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Text messaging for the uncoordinated

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You can now use Yahoo! Mail to swap text messages with mobile phones. If you're living in the right country.

With the popular web-based mail client approaching its tenth anniversary, Yahoo! has unveiled a shiny new version that trades texts with any cell phone in the U.S., Canada, India, and the Philippines.

We send our apologies to the UK.

The new Yahoo! Mail was announced early this morning on the company's official blog, Yodel Anecdotal. Yes, Yodel Anecdotal. Company VP John Kremer told the world that he now has a better way to communicate with his kids.

"My kids, like most, love text messaging. But while their nimble fingers can easily navigate cell phone keypads at lightening speeds, I definitely prefer a full keyboard, and am much more inclined to use email than text messaging," Kremer wrote. "[The new Yahoo! Mail client is] sure to come in handy for people like me who want to keep in touch with text-crazy friends and family."

Texts are free when sent through certain wireless carriers, but others will charge a fee. You'll have to check Yahoo!'s help pages to find out which carriers want money for messages and which don't.

The texting tool is certainly the most glamorous addition to the new Yahoo! Mail, but there are other new features worth trying - even if you live outside those four text-friendly markets.

Most notably, the face-lifted client includes built-in IM, previously available in beta. "The all-new Yahoo! Mail also lets users send and receive instant messages in real-time to their friends who are logged into Yahoo! Mail, Yahoo! Messenger or Windows Live Messenger, without ever leaving the e-mail experience," Kremer continued. "You can even switch between emailing, instant messaging, and text messaging as your friends come online or go mobile." You can choose your means of communication simply by selecting a name from your contact list.

What's more, you can now drag and drop messages from folder to folder. And you'll find a beefed-up search engine, which lets you search by sender name, folder, date, attachment type, and more.

There's one other new feature, but it's only available in the U.S. The American client now has the power to recognize dates, addresses, and proper names, linking straight into Yahoo! Calendar, Yahoo! Maps, and Yahoo! Search.

According to a Yahoo! spokeswoman, the new client - which also offers new color themes - will be rolled out to 25 markets worldwide "in the coming weeks."

But you needn't upgrade if you don't want to. Yahoo! will continue to offer its old Mail interface to dial-up users and other people living behind the times. "Our goal is to provide the best email experience for everyone, whether that be familiar and comfortable or new and shiny," Kremer said.

According to research firm comScore Media Metrix, Yahoo! Mail is the world's most popular web-based client, with 254 million users. But Microsoft's Windows Live Hotmail is just behind with 224 million.

Yahoo!'s client turns 10 in October. This spring, in anticipation of the milestone, the company decided to give unlimited free storage to each and every user. AOL, the world's third most-popular client, has followed suit, but Microsoft and Google have yet to pull the trigger. ®

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