Gmail and Outlook.com have become the two largest email services on the Internet, together totaling over a billion users. Both services have enhanced the tools of business communication and simplified scheduling and collaboration. While the overall approach of these two services is very similar, each service has some distinct features. This blog post offers a comparison of those features and will hopefully help you determine which service will best streamline your daily business operations.

It’s important to note that there are several different versions of Microsoft’s email suite: Outlook, Outlook.com and Outlook Web Access. Outlook.com is Microsoft’s standard online email service (formerly Hotmail). Outlook is a software email client that comes bundled with Microsoft Office. Outlook Web Access (OWA) is a web-based email client that is part of the Microsoft (MS) Exchange Server. Because these names are needlessly confusing, this post will be focusing on Outlook.com and will refer to it from now on as simply “Outlook.”

Organization: Gmail

Gmail has set the organization standard for email services.  In Gmail, you can automatically sort emails by sender, keywords, attachments or size. You can then use those filters to automatically respond to, sort or delete those messages. Gmail uses labels and stars for organization, rather than folders. You can apply multiple labels to your messages, which allows you to customize your organization scheme to meet your needs. Stars allow you to mark your most important emails for later action. If you don’t want to take the time to customize, you can enable Smart Labels, which allows Google to automatically apply relevant labels to messages. Gmail also uses a priority inbox system. This system automatically marks emails as “important” based on who you email, which messages you open and what you interact with most often. You can also manually mark a message as “important.” If you are looking for a thorough and customizable organizational scheme, Gmail is the service for you.

Gmail’s organization is more intuitive and flexible than Outlook’s. That said, Outlook has made some strides and is catching up in terms of organization. Outlook uses folders for organization and offers a set of default folders, as well as some customizing options. However, these folders have more limitations than Gmail’s labeling system. You can also “pin” important emails to the tops of folders. Outlook also includes a “Clutter” feature, which automatically removes unimportant emails to a separate “Clutter” folder. Outlook also features “categories” (which are similar to labels) and “rules” (which are similar to filters), but these functions are more complicated to find and use than Gmail’s.

Interface: Outlook

In general, users have found that Outlook has a more streamlined and intuitive interface than Gmail. Outlook uses a basic, three-panel design and doesn’t stray from it. On the left panel, you can navigate folders and categories; in the middle panel, you can view a list of the emails in that folder; on the right panel, you can read a selected message. If you are looking for an interface that is simple, sleek but not so much concerned with customizability, Outlook is the service for you.

Gmail, on the other hand, has been criticized for having a slightly clunky interface, but the service also offers several layouts to choose from. Google frequently introduces new interface options that users can either adopt or opt out of, including the Inbox, tabbed inbox and priority inbox interfaces. All of these interfaces have different features for different needs. If you are willing to play around with different interfaces to get what you want, Gmail could be a great option.

Mobility: Gmail

As of May 2015, 75% of Gmail’s over 900 million active users were accessing their accounts through mobile devices. This speaks to the difference between Gmail and Outlook when it comes to mobility. Gmail offers automatic set-up for mobile devices. Gmail also has IMAP support, something Outlook lacks. And while Outlook can be adapted to any device, this often has to be done manually. If mobile access to email and other tools is important to your business, Gmail is the way to go.

Integration: Both

Both Outlook and Gmail are best used in conjunction with their respective suites. Outlook integrates well with the Microsoft Office 365 Suite, while Gmail integrates well with the Google Apps for Business Suite (featuring tools like Google Docs). Both suites allow you to integrate with calendars, merge multiple calendars to create group schedules and aggregate RSS feeds. This integration allows you to use your email service with other business tools. Which email service is best for your business simply depends on which suite you prefer.

As you can see, Gmail and Outlook are neck-and-neck in many ways. Choosing the right service for your business largely depends on how your business operates. If customizability, organization and mobile operation are priorities for you, Gmail is your email service. On the other hand, if you are looking for simplicity and consistency, Outlook should be your choice. And if your business is already dependent on either the Google Apps for Business Suite or the Microsoft Office 365 Suite, you may want to just integrate the respective email service to streamline your business operations.

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