Windows Live Mail is a free mail app available from Microsoft as part of the Windows Essentials 2012 suite. It's less of a juggernaut than Microsoft's own Outlook yet different from the Mail app bundled with Windows 8.1 or 10. Its interface is very similar to Microsoft's other apps of the time, such as Office 2010. It's suited for both home and small office users, and includes a calendar and conversation view, as well.
Neatly wrapped up in a Ribbon
As noted, Windows Live Mail resembles its contemporary, Office 2010. Odds are you've used Office 2010, or one of the versions near it, which feature the "Ribbon" interface – a set of tabs spooled off of the main application icon which condense functionality. For many in the office world, it's a love-it or hate-it affair, but it's undeniably familiar.
Let's take viewing an email, for example. Though the Ribbon at the top will allow you to switch from account to account, all of the functions related to the email itself (such as replying it, binning it, or copying it) are in the Home tab, minimizing switching. It's only if you wanted to zoom in to read smaller text that you'd need the View tab, for example. Meanwhile, most of the screen is dominated by the email itself, with account-local options on the left and a miniature calendar on the right.
Speaking of the calendar, let's talk about some of its other features. WLM allows you to manage multiple accounts at a glance. This is normal for many commercial email programs, such as Outlook, but it's a very welcome feature in WLM, since both home and small business users will have multiple emails to manage these days. The calendar itself bears noting, too: it lets you save dates far in advance, is part of most screens so you'll never miss an upcoming event, and it can provide reminders, too. Overall, WLM has a healthy number of features.
A rainy-looking sunset
Unfortunately, Microsoft has made it quite clear that in 2017, Windows Essentials will no longer be supported, including Mail. This is referred to as the product's "end of life" by Microsoft, a somewhat gloomy moniker.
This has not been well-received by Mail's existing users, who number in the millions. This should speak well of the software's quality, but it also means you must be ready for a lack of updates or other difficulties.
In fact, Mail is only compatible with current Hotmail or Live accounts after installing Microsoft's most recent update, which also causes some instability. Thus, paradoxically, Windows Live Mail is currently smoothest to use with a different email service, such as Gmail.
Dry bones are certainly better than advertised
For all that this review has discussed Windows Live Mail's looming fate according to Microsoft, the software itself is fantastic, and it still supports many popular email services, such as Gmail. Sporting reasonably modern features, and an interface that means almost everyone will have some familiarity with it, Windows Live Mail is a solid choice if you're looking for a free, functional email program.