Outlook.com Review: Does It Stack Up to Gmail?

Since Microsoft released its new cloud-based email service Outlook.com, there has been lots of buzz about it. The word on the streets is it’s a winner – superior to Gmail and certainly better than the lacklustre Hotmail. Email is email, right? So what does it offer that makes it stand out among its competitors? Let’s take a look at the features that make Outlook.com the go-to email service.

Outlook.com will eventually replace Hotmail altogether and is available for anyone on any device to download and use for free. It has the look of Windows 8 with your tiles for People, Mail, Calendar, and SkyDrive but you don’t have to be using Windows 8 to use Outlook.com mail services.

Outlook-windows-8-tiles

Some email services have included rules to enable you to better manage your incoming mail. However, they are either too complicated for the average user or not specific enough for the business minded. Outlook.com allows you to create folders for your mail that will work with your mail rules. Automatically send your messages into specific folders to help you sort out your mail priorities and make reading and responding to emails easier. For example, you can send work mail from billing to the billing folder for later sifting, or send mail from your boss to a boss file for immediate action.

To create a new folder, simply click the “New Folder” tab and name it.

Outlook-new-folder

Click on the gear icon and then “More Mail Settings”. This will open a large screen of options. Go to the Customizing Outlook section and select “Rules For Sorting New Messages”.

Outlook-customizing

When you start out, you’ll have no rules created. Click “New” to begin creating rules for your inbox.

Outlook-new-rule

In step 1, choose the filtering option for the messages.

In step 2, choose the action you want the rule to adhere to. If you want to move it to its own folder, give the folder a name and click Save. Alternately, you can have them categorized, removed, or deleted before they even hit your inbox.

Outlook-create-rule

Junk

All messages can be deleted but if you mark a message as junk, Outlook will keep the sender out of your inbox from there on.

Sweep

This is probably one of my favorite features of Outlook.com since I have merchants who send multiple emails per day that are of interest to me. I scan them as they come in but I only take advantage of a few.If I didn’t empty my inbox for a few days, I would have an overload of junk email. It takes time to go through and mark them to delete but in Outlook, you can use the sweep function and move all of them to a specific folder, delete all of the messages from this sender (and check the box to block any future messages if you choose) and schedule a cleanup to keep only the most recent message from this sender or delete and move the messages.

Outlook-sweep-the-messgaes

SkyDrive

Sharing photos, documents or video just became a snap with SkyDrive functionality. No more worrying about attachment limits. The beautiful portal for viewing video and photos makes the experience nothing short of enjoyable.

The style of this email service is very minimalistic so to spruce it up, you can add some custom touches to your dashboard by clicking the gear icon in the top right corner. The drop down menu will show you the color options and the email display options. If you want to further customize your options, click “More Mail Settings” to see a complete list of custom settings including linking other email from other accounts.

You have the option to link your social media sites to your email in Outlook.com. When you do, the incoming email will have the person’s picture included in the top of the email along with their latest Facebook post and Tweets at the bottom.

Outlook-social-media-links
You can also send a message or write on their Facebook wall directly from that email so it makes your email more efficient. Answer email, comment on posts, and even chat if they are online all from the same screen!

Business Integration

In addition to the social media functions, Outlook.com also has the ability to function as a business tool. Open, view and edit Microsoft Word documents, Excel or PowerPoint documents from within an email. If you have the need or desire, you’ll soon have the ability to have a Skype chat from the dashboard as well.

Don’t let the simple streamline appearance of this email interface fool you. It’s jam packed with useful tools and integration for today’s busy lifestyle. Join the preview and let us know what you think of the new mail experience. Will you integrate all of your email and social media accounts to the new Outlook.com?