Years after the rise of social media and instant chat applications, email remains one of the most effective tools of communication, especially for businesses. With so many email services out there, it may be hard to decide which works best for you or your company. Two of the most popular email services currently available are Gmail and Microsoft Outlook.
Both services provide an extensive array of features, are available in more than 100 languages, and offer free and paid services. But which is better? Here, we’ll take a deep dive into the offerings and advantages of each to help you make an informed decision on which works best for your business. We’ll focus on the following features, so click the one that you’re most interested in.
Both services provide solid display options
When it comes to email view, it really boils down to personal preference. Both services provide different views, ranging from compact to email preview. Here’s what you can expect from both services.
Before we move forward, it’s important to note that Outlook offers both a web service and native client (whereas Gmail only offers a web service). By default, Outlook’s web version uses a compact style while the native client uses the email preview pane. Both allow the user to change the display settings or even create and customize a view.
Outlook also shows you which emails contain an attachment by displaying a paperclip icon next to the email. Once you open the email, Outlook will display the attachments above the email message, along with a small preview.
Not unlike Outlook, Gmail also provides several different ways to view your emails. By clicking the Gear icon at the top right corner of the window, then selecting Display density, you can choose between the Default, Comfortable, _and _Compact views.
Another little-known email view in Gmail is its preview pane. To enable this view, select the Gear Icon, click Settings, head over to the Advanced tab, then select Enable next to Preview Pane. Click Save Changes and enjoy the preview pane!
Once you're back in your inbox, you may need to click the icon to toggle between the split and standard views.
This email view in Gmail was a game-changer when I discovered it. One of the big perks of using Outlook was the preview view, as it makes reading a ton of emails more efficient. Once I discovered this view existed with Gmail, I reconsidered my options.
There is little difference between how Gmail and Outlook handle email attachments. You'll find the preview at the bottom of the email in Gmail instead of the top.
Another similarity between the two email services is how they display read/unread emails. Unread emails will be highlighted, making them stand out from your read messages. Emails labeled as important display an exclamation mark or a yellow arrow for Outlook and Gmail, respectively.
Gmail has labels and categories, Outlook has folders and subfolders
If you like to keep things nice and tidy, you’ll demand your email service provide every feature imaginable to help you achieve Inbox Zero. Gmail and Outlook both come with a nice feature set to help you keep things clean.
Organizational features are one of the most important aspects of email services. Without proper organization, things quickly become a mess. Outlook comes equipped with a nice feature set to keep things organized. Most importantly, Outlook allows you to create folders and subfolders for relevant emails to take residence. Even better, you can set rules for having emails placed directly in a folder without ever having to touch the email.
Outlook also has a nifty email filter tool that allows you to filter email messages to only show specific items such as unread, flagged, or important messages. You can also sort by the date you received them. If that’s not enough, you can also search for specific terms in a folder to filter out emails that contain that term.
Gmail takes quite a different approach compared to Outlook, allowing you to organize your emails through labels. That is, you can give each email (incoming or outgoing) a specific tag. You can even do this for your draft emails. While tags and folders are very much alike, Gmail allows you to give an email multiple tags, providing you more flexibility with your organization compared to Outlook.
Gmail takes it a step further by organizing some of your emails for you without you even having to tell it to do so. Gmail comes with three tabs—Primary, Social, and Promotions. All important emails will go to the Primary tab, while other emails such as ads or social media email alerts will go to Promotions and Social, respectively.
Finally, when it comes to search, as expected, Gmail excels in this area. Gmail has a search bar at the top of the email window. Typing just about anything in this bar will pull up relevant results. You can even search things like has:attachments or from:name to limit the results.
Gmail and Outlook both have sophisticated contact management systems
If you’re frequently communicating with a large number of contacts, it’s essential to keep a contact list with names, emails, numbers, and so on.
