I have never been away from my Gmail mailbox for so long.
No, I haven’t taken extended absences; it’s just that I am now using the new Outlook.com service as my primary email client. The incoming emails are still handled by Gmail as before, but I can easily read and reply to these messages inside Outlook without ever logging into Gmail.
Outlook.com made a good first impression when it was unveiled last month and after using the email service exclusively (and heavily) for about 10 days now, it can be said that Microsoft’s revamped Hotmail service does prove the initial impressions right.
There are quite a few factors – like the minimalist design that resembles a desktop app, the use of big fonts in message views and menus, more user-friendly keyboard shortcuts – that make Outlook quite a pleasure to use. then there are several unique features in Outlook that are missing in Gmail.
For instance, when you are composing a new message, the profile pictures of your contacts are visible in the drop downs, making it easier for you to visually pick the right address. Microsoft promises to add more gigabytes should your Outlook mailbox run out of space, but there’s a handy “sort by size” feature available to quickly discover the space hogging emails. If you are sending an email with a large attachment that exceeds the allowed size limit (25 MB), Outlook will automatically route it via SkyDrive.
You can also connect Outlook to your Facebook account and the built-in messaging client can then be used for Facebook Chat. Similarly, if you connect Outlook to LinkedIn, all your LinkedIn contacts will be automatically imported into your address book (though you can’t export this data out of Outlook).
In the last 10 days of active use, I never really felt a need to go back to Gmail anytime, but I do miss a couple of things in Outlook. There’s no offline support and you to have to be connected to search or reply to messages. Categories in Outlook are similar to labels in Gmail but they aren’t color coded. Outlook doesn’t support IMAP at this time, so you can’t sync your web inbox with any of desktop email clients.
Google’s two step verification is a big relief because unauthorized users won’t be able to get into your account even if they are aware of your Gmail username and password. That layer of security is currently absent in Outlook, though you do have an option to set one-time passwords for logging into Outlook from public computers.
I am also not too sure if it is possible to use Outlook.com as the default email provider for your web domain as is available in the free edition of Google Apps.
Despite some of these limitations, Outlook.com is a solid contender to Gmail and the upcoming integration with Skype will make this service even more interesting.