, Outlook will feel familiar.

The UI is clean, and there’s little in the way of clutter. “The header has 60% fewer pixels and there are 30% more messages visible in your inbox [than] the webmail most people are used to,” Jones said. “And there are no display ads or large search boxes that take up extra space. It’s just you and your email.

We briefly tested Outlook out and really came away with a good impression. Creating new emails is hilariously simple, with everything laid out in a solid bar of options at the top of the page. (Here, you can change the color of the bar, by the way.) There’s also a cogwheel at the top right where you can change options like turning on a reading pane for the right of bottom, change colors, or dive even deeper into managing your account, customizing Outlook and more.

Get social

In addition to a massive UI overhaul, Outlook introduces more way to connect with your friends with options to cull Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google, which means you’ll have all your social needs close at hand. It also offers Skype integration for video chat.

“In the Outlook.com inbox, your personal email comes alive with photos of your friends, recent status updates and Tweets that your friend has shared with you, the ability to chat and video call — all powered by an always up-to-date contact list that is connected to your social networks,” Jones said.

With Facebook, you’ll not only see your friend’s status when they email you, but Outlook will integrate chat in a pane on the right and talk right from the interface. How convenient.

Sorting through the clutter

Most email is spam, or a newsletter, or some form of social network update that you don’t even read. Outlook automatically sorts through the nonsense so you’re presented only with the important stuff in succinct categories. In addition, there’s a Sweep feature where you can move, delete and set up rules so you can quickly wade through piles of email without much effort.

Microsoft won’t scan your email content or attachments, either, meaning none of your information is sold off to companies or advertisers. As a result, you’ll always get a (mostly) unobtrusive experience without having products shoved down your gullet. This is in stark contrast to Gmail, which shows users ads based on personal messages.

Great new beginning

From our brief time using the client, it seems like a pretty great addition to Microsoft’s exciting new lineup of products — Windows 8, Windows Phone 8 and Office 2013. Infusing Metro into email seemed like a natural progression for Microsoft, and the company seems to have pulled it off in a very elegant and feature rich way.

Outlook is available today, so if you’re unhappy with Gmail, or just want to snatch up firstnamelastname@outlook.com, you better hurry on over to Microsoft’s new stomping ground.

[via Microsoft]