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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?

Outlook.com comes with its own clutch of 15 pre-generated message category labels.Click to view larger image

This inflexibility aside, the category system is quite useful. You can also set two different attributes for a category. "Quick view" adds that category to the list of fast-access links on the left side of the screen. "Filters" lets you take whatever folder is currently visible and apply a filter to its contents -- for instance, to see all messages from a particular person in a given folder. Messages can also be processed on arrival or on demand via a series of rules, much like the ones that can be created for the desktop edition of Outlook.

Note that if you are using a non-Outlook.com email address with Outlook.com (e.g., me@mydomain.com), any messages sent from Outlook.com through that account will be listed as something like hotmail_b9a8df14e345c8f5@live.com on behalf of me@mydomain.com. Replies go directly to the second address; attempts to reply to the remailer address will bounce.

Where Gmail lets you set up multiple mail forwarding addresses, Outlook.com lets you forward email to only one other email account at a time. Forwarded mails also have less options: The only thing you can do with forwarded emails is keep copies in your Outlook.com inbox. The setup page also notes that you should "sign in at least once every 270 days -- otherwise your account looks inactive and could be deleted."

Mobile use

Aside from Windows Phone, support for Outlook.com on mobile devices is a bit dodgy. There's no iOS app (although there is an Android one), and the mobile version of the site doesn't present itself automatically on some devices: Safari and Chrome for iPad work, but Chrome for Android brings up the desktop version of the site.

The look of the Android app also doesn't bear the slightest resemblance to Outlook.com's interface -- it's essentially a rebadged version of the old Hotmail app for Android -- but it gets the job done, and does offer contact and calendar sync with Outlook.com.

Bottom line

The revamped Outlook.com is clean-looking and works well, but the lack of IMAP support and the uncertain state of its mobile apps and mobile site is inconvenient.

Yahoo Mail

Yahoo's email service got a major revamp at the end of 2012, one of the major changes ushered in since Marissa Mayer's entry as CEO. The new Yahoo Mail is uncluttered and clean but lacks many of the advanced management and categorization features of its competitors -- unless you pay for them.

That's the catch: The free tier of Yahoo Mail is deliberately crippled in certain ways. For $19.99 a year, Mail Plus disables ads, allows you to use POP and set up mail forwarding, lets you use up to 200 filters (the free version lets you use up to 100) and doesn't require you to log in every so often to keep your account from being shut down. My favorite paid feature: Disposable Addresses, which lets you create proxy addresses you can use without having to give away your actual address.

 

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