Gmail vs. Outlook: 5 Game-Changing Differences

Vinay Patankar
December 26, 2016

Most companies turn to Gmail or Outlook to manage their workplace email. 13% of public companies use Office 365 or G-Suite (formerly Google Apps). The remaining 87% use a combination of the two, or a private email setup.

Some companies choose Google or Microsoft because they prefer one’s cloud office suite—which includes calendars, and collaboration on spreadsheets and documents—over the other. (We compared Office 365 with G-Suite in another post.)

But if you use other productivity tools and are deciding between Gmail or Outlook solely for email, you want to choose one that helps you speed up your workflow. Gmail set its initial bar high, and Microsoft clearly took notice. Given Outlook’s 2016 update, it is now more equipped to compete than ever.

Here are five game-changing differences between Gmail vs. Outlook.

1. Cost and Storage

To get Gmail or Outlook for your company, you can download it along with the rest of its related cloud office suite, i.e. G-Suite or Microsoft Office 365.

G-Suite offers two prices for email, as well as other business apps like Calendar, Google Docs, and Google Sheets. For $5 per user per month, you get 30GB between Gmail and Google’s other office apps. For another $5 per person, you can upgrade your business account to unlimited storage across those platforms.

gmail vs. outlookOutlook offers several different plans, but their cheapest plan (Office 365 Enterprise E1) designates 50GB specifically to your inbox, and 1TB to the rest of your linked cloud office suite.


gmail vs. outlook

Outlook’s cheapest enterprise plan gets you a lot more space across the board than Gmail does.

When it comes to storage and price, Outlook’s the clear winner.

Score: Outlook 1/5, Gmail 0/5.

2. Search Within Your Inbox

Ever find that you’re writing an email, and you need to reference an old email at the same time?

Gmail lets you search for old emails as you write new ones, but it’s clunky. You lose the message previews, dates, and most of the subject that you’re looking for.

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Even if you enable a double-pane view of your inbox (via “Preview Pane” under the “Labs” tab in Settings), your view is still obstructed. You can’t adjust the size of your inbox, new message, or search bar to view all of them at the same time.

gmail vs. outlook
Outlook’s new message process is cleaner, though it’s not perfect either. Outlook’s default inbox is a double panel, and your view of your inbox still gets cut off. When you search for older items, you can still see a full picture of your new message.

gmail vs. outlook

If you prefer to zero in on one task in your email, you can adjust Outlook so that it is single-pane, like Gmail’s default. Just go to the Settings icon, hit “Display Settings,” and click “Hide reading pane.”

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No matter how you configure your Gmail or Outlook display, Outlook makes it easier to search for old emails while writing new ones.

Score: Outlook 2/5, Gmail 0/5.

3. Calendar Integrations

Neither platform has a real solution that lets you view your calendar and email side-by-side.

While both Gmail and Outlook sync events with your calendar, neither let you view your calendar and inbox at the same time, in one tab. When you click on the Outlook tool bar, you’re taken to a separate calendar window.

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On the other hand, when you click on Calendar in Gmail, it keeps your inbox open, and adds a new window (or tab) with your calendar.

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Neither Gmail nor Outlook lend well to multi-window viewing. At least Gmail lets you view your calendar and email at the same time, albeit in different windows.

Score: Outlook 2/5, Gmail 1/5.

4. User Experience (UX)

Inbox aesthetics are subjective, but they matter. If you’re staring at your backlit computer screen all day long, the only way you can avoid seriously straining your eyes is by adjusting the brightness level on all your devices.

That applies to email, too. The more you can customize your inbox for what strains your eyes the least, the better.

(Un)read emails

Text in Gmail is larger than in Outlook. Coupled with the clear definition between bold and non-bold text, as well as the inbox shading available with most templates, Gmail is generally softer on your eyes.

Gmail wins for customization around unread emails. “Read” emails appear in a darker shade than “unread” ones. “Unread” emails are also distinguished, because their sender and Subject are in bold.

gmail vs. outlook

Outlook differentiates these by putting the sender and subject in blue. It’s bold too, but since the text overall in Outlook is flatter and smaller, you still need to squint to see if something is a new email.

gmail vs. outlook
Thanks to shading, bold and text size, Gmail’s aesthetics makes it easier to spot unread emails than Outlook’s.

