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Gmail vs Outlook: What’s the Best (Free) Email Service?

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Choosing the best email service for your small business can be challenging. Your email messages are vital to your business. You need an email service that's reliable and provides the features that your organization needs.

For many individuals and small business owners the decision about which email service to use comes down to choosing between two of the most popular email services. Those services are Google's Gmail and Microsoft's Outlook.com. (For convenience sake, we'll refer to Microsoft's Outlook.com as Outlook.)

Keep in mind though, there are additional email providers that you could choose from. To explore even more of the best free email services, review this helpful article:

Also, consider that after picking a service provider it's important to master your approach to email. Download our new email strategies eBook: The Ultimate Guide to Inbox Zero Mastery. (It's available for FREE with the Tuts+ Business newsletter.) 

Free email inbox mastery ebook download

Now, let's get started. Today we take a close look at Gmail vs. Outlook—comparing the features of these two popular email service providers. We also list a number of the advantages and disadvantages of each email system to help you weight which is best.

The Top (Free) Email Services Compared: Gmail vs Outlook

This chart lists the main features of Gmail vs. Outlook. Then we'll dig into each email provider in more detail in the following sections, so you can pick the best email service provider for your needs.

Gmail or Outlook for the best free email service provider
Which is the best, free email service provider (Gmail or Outlook)? 

Both Gmail and Outlook offer both free and premium versions. The premium email versions have more features. For this comparison, this article is based on the free versions of these popular email services.

Gmail or Outlook.com (Quick Comparison Chart)

Here's a reference chart comparing some of the most important features of Gmail and Outlook:

 

Google's Gmail

Microsoft Outlook.com

Storage

15 GB. The storage limit is shared between Google Drive, Gmail, and Google Photos. If you've reached your limit you can buy extra storage. Your Google Account also has storage in the cloud-based Google Drive.

While the actual limit is unclear, it appears that you start with 5 GB of storage and this amount increases over time. Your Microsoft Account also has storage in the cloud-based OneDrive.

Search Capabilities

 

Search any combination of the following elements using the advanced search:

  • Label, Tab, or Category
  • From
  • To
  • Subject
  • Keywords
  • Body Text
  • Attachment
  • Chat
  • Message Size
  • Date

Outlook.com has a simpler search. The search mail or people option allows you to search any combination of:

  • All Folders, inbox, or drafts
  • From
  • Date Options include All, This week, Last Week, This Month, Range

Or you can search your contact list. There is a separate search for Skype as well.

 

Security

Includes 2-Step Verification and spam detection. You can enable a verification icon for emails from verified senders through Google Labs.

Includes 2-Step Verification. Uses trusted sender icons for emails from trusted senders. Suspected spam messages appear with colored red or yellow safety bars at the top of the message.

Inbox Organization

 

Default Gmail organization is based on labels and up to five tabs. Assign colors to labels and use stars and other symbols to flag important messages. Also, you can convert your inbox to a classic inbox or a priority inbox.

Default Outlook organization is based on categories, folders and subfolders. Flag important messages or pin them to the top of the folder.

Instant Messaging

Gmail uses the Chat function for instant messaging. You can find the Chat icon towards the bottom of the Gmail inbox on the left.

Outlook uses Skype for instant messaging. You can find the Skype icon in the upper right corner of your inbox.

Contact Management

Import contacts from a variety of other email providers including:

  • Yahoo
  • Outlook.com
  • AOL

Import a CSV or vCard file.

Import contacts from your Google+ social media account.

Import contacts from other sources, including:

  • Gmail
  • Outlook 2010, 2013, or 2016
  • Yahoo! Mail
  • Windows Live Mail

Advertisements

Ads appear as emails at the top of your inbox tab. The word "Ad" appears in a yellow box to the left of the subject line.

Outlook.com uses display ads that appear to the right of your inbox. They take up quite a bit of space on the screen.

