My Thoughts on Gmail vs. Outlook

For the last four months I’ve made it a point of using both Gmail and Outlook, equally, for my business mail. I did this to study the differences in their current versions. I wanted to do this updated evaluation because a lot has changed in each product over the years, especially recently.

I admit I’ve been a bit biased. I’ve been an Outlook user for decades and dismissed Gmail years ago (when in beta) as being merely a good free web mail app, but not a serious business tool. Because of that, all my books and courses have mostly been about Outlook.

But that has changed. With Gmail’s recent redesigns, I now find the two apps, on balance, nearly equivalent for serious business email management. Each has advantages and disadvantages, however, and those will definitely influence your choice.

Preliminary App Definitions

Before I present my conclusions, let’s get these preliminary “definitions” out of the way.

  • When I say Gmail, I mean Gmail as used with its web interface. Google no longer has a  desktop app, and I did not look at third-party front-end desktop tools for Gmail.
  • When I say Outlook, I mean Outlook as used with Outlook.com or with Exchange/Microsoft 365 as the mail server. So, I did not evaluate Outlook desktop used with, say, a Yahoo email address. Outlook desktop always works better with Microsoft mail servers.
  • I am not addressing the huge ecosystem implications behind these two applications. So, I am not evaluating if Microsoft 365 applications are in general better than the G-Suite set. And I am not addressing the differences in corporate philosophies or in customer support. That’s a whole other discussion.

Conclusion Summary

Here is a bullet list of my conclusions; details on each of these bullet points will follow in future articles.

As you’ll see in this list, I find it’s a bit of a wash now, with each platform ahead and behind in different ways.

  • I like Windows Outlook Desktop better than Gmail web. Outlook desktop is faster to navigate, faster to clean the inbox, and has many more mail processing tools. So if, for example, you use my Outlook Ninja system, the Windows Outlook desktop system is the best way to go for rapid inbox processing.
  • That said, I like Gmail’s web interface much better than Outlook Online; Gmail web has more tools and it has a better layout compared to Outlook’s web interface.
  • I like the Gmail smartphone apps much better than Outlook’s, mainly because of two key features: You can apply labels (categories) to mail on the Gmail smartphone app, (but not on the Outlook smartphone app). And on the Android version of Gmail’s phone app, you can convert emails into tasks. These two features are critical to me.
  • I find the Microsoft To-Do app (Microsoft’s new tasks system) to be a bit better than Google Tasks, particularly for use with my 1MTD productivity system. But both can work.
  • If you use my more powerful MYN productivity system, then the Windows Outlook Desktop Tasks system is the way to go. That desktop-based task module is one of the most powerful task modules on the market, hands down. The Google Tasks system isn’t even close in regard to having such a powerful feature set.

While overall, the apps pros and cons roughly balance, it is gratifying to me to see Gmail has become so useful and mature in its feature sets these days. Frankly, I think Microsoft needs the competition. And in the Smartphone arena, it’s especially good to see Gmail’s strong support for labels (categories) and conversion of emails to tasks. Given how much I use my smartphone for email, this alone is one reason to favor the Gmail approach.

Upcoming Gmail Courses

Because of this near equivalence (and Gmail’s growing business penetration), I am starting to develop video courses for Gmail. The first is a course on using Google Tasks with my 1MTD system. I should be releasing this video course in about one month, so watch my newsletter announcements.

And I’ll be issuing more detailed comparison articles on these two apps, ones that drill down on my bullet points above, in upcoming newsletters.

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11 Responses to My Thoughts on Gmail vs. Outlook

  1. Eric Garland says:

    I love your system but when I switched to Apple – nothing worked smoothly. Because of that, I switched from Outlook to G-mail and lost my ability to work the system.
    Helping me with Google tasks to work the system again is a game changer I am sure more many of us!
    Thank you.

  2. cindy says:

    Though I have a hotmail account, I don’t use it. Instead I use gmail. I tried using Outlook , both the “app” and the web version tying into gmail. There is not a seamless way to sync my gmail contacts with Outlook. So, I am back to using web gmail on my laptop, and the gmail app on my iPad. And managing tasks the MYN way doesn’t work with it!

    Is there a solution in sight?

  3. Netscape Navigator says:

    Microsoft’s offerings have improved dramatically in recent years, especially in the email and to do list space.

    I’m very impressed with Microsoft’s most recent versions of Outlook & Microsoft Todo for Mac OS and iOS. 10 years ago this would have sounded crazy, but Microsoft actually seems to have a tighter partnership with Apple than Google these days.

    Microsoft also gives you the option in Mac OS to use apps or web browser versions of Outlook and Microsoft Todo. With Google, your only option is to use a browser. Want to view Gmail offline, or access Google Drive? You have to use Chrome, which is a massive resource hog. IMO, you’re far better off using Safari and the Microsoft Edge these days in Mac OS.

    On IOS, Outlook and Microsoft Todo play nice w/ Siri through simple shortcuts. Google’s tend to need a bunch of workarounds.

  4. Chris Stevens says:

    Quote: I like the Gmail smartphone apps much better than Outlook’s, mainly because of two key features: You can apply labels (categories) to mail on the Gmail smartphone app, (but not on the Outlook smartphone app). And on the Android version of Gmail’s phone app, you can convert emails into tasks. These two features are critical to me.

    They are critical to me as well. I don’t understand how MS does not see this.

  5. Ed says:

    Gmail in web browser also has multiple inboxes which has been an asset to my business and to maintain inbox zero. Though I believe Inbox by Gmail is the superior email of them all, it seems Gmail is slowly adding those functions from Inbox. A few things to note-Gmail on iOS can not covert emails into tasks. Google Tasks does not integrate within Google Calendar on the mobile apps (coming soon). Microsoft Tasks has no Calendar integration, unless you manually drag a task in the Outlook web browser version, which makes it an actual event. Outlooks allows you search categories by typing within the mobile apps. Gmail makes you scroll through all labels to move emails on the mobile apps. I use both email clients one for my business and one for my employer. As it stands today they are even in most parts. Gmail stands out with two critical features multi labels and inboxes.

  6. Jeff Quinn says:

    I have been using Gmail with your methodology for years. To manage the tasks effectively with Gmail, there is an inexpensive app called GQueues that has solved all of the issues for me. It differentiates from every other app I have looked at for G-Suite in that it updates immediately. Users can add tasks with dates and reminders and they are immediately populated on the Google calendar. If the task is completed and marked complete anywhere, including your smarthphone, it is marked complete everywhere, instantly.

  7. Vinay says:

    I use Outlook at work and total workday control is a real game changer. The book helped me a lot to set up my inbox which is virtually empty(unless I am lazy). I love the tasks pane and use it to maximum efficiency as outlined in chapter 3.

  8. I have used Gmail for years and have several Gmail accounts. I’ve been wondering if using Outlook instead would permit me to have all of the Gmail accounts be directed directly to the same Outlook inbox if I changed. Reading though this I realized I am so out of touch with this stuff that I’m just going to stick with Gmail because it would take me way too long to understand the TLAs and the buzz words for each system so at least thanks for that and I take that project off the back burner and move on to other things that might result in more immediate productivity.

  9. nawaz says:

    but my people use mostly Gmail.

  10. Aniruddha says:

    Convert email to task is now available in Outlook for iOS as a command Create Task. It creates a new task in To Do or Outlook with the subject of the email as the name of the task. There are no editing options before it is created. Using creation date as a sort option you will see the item at the top of the task list in To Do. This makes email triage on the iPad and iPhone possible in Outlook. It still lacks Categories but being able to create tasks from emails is a major step forward.

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