Score: Outlook 2/5, Gmail 1.5/5.


But let’s not hate on Outlook’s aesthetics either. When you flag an important (read) email, the entire line around that email gets highlighted yellow, and is shaded differently.

gmail vs. outlook
Gmail offers a variety of different flagging symbols, but you can’t search through your inbox per each symbol (notice the exclamation point and different colored stars below). If you’re looking for an important read email, you’ll probably find it faster in Outlook.

gmail vs. outlook
Score: Outlook 2.5/5, Gmail 1.5/5.

5. Security

Gmail has spent most of its lifetime (i.e. the past twelve years) in the Security Spotlight. It offered two-step authentication before Microsoft did for any of its email clients. That means that if someone steals your password, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they can access your account. To log in, you still need to enter something else, like security questions, a retina scan, a touch ID, or a security code.

With Outlook 2016, Outlook also uses two-step authentication. When you log into Outlook on a new device, Outlook sends you a security code to verify your identity. When it comes to signing in, you’re more or less on equal footing with Gmail or Outlook.

The real difference between Gmail and Outlook’s security today hinges on whether images are displayed automatically.

Gmail’s rule of thumb was to send emails sent via a third-party server to spam, because in the earlier days of the internet, messages using third-party servers often were. This is something that once made Outlook, and Hotmail before it, vulnerable.

But now, if you’re a Gmail user who subscribes to newsletters—or just want to open an image that a friend sends you—you have to take a few extra steps to view them.

Like Hotmail before it, Outlook displays images, so everything you elect to see is right in front of you to begin with. Microsoft has become better at detecting potentially harmful messages, but its default is still to display images.

With the risks attachments may carry, whether you prefer the extra security or find it cumbersome is your call. If your password is strong, your account will be as secure as you make it.

Score: Outlook 3/5, Gmail 2/5.

The Winner: Outlook Has Come a Long Way

Both Gmail and Outlook are powerful platforms. Gmail is cheaper, and if you’re choosing which office suite platform to use, that’s a huge consideration. But barring the aesthetics, you’ll get more bang for your buck if you choose Outlook.

You can even use Outlook to work offline.

Process Street would love to hear about the different ways you use Gmail vs. Outlook in the comments. Who knows? You may even get featured in an upcoming article!

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Vinay Patankar

CEO and Co-Founder of Process Street. Sign-up for his free systems masterclass or find him on Twitter and LinkedIn.


Chrome + Google Suite leaves Outlook a few light Years behind. The Myriad apps, extensions available for Chrome + GSuite brings in an Uber rich experience. Let’s say Wisestamp, Boomerang and ToDo lists….the never-ending list.

The only bad weather is lack of some tools to enforce High-level Security – such as IP address restrictions, another is the ‘ruf’ tag not being supported. Of Course, Microsoft Outlook does not have these either.

The CRM tools & Others in GSuite Marketplace, where does that leave the Pathetic Outlook? Microsoft with its ice age policies on licensing ensured there are only a few hobbyist-developers, all the while the Open Source folks are taking a huge unassailable lead.

Also, all the Office products are terribly expensive and the office online is even more awful. Most people can’t successfully complete a transaction! Weird? That’s Microsoft for beginners.

Wow. If you are trying to use state-of-art plugins, integrations, and webhooks, and 3rd party services you will INSTANTLY determine that Google is far, far better suited than Outlook.

I pity the people stuck in Outlook (which means I pity myself, 9 to 5, and become emancipated every evening. on my side hustle.)

I prefer Outlook, because the archive folder contains only the archived messages, and the inbox messages only appear in one place. So the archived messages are a lot easier to find and the account is more organized.

Hi Max,

That is a good point, I find Gmail’s “All Mail” section to be pretty confusing. However, usually if I want to find something I’ve archived I’ll search. However, Inbox by Google solves this issue by counting archived messages as “Done” and added to the Done folder.

Wow, I have a hard time believing people can actually find Outlook better than Gmail in any way… Searching is far more easy and efficient in all off G Suite than in any Microsoft product.
And what’s this comment about Google needing Microsoft to be relevant… how is that even remotely true? Linux, even MacOS ?
Microsoft has always been full of stupid bugs, design flaws and outdated features… seriously.

