AOL's previewing its new email offering - Alto.



NEW YORK (TheStreet) - I'm am expert at making piles. Piles of laundry. Piles of dishes. Piles of papers, boxes, garbage. You name it - there are piles everywhere.

But I've never thought in terms of organizing my many email accounts into piles. That's exactly what AOL(:AOL) is offering in its new, cloud-based email system - Alto.

Released on Thursday as a limited preview, Alto can handle your "You've Got Mail" account, as well as messages from Google(:GOOG) Gmail, Yahoo (:YHOO) Mail and Apple(:AAPL) .Mac and .me accounts. The difference is that Alto allows you to sort your messages into piles - hopefully making them easier to deal with.

AOL calls this "organization by design". There's a new tool called "stacks" that, if you can imagine email as a three-dimensional object, automatically pulls out and organizes important pieces of your inbox for easy access and easier viewing.

Joshua Ramirez, the firm's senior director of product for AOL Mail, describes the new email experience as evolutionary:

"The way we use email has changed radically over the years, but the core email application experience hasn't. We've taken a deep look at how people use email now, and designed an application around that reality.

"When you sort through physical mail, you put it into stacks because it's a natural way to decide what's important, what's junk, and what to save for later. We wanted to recreate that experience with Alto, but make it intelligent and automatic, to easily deal with the hundreds of emails we get every day."

To see exactly what they're talking about you have to sign up for an invitation to the new, beta email system. We plan to try it too and we will let you know what we think.

--Written by Gary Krakow in New York.

>To submit a news tip, send an email to: tips@thestreet.com.