Outlook vs. Gmail: Do the Differences Matter?

Outlook vs. Gmail: Do the Differences Matter?

When it comes to choosing an email service for your business, I find that many people don’t give it a second thought. You’re either a Gmail user or you’re an Outlook user, and that’s the end of the discussion. After all, why bother making any kind of a switch when you already know what you’re comfortable with and what works for you?

It’s great to work with a system where you feel confident and it comes easy, especially if you’re talking about personal use, but when it comes to your business, learning a new system might be worth it. Weighing the different features and pros and cons could help you realize that you’ve had it wrong all along. What if most of your staff prefers the other system? Who should make a change? In the end, the change needs to depend upon which system works best for your business—not whether you’re the boss or you’re the employee.

Different Features of Gmail and Outlook

I’ll start by saying that I am a Gmail and an Outlook user. I have always used Gmail for my personal email and my old work email, but when I switched companies I found myself having to use Outlook. This led me to do quite a bit of research on the two systems (I was reluctant to change, obviously), and I found that it’s easiest to slit up the research by the following top 5 features:

1. Receiving and Sending Email Messages. This refers to how easy it is to compose an email message, reply, forward, send a message, etc. Believe it or not, how each system pulls up a message page is quite different.

Gmail: Gmail now lets you compose a message in a pop-up tab, which allows you to keep other messages open at the same time. If you’re replying to a thread, you are taken to that thread with all of your normal Gmail features still on the side for you to see (folders, inbox, chat contacts, etc.). You can also leave your email anytime you wish because Gmail always saves a draft.

Outlook: Where you actually compose your message is larger than the space you have when using Gmail. You’re taken to a new window where you can’t see any other Outlook features, so you can focus on your email. This is also nice because if you’re replying to a thread you’re able to see more of that thread instead of having to scroll. With Outlook, however, you have to press “save” if you want your email saved; although you are prompted so it’s easy not to forget.

The Winner: Gmail. This one is all about preference.

2. Security. There are hackers out there, and email is a huge target for them. Security for your email system should be important, especially if we’re talking about your business.

Gmail: Gmail has what’s called a “two-factor authentication,” which means there are two ways to prove that you’re the owner of that email (one includes mobile and the other includes a password). You can also be signed into several different computers and Google Apps at once.

Outlook: Outlook now has two-factor authentication; although it did just come to us in April whereas Google has had it for what feels like forever. Regardless, Outlook doesn’t support multiple sign-ons like Gmail.

The Winner: Gmail. This is one category where everyone seems to know that Gmail wins.

3. Aesthetics. This refers to the overall system (not just the messaging section). When you look at the page, is it easy to understand? Can you see where everything is located?

Gmail: Gmail isn’t pretty necessarily, but it is easy to use. You can customize this email easily (more on this below), but the default doesn’t give you much and does have a lot of buttons and different links you can click.

Outlook: Outlook has a really cool design that offers a preview pane and one color to help you keep things straight. It’s known to be easy to use based on the design because it’s so simple and not nearly as cluttered as its competition.

The Winner: Outlook. Customization, however, could change your mind.

4. Filtering, Organization, and Customization. When you get 200+ emails per day, being able to filter those and stay organized is extremely important. Both systems also offer different customization options.

Gmail: With Gmail you can choose background images, color schemes, and how much information you want on the page. Be careful though, because too much customization and Gmail could look way more confusing than it should. Gmail also has a Preview option, but you have to enable this through your “labs” tab, which can get confusing (especially if you’re used to Outlook).

Outlook: Outlook still urges you to organize your emails with folders and categories. You can feel free to “sweep” up all of your messages from a particular sender if you want them deleted and even schedule Outlook to do a little bit of work for you, such as delete notifications form somewhere ever few days. Then, of course, there is the popular Preview Pane discussed above that is part of your default email.

The Winner: Outlook.

5. Social Integration. When you open emails from different people, it helps to have an easy way to connect with them on social media (another thing becoming more and more important for businesses).

Gmail: Gmail is all about Google+ and makes it incredibly easy to connect with someone you’re emailing via Google+ right there on the right-hand side of the email. You also get all of your Google+ notifications on your Gmail dashboard in the upper right-hand corner. You can also easily chat someone on right there on Gmail. Unfortunately, the other social networks aren’t really seen.

Outlook: Whenever you’re reading a message from someone, you will be able to see what that person was saying and doing on their Twitter and Facebook (if they allow you to, of course). You can retweet or “like” a post right there from the message you’re reading.

The Winner: Outlook. Of course this is also a matter of preference, but it seems that Outlook has more options and will continue to have more options since Google isn’t fond of any social network that isn’t Google+.

If you’re not in the majority and you like a system other than Gmail or Outlook—AOL, Yahoo, Mail.com, etc.—I recommend visiting Technology Guide. They have an article (that you can find here) that details the different benefits and pitfalls of almost all the different email systems available.

Gmail vs. Outlook: The Verdict

You might notice that between all of the categories there is a tie between Gmail and Outlook, so it has to come down to your priorities. In my opinion, security is going to be much more important than aesthetics, so Gmail wins.

Are you a Gmail or an Outlook user? What do you like about each system and what do you dislike? Let us know your story and your thoughts in the comments below.

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