There’s not much of a contest here. Gmail and Outlook both do a good job of providing a strong contact management system. If you’re moving to Gmail or Outlook from a different service, then both services allow you to import contacts from most of the other well-known service providers. You can also import contacts to Outlook from Gmail, and vice versa. If you manually back up your contact list, you’ll have a CSV file. Outlook and Gmail also allow you to upload contacts through CSV, or even vCard files.
Gmail and Outlook are both very secure email services
One of the most important things to consider when choosing an email service is security. With an unsecure email service, your sensitive company information can easily end up in the hands of someone with ill intentions.
However, when comparing security features in Outlook and Gmail, there’s really nothing to complain about. Both provide the key essentials—spam filters, two-step authentication, and trusted sender enablement, allowing you to let the service know in advance if a sender can be trusted.
These are just the basic security features you should expect when considering an email service. If you ever run across an email service that doesn’t provide these essential features, avoid it at all costs.
At the end of the day, security is measured by the precautions of the individual user. Be sure to take the initiative in ensuring your data is protected. Do this by creating a strong, unique password that only you would know. And, as always, use a nice mix between uppercase and lowercase characters, numbers, and symbols. If you have trouble remembering complicated passwords, you can always use a password manager.
Outlook and Gmail provide secondary features for customizing your experience
When looking at things like themes and backgrounds, these take a back seat to primary features such as contact management. Even still, Microsoft and Gmail didn’t hold back on the offerings.
If you’re using Microsoft Office, you can set a theme or background for Outlook through any of the Office applications, as the update applies to all. Currently, Office has four themes: Colorful, Dark Gray, Black, and White. There are more background offerings, ranging from things like calligraphy to clouds to doodle diamonds to lunchbox.
Gmail isn’t much different with its customization. Going to Settings > Themes will bring up a large library of themes for you to choose from. Gmail does have a bit more to choose from, and you can even upload your own photo to create a unique theme.
Both offer free and paid versions
As with most software, there’s a free version and a paid version for these services. The free versions, as you’d probably expect, come with ads. In the free versions, Gmail displays ads at the very top of the Social _and _Promotions tabs. Outlook displays them on the right side of your inbox. Ads are tailored to the user, but you can always change your ad preferences with both services.
Also, with the free versions, you get 15GB of storage space per account—with Gmail having one caveat. Gmail will use this 15GB of storage space throughout all of the G Suite apps. That means your 15GB can disappear quicker than you’d probably expect.
If you opt to use the paid versions, then you’ll be free from the distraction of ads, and you’ll also have a larger storage capacity. Gmail provides three separate options—Basic, Business, _and _Enterprise. These plans range from $6, $12, and $25 per user per month, respectively. The Basic plan bumps your 15GB storage limit up to 30GB, whereas Business and Enterprise give users unlimited storage (or 1TB per user if you have fewer than five users on the plan). Google offers a 14-day free trial if you’re still on the fence.
To purchase Outlook, you’ll need to purchase one of the Office 365 packages. Microsoft breaks this up into two sections—Home and Business. Business is what we’re interested in here, but we certainly encourage you to check out the Office Home packages. Looking at the Business side, we have two available packages. These packages are Office 365 Business _and _Office 365 Business Premium. These packages will run you $8.25 and $12.50 per user per month, respectively. They also require an annual commitment. Both packages offer 1TB of storage and provide online versions of the Office apps. Microsoft one-ups Google with the free trial offering, letting users give it a go for an entire month before making a commitment.
Outlook vs. Gmail: Which service should you use?
Outlook and Gmail are very sophisticated, mature email services, and deciding which one is best comes down to personal preference. One of the major things to consider is integrations. Gmail integrates with all of the G Suite apps such as Docs and Sheets. Similarly, Outlook integrates with Office 365 applications. Both are extremely intuitive. The choice really boils down to user preference.
Another thing to consider is how you want to organize your emails. If you prefer to create folders and subfolders like myself, then Outlook is the way to go. Those looking to categorize everything via labels, Gmail is probably the best option for you.
Both tech giants have a cult following, and the email services themselves don’t provide enough for a Google or Microsoft fan to switch from one service to the other.