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Outlook.com vs. Gmail: What Microsoft is still missing

Ian Paul | May 6, 2013
Hotmail is dead and Outlook.com stands alone, but Microsoft's mail service still has a few features to add before it catches up to Gmail.

"We will continue to improve the quality and availability of features over time," a Microsoft spokesperson told PCWorld earlier in the week. "In the meantime, we encourage you to download the desktop or mobile versions of Skype to enjoy all the collaboration and productivity tools you know and love."

Customizability

You can change your theme color on Outlook.com from blue to another modern UI-styled flat color, but that's about it.

Gmail lets you add personalized background images, while Gmail gadgets and Labs plug-ins add optional functionality that have no counterpart in Outlook.com. Perhaps it's not Microsoft's style in this new era of the streamlined modern UI to add an overabundance of features to Outlook.com. At the very least, however, add-ons offering a quick view of your latest SkyDrive documents or your calendar appointments would be welcome additions.

Make filters more full-featured

The killer productivity feature for Gmail is its filters that let you automate actions for specific types of messages. You could, for example, funnel all messages from john@johnsmith.com that have attachments to a specific label, or forward them to another email address, or delete them immediately. The options are near-endless.

Outlook filters don't have half that functionality. If you want to filter messages from a specific sender in Outlook.com, you start by clicking "Sweep" at the top of the inbox window. Then you will see options to "Move all from..." or "Delete all from..." Choosing "Move all from..." lets you funnel past and future messages from that sender to a specific Outlook.com folder. But that's it. No options to forward, archive, automatically delete or any of the other options available with Gmail filters.

Minding the gap

Microsoft has done a great job with Outlook.com and the furious pace the company is setting with updates and new features means we may see more cool stuff come to Outlook.com soon. For now, however, Gmail still has an edge over Microsoft's webmail service, but the feature gap between the two services is closing fast.

 

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