Extras

Incorporates tasks, customizable themes, Google Lab.

Incorporates calendar, tasks, customizable themes.

Related Tools

Google Drive office suite, including:

  • Docs
  • Sheets
  • Slides
  • Photos
  • Forms
  • Drawings
  • Calendar
Microsoft offers a virtual version of Microsoft's office suite including:
  • Word
  • Excel
  • PowerPoint
  • OneNote
  • Sway
  • Docs.com.

Now that you've seen a side-by-side comparison of the two services, let's take a closer look at each email service.

1. Google Gmail (Free Email Service Review)

A product of Google, Gmail is one of the most popular free email services. It has many features and many users worldwide. For a comprehensive set of tutorials to help you learn how to use Gmail, jump into our multipart series: How to Use Gmail (Ultimate Beginner Guide).

Here's a closer look at some of the advantages and disadvantages of Gmail:

Gmail is one of the best free email services
Gmail is one of the best free email services.

In addition to its popularity, Gmail's free email service offers many advantages for the small business owner. 

5 Key Advantages of Gmail

Here are a number of useful features Gmail has:

  1. Ease of Use - While Gmail has many features, you don't need to understand them all to to make good use of it. Also, there are many great Gmail tutorials to help you get started such as our tutorial for Gmail beginners: How to Create a New Gmail Account (Quick Start Guide).
  2. Productivity - Gmail has several features to improve your productivity. One of those tools is the built-in tasks utility that you can use to send tasks to your Google Calendar. Learn how to use it in this tutorial: How to Work with Tasks in Gmail to Be More Productive.
  3. Customization - Gmail allows for a great deal of customization. Not only can you control the appearance of the Gmail interface using themes, you can choose the way your inbox works by turning features such as tabs off and on. Also, use color coding and markers to customize how various messages appear.
  4. Integration - Gmail integrates with a number of other Google tools. There are also many Plugins that expand the capabilities of Gmail even further. You can read about some of the best Gmail plugins in this article: 20+ Helpful Gmail Plugins for Better Email Management.
  5. Community Support - Gmail has strong community support. The Gmail help center is well-organized and addresses many questions. Plus, Google maintains a Gmail help forum, where users can ask specific questions. Finally, there are many helpful third-party articles written about Gmail.

A Few Disadvantages of Gmail

Despite Gmail's many advantages, there are still some disadvantages to be aware of as well:

  1. User Name Availability - Some users have complained that it's hard to get the user name you want. Due to the large number of users, you may not get the exact user name you want. For example, if your name is [firstname lastname] you probably want your Gmail account to be firstnamelastname. However, unless you have an unusual name you will probably find that your desired user name is already taken. You may end up with a user name more like firstnamelastname9999. (Note: firstnamelastname and firstnamelastname9999 are examples only and are not intended to represent real users.)
  2. Gmail's Labels - Many email users are accustomed to using folders to store messages. Gmail uses a label-based message system. While there are some similarities between labels and folders, they are not the same. This can be a disadvantage for you at first to get familiar with. Label's are quite flexible though once you get used to working with them.

If your business is looking for an email provider, Gmail may be the best free email service. Let's review Outlook.com now and see how it compares to Gmail.

2. Microsoft Outlook.com (Free Email Service Review)

Another popular free email service provider is Outlook.com from Microsoft. This option comes from tech giant Microsoft. If your small business is looking for a free email service, you'll want to consider Outlook.com.

Let's take a closer look:

Outlookcom best free email services
Outlook.com is also one of the best free email services.

