I recently had a very good friend of mine ask me the difference between the two. Here’s the skinny…
eMail services today aren’t like they used to be. It used to be that you got email because of the online service you used (like CompuServe, Prodigy, American Online or MSN, to name a few…). Some of them were IMAP related services. Some of them were POP3 related. In very rare occasions, depending on the level of service you purchased, some of them were corporate based or corporate classed, like Microsoft Exchange services. And, on top of that, you nearly ALWAYS had an email application (like Outlook or Outlook Express) to read your email with.
Today, it’s a completely different story.
Today, nearly all email addresses are services that you choose to use. While the players have largely changed – all except for Microsoft, who still offers email via Outlook.com – most users choose to use web based email services provided by one of the larger consumer SaaS providers like Google, Microsoft, (and yes, even) Yahoo! (still…).
So, as I said, I recently had a very trusted, and good friend ask me what the difference between Outlook.com and Gmail were; and more importantly if one was better than the other. My answer, as always, was qualified. It depends.
It depends… on your needs.
So, for this discussion, I’m going to leave the Office compatible applications OUT of the conversation. Both offer Microsoft Office or Office compatible app suites, including eMail, but they also offer
• Word Processing – Word Online vs. Google Docs
• Spreadsheets – Excel Online vs. Sheets
• Presentations – PowerPoint Online vs. Slides
• Online Storage – OneDrive vs. Google Backup and Sync
For the sake of our discussion, we’re going to call these pretty much even; though, Google’s online storage offering does offer full computer backup, where OneDrive does not.
We’re going to instead concentrate on the email offering, which, believe it or not, is also, pretty much even. However, there are a few differences, and I want to touch on those so that you can pick out the service that is really the best for you.
Here are the nuts and bolts of the differences between Gmail and Outlook.com
|Accessibility||Online or Offline; but offline isn’t easy||Online or offline|
|Tags & Folders||Uses labels instead of folders||Folders and Categories|
There are perhaps one or two more differences of note; and depending on your situation, they may make a difference to you.
The biggest one is that will likely may any difference to anyone is that Outlook.com supports Exchange and Gmail does not. This won’t make any difference to you unless you intend to use Microsoft Outlook as an email client. Exchange allows you to take full advantage of all of Outlook’s features.
For example, while Gmail supports calendaring, Exchange’s calendar features are an industry standard. In fact, most of the features in Outlook are an industry standard. The thing about Outlook.com is that if you really want to use it, you’re best email client is going to be Outlook. If you’re not wanting to use Outlook, then you don’t have to.
Outlook.com will still work with a web browser, and work well; but if you really want that to work well, you’re going to need to use Edge or Internet Explorer. While Outlook.com works with any web browser, its feature set is deprecated with anything else other than a Microsoft web browser. Gmail works with Outlook, but it requires either POP3 or IMAP configurations. Gmail also really wants to live in a browser, and more than that… it really wants to live in Google Chrome.
So, at the end of the day, where does this really leave us? Honestly, that’s pretty easy.
If you want to use Outlook, then you should choose Outlook.com or Office 365 for your email needs. Outlook.com will default to Exchange regardless of the email address it creates for you. If you want to use it as either a POP3 or IMAP service, you can, of course, but you won’t get the advantages of Exchange, in Microsoft Outlook if you go that route.
If Exchange Services aren’t important to you, then , as I mentioned you can still use Outlook.com as a POP3 or IMAP service provider, or you can simply go with Gmail, which has some of the most reliable, easiest to configure services available It just depends on what you want to do and how you want to do it… It’s really up to you.
So what are the differences between Gmail and Outlook.com? Why do you pick one over the other? To be honest, I’m going to tell you exactly what I told my friend:
They’re effectively identical.
The only reason why you choose one over the other is going to depend on what type of mobile devices you have (Google services plays best with Android devices…); or whether or not you need or want Exchange.
If either of these are a toss up, then by all means, just pick one. To be honest, most folks aren’t going to care and it won’t really matter… It’s not your email needs that are going to drive you to pick one over the other. It’s going to be another service – Exchange, Office Suite compatibility, web browser needs/ choice, or full app client that are going to push you to choose one over the other.
If none of that makes a difference to you, then by all means… flip a coin.
However, I’d love to hear what you chose and why. Did you go Google or Microsoft? Chrome or Outlook? Why don’t you meet me in the Discussion area, below and tell me what direction you went and why. I’d love to hear all about it.