You prefer Office 365: I get that. And I agree, Outlook has come a long way.

But I don’t understand how you concluded the UX part of your article by giving Office 365 a score of 2/5 and G Suite just 1.5/5. In that section, everything that you said was in G Suite’s favor. How does Google not win that round?

If it’s any consolation, William – I agree with you. And Gmail has improved more and more over time on that front too, whereas I don’t feel Outlook has.

Our company made the change from Outlook to Gmail about a year ago and there is a great deal of talk about going back to Outlook. Now before the bashing starts, I have been on personal Gmail for about eight years and love it for personal/home use. However, for a large company, 5,000 plus that is relatively a Microsoft shop on Windows machines, we call it the great productivity killer (GPK). Also, we are somewhat a banking company and with our security and compliance side of the organization we are not allowed to use all of the wonderful addon’s that are out there which does reduce our productivity. The issues we see are the following:
Gmail search: This is mentioned above but it is horrible for searching say three years of customer communications, team communications looking for documents, or other things to verify “yes I said that” or “no I did not say that” back in 2016. Many of our employees would revert and open up Outlook to try and find those emails which they could not find in Gmail (GPK – go to another app to get what you need).
Long email communication chains: When an employee is on an email chain that has say 20 people, lots of replies, that has gone on for 30 days… the type/font becomes so small and nested, especially when reading on a company phone, it becomes very hard/impossible to read (GPK – Trying to scroll at the bottom of the chain and/or Export to PDF or jpg to read).
Answering inline bulleted questions: As an email chain is progressing and someone asks questions wanting multiple people to respond it is nice to have those responses in one color (red) from one person, (blue) from another person, (green italicized) from another person. In Gmail this is possible but it has to be formatted that way on every one of your responses. In Outlook there is a setting you set once and it will format your responses for every email you type, when in the body of the email, and tag your name as the one who wrote it. (GPK – You can do it in Gmail but you have to do each one individually and there is no multiselect.)
Attachments: Gmail does not know the last thing you worked on and we have to search for your file or drag and drop it to the email. We create many customer facing Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents for our customers. Those applications have a button to email directly from them where it attaches the document that you are working on and creates an email for you to send to whomever with your subject and body to add. Also, if you just go to directly to Outlook there is a place to add an attachment, like Gmail, but Outlook will list the last 10 files you worked on to attach. (GPK – Gmail does not know what you worked on and you have to go find it which is usually in My Documents but not always.)
Google Docs Collaboration: This is a great feature but many users are trying to find old versions as sometimes they do not want to include what another employee added. Say you have five employees contributing to a document but you do not want employee three’s addition but all five have already added their changes. Its hard to find just theirs and remove it. (GPK – Additional time to find the right version and/or remove their changes.)
All in all, we are getting by but everything seems to take a little longer unless it’s a simple email saying to the team “hey I am home with a sick kid today but I will be in tomorrow”. I would say I spend an extra 15 – 30 minutes a day longer in Gmail than I use to in Outlook. Out of the typical 250 days an employee works a year at 15 min a day that is around 62 hours lost in productivity per employee per year. If you take that times $40 an hour (including benefits) $40 * 62 = $2,500 across 5,000 employees that is $12,500,000 per year loss in productivity. Is moving to Gmail worth it?

Outlook is far far more professional, easy to use and cleaner. The emails are clearly shown, easy to search through and higher privacy level than Gmail, which scans all your emails and tracks your activity.

The ‘all emails’ section is clear and all the mail from all email addresses added show in one place and the reply address is automatically from the one it was sent to.

Search options include attachments, dates and more options, flagging is clear and the layout is so much easier on the eye. Alias email addresses are a bonus top, unlike in Gmail where you do not have that ability.

The search on Outlook Web Access is woeful – yesterday I searched for e-mails received in November and it returned ones from Febuary. If I was given the choice at work I’d switch to G-mail.

yea, sounds like a paid review.
which btw, paid reviews happen ALL the time.
If you are a computer nerd with specific business needs then sure, but for the typical casual user that makes up 98% of the internet users, Gmail is best. Free, easy, no 3rd party software, accessible anywhere and did I mention free and easy?

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