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November 5, 2006

Screen Estate in Webmail Applications

Space is important when you use an application every day. I compared three webmail sites: Windows Live Mail, Yahoo Mail (Beta) and Gmail, to see which one uses screen's size better.

I loaded Yahoo Mail and Gmail in Firefox 2.0 and Windows Live Mail in IE7, as it had problems loading in Firefox.

Gmail: 1275x612 page -> 847x457 mail content (49.6%)
Windows Live Mail: 1275x622 page -> 847x386 mail content (41.2%)
Yahoo Mail: 1275x612 page -> 914x321 mail content (37.6%)

In Yahoo Mail you can open a message in a new tab, while in Windows Live Mail you can hide the list of messages. But, by default, both sites devote much less to email's content than Gmail. As a comparison, Mozilla Thunderbird uses 51.3% from the window size to display message. So, although Yahoo Mail Beta and Windows Live Mail try to look similar to a desktop application, they neglect an important aspect: how easy is to read mail?

Note: These numbers were obtained using the default settings and 1280x800 resolution.


  1. Although I love Gmail (as well as all Google products) I must say that this comparison is pretty unfair as Gmail is the only one that does not display list of mails.

  2. The windows live mail beta gives me less viewing room for the actual messages than the previous version of hotmail. Nice work, fellas.

  3. gmail is the most appealing, less eyethrobbing, and seems to load the easiest for me, even the HTML version isn't that bad

  4. I know in google reader there a "u" shortcut which hides the left navigation bar, thus turning it into "reading mode". Taking this concept, one can build a extension/script to imitate that feature. :)

  5. jesse-Um what I really meant was:

    Gmail is the only one that does not display list of mails and email contents at the same time.

    When you have more mails to check it gets difficult to navigate them as you need to click twice when switching to next unread (Click Inbox/Click unread mail) while in the competitions case you just need to click unread mail. Of course there is older and newer link but it is not the list. I dont say that I miss this feature but I think that due to this inconsistence the comparison is unfair.

    And by the way, I think I am Gmail power user so I know where the list of mails is ;-)

  6. JS, you are right that Gmail is the only one that doesn't show a list of messages, but I just wanted to show that Yahoo and Microsoft neglect the most important part from a mail application: the mail itself.

  7. It's not always so important how much screen space is intended to message text. The majority of messages consist of only several lines and entirely display on the tenth part of the screen.

    Moreover, at reading it is much easier to watch short lines, at that time on long eyes are very often lose target string. Therefore the height of message text area is much more important, than its width.

  8. I agree with JS. A couple hundred pixels of vertical space is easily worth the time and keystrokes saved having a reading pane. Sometimes, actually quite often, it's convenient to see the email you have open and the list of other emails in your inbox at the same time.

    At the very least, it should be offered as an option, even disabled by default. But, sadly, Gmail users are not given that freedom of choice.

  9. I agree that the preview pane like Yahoo offers should be an option in Gmail. I am a Yahoo mail user looking to convert to Gmail because of the new Droid phone from Verizon but I really like the preview pane. It seems like unnecessary clicks to go back to the inbox in Gmail and then select another message.


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