Outlook vs Gmail: a Face-off of Four Fundamentals

outlookvsgmailGoogle and Microsoft have offered the world’s top email products for some time. In 2012 Gmail edged out Hotmail as the world’s most popular platform (with approximately half a billion users).  But following on the heels of this, Microsoft redesigned the Hotmail product and rebranded it Outlook.com, making it a sort of front end to the company’s cloud-based products and aiming to reclaim its user base.

Is Outlook.com good enough to win back loyal Microsoft users, or are you better off sticking with Gmail?  While other reviewers explored this question earlier in the year, both companies have implemented big changes. So let’s take a closer look at four fundamental features for comparison.

Look and feel

Sure, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but some are turning to Outlook.com simply for its attractive and intuitive design. Many reviewers have praised this webmail client for making better use of available space than its Google counterpart. And anyone who has used the native Outlook client will know immediately how to navigate the basic layout and controls. If you want sleek, familiar, and simple, Outlook might be your go-to app.

But with that said, Gmail has its own advantages in terms of design. Namely, it provides options for personalization and efficiency that could appeal particularly to power users. The program’s add-on capabilities, called Labs, feature multiple inbox views, Google Maps previews, custom key mappings for navigation, universal gadget add-ons, etc.

So overall, the potential for boosting productivity is a point in favor of the Gmail interface. It takes a form-follows-function approach with a steeper learning curve, but it earns its advocates. If optimizing your efficiency is priority one, you might want to get to know Gmail’s ins-and-outs. You can get going on that with this course on Gmail’s productivity-boosting features.

Filtering/organization

Prior to recent developments, Outlook.com was lauded for superior automatic filters. Users have options to see only emails with document or photo attachments or shipping update emails from major carriers. These are great features that make Outlook a strong point of entry to your personal cloud.

Very recently, though, Google made significant revisions to Gmail’s inbox filtering, and instead of duplicating Microsoft’s features, they went down their own path.  Now when you open up Gmail, you see horizontal tabs that separate your inbox into primary messages, promotions, social notifications, updates, and forums. You can toggle any of these tabs on or off, but they are notably effective at auto-organizing the daily information onslaught.

So, in their approaches to email filtering, Gmail and Outlook offer different claims to value: Outlook is straightforward, helpful, and intuitive; Gmail offers greater control over the details.

Security

How safe can we consider our online information and identities? It’s a fair question, and one of the most common in any discussion of web-hosted services, such as email. If security is a primary concern in your choice of email provider, there are a couple of points to consider:

First, both Outlook and Gmail now offer extra security through two-factor authentication. This effective method requires users to enter a code sent to their mobile devices to validate access. At its initial launch, Outlook.com was notably missing this feature, but Microsoft has added it since that time.

In addition to secure login, your email use may call for security measures like end-to-end data encryption. If that is the case, you’ll need to take extra steps. Using add-on software, you can encrypt emails from either service. However, Gmail has more extensive third-party support, and this means you will have more options for meeting your security needs.

Depending on your email and computing requirements, getting the security right could be critical. So it may be in your best interest to brush up on the basics in an online course covering digital security topics.

Integration

As a central hub for communications and productivity, our email programs need to help us get things done effectively. This means intelligent integration of apps and functions, and Gmail and Outlook have different takes on how to go about this.

Google has become increasingly self-sufficient and closed to data sharing within certain areas. Social integration into the Gmail platform demonstrates this well.  The Google Hangouts chat service and Google Plus social platform blend seamlessly into the Gmail service’s functions, but if you are looking for quick access to any other social or messaging platform, you’re out of luck.

Microsoft could not be more different in these capabilities. Outlook.com offers chat (video soon) through Skype, and integration of Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.  This means you can use four of the internet’s most popular and useful services, all within one app. However, for many, the integration of these tools remains at a surface level. Microsoft may need to work on this to offer the same quality of shortcuts, tricks, and time-savers that Google can currently provide.

On the other hand, both products are surprisingly similar in terms of online storage and productivity apps. Processing of documents, meeting requests, photos, and other files works very similarly in both programs. Both offer options to view and work with content directly within the web app and save it to the cloud.

If you have yet to fully embrace “the cloud” and software-as-a-service(SaaS), this ability of email clients to integrate cloud capabilities may not make a difference to you. However, you may want to learn what cloud computing can offer, particularly if you are operating a small business. You can learn a lot about this new approach to computing in a course on running business on cloud systems.

It should also be stated that Gmail is currently better supported by third party developers, including some very helpful programs that can get your productivity soaring. For example, you can check out this online course highlighting the ultimate productivity tools.

Summary

Both Microsoft and Google offer compelling email products, and the competition between the two companies serves in the end-user’s interest as it pushes the companies to innovate and further refine their unique value.

Ultimately, you can make a few generalizations to characterize these products and help make your decision. Outlook.com gives you a smooth, sleek, and useable program that is very reliable and integrates with some of the world’s most popular services.  Gmail can offer you a fast, intelligent, and flexible service that works seamlessly with the rest of Google’s ecosystem for outstanding efficiency.

Which one sounds more like you?