5 Important Advantages of Outlook.com

Outlook.com offers some real advantages for users:

  1. Ease of Use - Outlook.com is easy to download and use. It has a clean, modern interface that is intuitive and easy to understand.
  2. Productivity - Outlook has a built-in task tool. You can easily access the calendar from within your inbox by clicking the Calendar icon. You can also access the calendar without leaving your inbox.
  3. Customization - As with Gmail, you can use themes to change the appearance of your interface. You can make some limited changes to the way that your inbox works, such as choosing where the reading pane appears and choosing to show or hide preview text.
  4. Integration - Outlook.com integrates with other Microsoft tools. You can use the grid in the upper left of the inbox to open other Microsoft tools. There are also many add-ins that expand your email capabilities. You can add them from within your inbox using the Manage Integrations option.  
  5. Community Support - Outlook for MS Office is widely acknowledged as the standard in many corporations. Microsoft is a large company and they do offer help for Outlook.com. However, some of the help topics apply only to the MS Office version of Outlook, others apply to Outlook.com, or to both. Outlook.com also has a user community. Plus, there are many helpful third-party articles and tutorial written about this popular email provider.

A Few Disadvantages of Outlook.com

Despite its many advantages, there are a few disadvantages with using Outlook.com:

  1. Name Confusion - The Outlook.com email name is very like the premium Outlook email that comes with Microsoft office. Yet, the email packages differs somewhat. If you are looking at online help or reading an article, it's important to be clear about which package is being discussed.
  2. Fewer Options - While some may like the simplicity of having fewer choices, others may miss having more features. One example is the inbox configuration options. Gmail offers many ways to configure the inbox appearance including choosing priority inbox or turning tabs off or on. In contrast, Outlook limits the ways that you can configure your inbox. You can change how the reading pane displays, whether to show or hide preview text, and a few other options.
  3. No Labs - Gmail Labs, Gmail's collection of not-quite-ready email tools, lets users further expand what they can do with their email service. Outlook.com lacks this means of experimenting with expanding your email system.

Taking everything into consideration, while not packed with quite many as powerful features as Gmail, Outlook.com is still a solid free email service provider choice. If your business is already comfortable using Microsoft Office products or if you find the features of Gmail confusing, Outlook.com may be the best email provider for your needs.

What's the Best Free Email Service Provider for You?

Choosing an email service is a unique decision. Not every company and individual will have the same needs. The choice can be even more complicated when your budget is limited. But even a free email service like Gmail or Outlook.com can be a good choice for you or your small business.

Before finalizing your choice of email providers, ask yourself what you really need from your email service. Here are some questions to consider:

  1. How much do I rely on email?
  2. How many messages do I expect to send/receive?
  3. How important is it that my email be secure?
  4. Which email features will I use the most?
  5. How many people will be using the email service?
  6. Will the email service work with other tools that I already have?
  7. How long will it take to learn how to use the email system?
  8. Does the email service support the add-ins or plug-ins I want to use?

The answers to the previous questions can help you decide which free email provider is best for you. For example, if your business relies heavily on email and you send and receive hundreds of messages each day, message storage may be a big concern. But, if your business operates out of a storefront and you only receive a few dozen emails each week, you might not need an email system with as much storage.

Making Your Decision Between Using Outlook or Gmail

Which is the best free email service for you? In this article, we've just compared two of the most popular free email services available: Outlook vs. Gmail.

Both Gmail and Outlook each have many features that make them a good choice for either a personal or a business email account. They each also have a few disadvantages.

When comparing Gmail vs. Outlook, there's ultimately no right or wrong choice. The email service you choose depends on how you use your email and what you need from it. If you approach the decision carefully and make an informed choice, the email provider you choose is likely to be the best email service provider for you.

Download the (Free) Email Inbox Mastery eBook

After comparing these email systems, making a choice, and getting set up, it's then critical to get organized. How you approach email management is important? You'll either lose time, and let your inbox become a mess, or you'll take control of it.

Sign up for the Tuts+ Business Newsletter and download the FREE Inbox Zero Mastery eBook. Learn how to apply the best email inbox management techniques now.

Download the free email mastery ebook

Which Email Systems Will You Go With?

We've compared both Gmail and Outlook.com. Have you chosen one of these email services? If so, which one did you decide on? Share your answers in the comments.

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