Yahoo Mail adds SMS, drops beta tag

Now you can send text messages to mobile phones from Yahoo Mail and send IMs to people using Windows Live Messenger.

The new version of Yahoo Mail comes out of beta on Monday, and it sports some spiffy new features, like the ability to send text messages to a cell phone--the first free Web-based mail provider to offer that function.

A button at the top of the page gives you the option to choose between sending an e-mail, chatting over IM or sending a text, or SMS, message, for free. You enter a contact's name, type in the mobile phone number, and send a message. It appears in a talk bubble next to your avatar in the Yahoo Mail window. The person receiving the text message can simply respond via text.

Yahoo Mail now lets you send a text message to a mobile phone. Yahoo

This feature will be useful for reaching people when you know they aren't online but likely have their cell phones with them. It is also appealing for those of us who are SMS-phobic.

Yahoo Mail also has a new shortcuts feature that enables you to quickly add an address to your contacts list or view it on a map, add an event to the calendar, and even conduct a Web search on certain terms. When items in a message have blue dash underlines, you can hover over them with the cursor and right-click to call up the short-cut action.

Now you can send instant messages not only to Yahoo Mail and Messenger customers but also to people using Windows Live Messenger.

The new Yahoo Mail is faster than the beta versions and offers six colors to choose from to customize the interface. It also offers the ability to refine e-mail search results by searching specifically by sender, folder, date, attachment type and message status.

Unfortunately, Yahoo Mail still brings up a default Welcome Tab page, with links to news and other items, and forces me to click on the in-box link before I can get to my e-mail. Paying customers of Yahoo Mail Plus go directly to the in-box.

The new version of Yahoo Mail will roll out globally over the next six weeks, says John Kremer, vice president of Yahoo Mail.