Windows Live Hotmail, the successor to MSN Hotmail, has launched worldwide today, offering the most comprehensive upgrade to the email service since its inception in 1996.

The new version of Hotmail has been in beta for the past two years, with 20m users testing it. From yesterday, the 280m active Hotmail accounts will be migrated over to Windows Live Hotmail.

New features include:

  • Outlook-style design
    The new version allows users to right-click and drag and drop messages into different folders, preview messages, and adds auto-complete addressing.

  • View Hotmail messages through Outlook

    Later this month, the Microsoft Office Outlook Connector will let users access and manage a Hotmail account from Outlook, free of charge.

  • Rich text editing
    Users can customise messages, using a variety of fonts, sizes and colours, as well as changing the alignment of text, and adding bullet points.

  • Anti-phishing protection
    Hotmail will now warn you when it suspects a phishing email.

Windows Live Hotmail screenshot

The upgrade is a big improvement on the previous version, and makes Live Hotmail more of a competitor for Google and Yahoo’s email offerings.

According to comScore figures for the US, around 81m people used Yahoo’s email service last month, compared with around 47m for Hotmail and 14m for Gmail.