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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?

Attachments in messages can be downloaded singly, en masse, or -- depending on the file format -- viewed either in-browser or through Google Docs. I had trouble getting some larger, more complex Word documents to render in the latter, but files like PDFs and images worked fine. Gmail also scans attachments for viruses and will bounce incoming messages or block attachments, incoming or outgoing, that appear to be infected.

I was disappointed that it isn't possible to export an archive of your email via the Google Takeout data-portability service, but (as detailed in our sidebar) you can use an independent email client such as Mozilla Thunderbird to accomplish the same thing via its native IMAP connectivity. I tried this once, and depending on how much email you have, it can take many hours.

Auto-forwarding from Gmail can be done by simply adding one or more forwarding addresses via your account settings. The addresses you list are confirmed by sending a confirmation code to the address in question. You can also opt to have forwarded mail kept intact in Gmail, marked as read, archived or deleted entirely.

Mobile use

For mobile devices, Google makes dedicated apps not only for Android but for iOS as well. The new 2.0 version of the iOS edition lets you access multiple Gmail accounts, works directly with various Google service requests (e.g., if you get a calendar invite, it's handled right in the app), and lets you post to Google+ through email.

Users of the Chrome desktop browser can add Gmail Offline, which caches up to a month of mail directly in your browser for offline access via the magic of HTML5, although it makes the layout and format of Gmail look a lot closer to the iOS app than to the desktop website.

And the mobile-site version of Gmail is also very nicely designed, with a remarkable amount of easy-to-access functionality crammed into a small space.

Bottom line

Google's Gmail email service is still a fine choice, rich with meta-organizational features and external connectivity options -- although its highly useful sync features for Outlook are now only available for paying customers.

Outlook.com

Launched in 1996 and acquired by Microsoft in 1997, Hotmail was one of the first and best-known free email services. Then Gmail ascended in popularity and Hotmail sank from view -- recently resurrected as Outlook.com, part of Microsoft's collection of Live-branded online services.

The change from Hotmail to Outlook has been, to say the least, radical. Outlook.com sports an interface patterned directly after Windows 8's UI, with lots of white space, large icons and a preview pane. The only cosmetic changes a user can make are to the color scheme used for the top bar and the fonts used for creating new messages. Also, while Gmail includes a single text-only strip of ads near the top, Outlook.com sports ads that take up the entire right-hand margin of the main window.

 

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