In January, I wrote about my decision to migrate my personal email, contacts, and calendar account from Google/Gmail to Microsoft's Hotmail service in What I Use: Hotmail And Exchange For Email, and then provided an update a few weeks later in From Gmail To Hotmail: An Update. For a variety of reasons, the transition has gone very well, and of course thanks to my use of other related Microsoft services--SkyDrive, Xbox LIVE, Zune, and so on, moving to Hotmail was very natural. I've not regretted the decision, nor have I ever thought about undoing or reversing it.

With Hotmail as with Gmail before it, I use the web client on PCs, and I've found it to be quite efficient, especially after I made a few configuration changes. One of these, Sent message confirmations, was particularly important since Hotmail, by default, will show a sent message confirmation after you send an email. That's annoying and a waste of time, but you can now disable it. That one thing alone has helped tremendously and arguably made my transition to Hotmail possible.

Of course, any change like this still involves changing one's habits a bit. For example, with Gmail, there are handy Delete and Archive buttons that let you quickly triage email that you're done with, and using Gmail over many years, I grew to rely on these buttons pretty heavily. Moving to Hotmail, however, I found that there's a corresponding Delete link (and an simpler keyboards shortcut, DELETE). But there's no Archive button, let alone the concept of archiving.

So in Hotmail, as with other non-Gmail accounts, I've simply adapted the folder-based management system it uses to my own needs. I created an _Archived Mail folder, and then I drag messages I want to save into that folder. (Hotmail supports the drag and drop of email in a fashion that's similar to Outlook or other native email clients on Windows.) And while it's not as efficient as Gmail's Archive button, it works fine.

But then reader Terance O. reminded me of an advanced Hotmail feature I'm embarrassed to say I had forgotten: Instant Actions, which can be used to create a very reasonable facsimile of the Gmail Archive button. And now that I've implemented this per his advice, I'm happy to say that this solution is even better than Gmail Archive.

Here's how it works.

In the top right corner of the Hotmail web client, click Options and then More Options.

On the Hotmail Options page, under Customizing Hotmail, click Instant Actions.

instant_actions_01

After ensuring that Instant Actions is enabled, click Add Actions and then Move To. The Instant Actions list will expand to include a new Move  To action. On the right side, choose the folder to which you'd like mail moved (_Archived Mail in my case). And the choose a color for the mouse-over icon you'll see and, if desired, whether to mark the message as read when it's moved. (I want that option enabled.)

Note that you can also optionally use the "Move down" link to move the new Instant Action into the "Show always" area so that it's always visible, and not just visible when you mouse over the message header. Your choice.

The Preview area will show you how this will look so you can customize it until it's just right. When you're done, the Instant Action you've enabled should resemble the following:

instant_actions_02

Now, instead of a single Archive button at the top, as in Gmail, you'll see an Archive button inline inside each message header (or will see it when you mouse over the message header, depending on how you configured it to display.)

instant_actions_03

To archive a message, simply tap the green button in the message header. Brilliant.

I wish there was a way to assign a keyboard shortcut to an Instant Action, but this is still more efficient than dragging and dropping. So thanks  again to Terance for the tip. Now you can benefit from it as well.

Have any other great Hotmail efficiency tips you'd like to share? Please do let me know.