Microsoft have given their popular free email service Hotmail a thorough spring clean.
The upgrade, expected in July, is an attempt by the software giant to get the edge over rival offerings from Yahoo and Google.
Although Hotmail remains the world's biggest email provider with 360million members sending eight billion messages a day, Microsoft fear it could fall out of favour with the rapid progress of social networking.
So the overhauled service will automatically sort incoming messages into different categories devoted to users' key contacts and various networks. It will also sync more readily with mobile phones.
Emails sent with photos and videos will show a thumbnail previews without the user having to open an attachment or click on a link.
Other tools are being added to make it less cumbersome to send photos, videos, documents and other attachments to email recipients.
A new insert bar will allow users to send up to 10 gigabytes - about 200 photos each containing 50 megabytes - by uploading them to Microsoft's free online storage service Skydrive, where they can only be viewed by the recipients of the e-mail.
Microsoft expects this feature to be particularly popular because it says 55 per cent of Hotmail's storage is consumed by photos sent as attachments.
It's all part of the most extensive overhaul to Hotmail since Microsoft bought the service 12 years ago, said Chris Jones, a Microsoft executive who is overseeing the renovations.
'Our service wasn't doing the best job that it could,' Mr Jones admitted..
As it spruces up Hotmail, Microsoft also will try to make it more secure. Embracing a change recently made by Gmail, Microsoft is adding a so-called 'secure sockets layer' (denoted by "https" before a Web address) that encrypts email to make it less vulnerable to computer hackers.
Microsoft is hoping the added features will help overcome the perception that Hotmail was growing stale as Google and Yahoo added more bells and whistles to their free web-mail services.
Yahoo currently ranks second globally with around 284million users followed by Google's Gmail at 173million.
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