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Webmail war: Gmail vs. Outlook.com vs. Yahoo Mail

Serdar Yegulalp | March 4, 2013
Does Google, Microsoft or Yahoo now deserve your webmail business?

Importing contacts into Outlook.com isn't hard; it can be done via a CSV file exported from Outlook or another program. Exporting is also simple; just go to the "Export" option in the "People" submenu, click that and you can download a CSV copy of your contacts. The bad news is that this copy, at least as of this writing, doesn't include contacts imported from social networks (Facebook, Google+, Twitter); it's only contacts that you have added directly in Outlook.com yourself or imported via a file.

Gmail

Gmail currently provides email for an estimated half a billion users, according to its own internal stats, with at least 10GB of email storage for every one of them. In the last couple of years, Gmail has shed its "perpetual beta" stigma -- something that was common to many Google applications -- and has become a service that, it sometimes seems, just about everyone has an account with.

Google's Gmail recently underwent a redesign, and elements are now spaced wider apart.Click to view larger image

The most visible of Gmail's changes in the last year or so, apart from placing Gmail under the recently unified Terms of Service that were rolled out across Google, involves a redesign of its interface. Elements are now spaced wider apart, an echo of the visual changes made across Google systemwide. If you'd rather stick with the previous look, Google has provided a way to change back: Click the gear button on the right side of the main screen and select "Compact" from the list of possible views to restore the old, more closely spaced view. You can also customize the look and feel with various themes (in contrast to Outlook.com, which allows only basic customizations). One thing still missing from the interface (and provided by both Yahoo Mail and Outlook.com) is a message preview pane option.

Gmail differs from most other email services in the way that it handles message replies. With Google, the standard reply is edited via a frame nested at the bottom of the original message (as opposed to Outlook.com and Yahoo Mail, which open a new tab or window). This is handy if you want to keep both the original message and the reply in front of you as you edit. You can also pop out the reply into its own subwindow and edit it separately -- and since I tend to work on multiple mail drafts at once, this is a welcome feature for me.

Gmail is closely integrated with the rest of the Google ecosystem in a variety of ways. If you use the Google+ social network, for example, messages from that service are indicated in your inbox via a "g+" icon next to the subject line. Hover over the name of a sender and contact information appears, along with any Google+ circle membership you have for them. If you use Google's Chrome browser, Gmail can be used as the default email handler. And a feature currently in field trials allows you to see search results from your email when searching Google generally.

 

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