Gmail vs Outlook in 2020 - the Pros, Cons, and Differences

Gmail vs Outlook in 2020 – the Pros, Cons, and Differences

Gmail vs Outlook in 2020 - the Pros, Cons, and Differences

Gmail and Outlook are the juggernauts of email service providers, as are their parent companies Google and Microsoft. Combined, they have around 2 billion users, while the next largest email service, Yahoo, has around 200 million.

Most people are partial to one service or the other, but is one objectively better? Likely, the answer is no. Both have certain distinct advantages and disadvantages that will be discussed below, but it often comes down to what you are used to and your personal style. Check out our overview and choose the service that suits you best.

What is Gmail?

Gmail refers both to the email service, and the integrated apps that come with it – primarily the many functionalities of Google Drive. Gmail beta was launched by Google in 2004, but only got its stable version in 2009. 

One of the pioneers of the internet, Paul Buchheit, was the main developer of Gmail. Buchheit envisioned the modern email service via the internet as early as the 1990s, but would not be the first to realize the idea.

What is Outlook?

Microsoft Outlook isn’t only an email service, but an application designed to help people manage emails, with an integrated task list, calendar, and contact list. Users can make a free account on the Outlook webpage, or get one automatically by buying Microsoft Office products. 

Outlook was fully launched in 2012, but before then Microsoft owned Hotmail, which was released back in 1996. In 2012 Microsoft merged Hotmail with Outlook, and users were allowed to change their domain.

Gmail vs Outlook

Gmail and Outlook provide similar services, and which one is best often comes down to personal preference. There are some key differences, but many are minute. Bellow, we will compare and contrast them in seven categories relevant for users, to help you make your choice.

1. Interface and Design

The design of an email app should allow for ease-of-use and not be overwhelming, but ultimately it is subjective and comes down to personal taste.  Gmail looks more modern, while Outlook offers a more traditional look. 

On the other hand, Gmail also has a basic view for slow connections that is very bare-bones and rustic. The design of both apps will appeal to some people, so take a look and choose what is appropriate for your sensibilities. Gmail can be accessed through any browser, as well as through mobile apps for Android and iOS. 

The differences between the browser version and iOS are minute, and you should not have any problems switching between them. At the same time, Gmail is friendly to third-party integration platforms, so you can integrate it with Focos for quicker accessibility. You can organize your Inbox through the use of categories and labels. 

All of the most used functions are easy to find – the search bar, compose an email, and categorize emails are all clearly marked and visible. To sum up, Gmail’s interface is very user friendly, and you should have no trouble using it, even if you are not familiar with it.

Similarly, Outlook can be accessed through a desktop browser, or Android and iOS apps. Outlook’s interface offers more features – the top bar, or Ribbon, offers you multiple views. 

You can access Mail, Contact, Tasks, Calendar and Notes. If you are not familiar with Outlook and wish to use it simply as an email service, the many features may seem confusing and unnecessary.

Gmail’s interface is very user friendly, while Outlook may be confusing for new users – Gmail is the clear winner here.

2. How They Are Organized

Gmail uses categories and labels for organizing. You can put emails into specific categories and subcategories, as well as mark them. You can mark them as important and unimportant. The inbox has tabs that automatically categorize your emails by its standards, such as Social, Updates, Forums, and Promotions. 

Gmail places all messages of a conversation into a single line by default, which many users find appealing, but Outlook users may find confusing. The setting can be changed so that the conversations look more like those in Outlook. 

Additionally, you can archive message threads. They will no longer appear in your inbox, but you can still search them, and if you receive a reply, it will automatically show up in your inbox.

Outlook is a Microsoft app, thus it shares similarities with its other products. Users familiar with standard WindowsOS will find the organizational scheme of Outlook natural and intuitive. You can sort your emails by creating folders and subfolders, allowing you to easily differentiate between work, personal activities, or even projects. 

Important messages can be pinned to the top of a folder, or flagged. Your messages will be single entries in your inbox by default – when you receive a reply, it will appear as a new message, instead of a single line like in Gmail. Much like Gmail, Outlook offers the option to archive messages, keeping your inbox clean.

The organizational schemes of both Gmail and Outlook are straightforward and intuitive, so there is no clear winner here. It comes down to your personal preference. If you are a regular Microsoft user, you might initially prefer Outlook, but after sending and receiving a few messages, Gmail will feel just as easy to use.

3. The Search Function

Without question, Gmail has a more advanced search feature. A basic search will find any word or phrase that you type in. An advanced search lets you set different parameters for the search. You can look through different categories, labels, tabs, senders and recipients, date ranges, message sizes, and more.

Outlook offers a straightforward and basic search function – type your desired phrase and search through folders and messages. Searching through your contacts is done through a separate bar.

Unsurprisingly, the search engine juggernaut Google offers a more advanced search feature on its email app. Yet, the search option Outlook uses is perfectly serviceable, so even if you choose to use Outlook, you won’t be missing much.

4. Features Offered

Gmail offers the basic functions of an email provider – you can organize your Inbox, use search, delete and archive emails, but you don’t have in-built features like Contacts and Calendar. This is by design choice, not due to any lack of ability to implement these features. Gmail is extremely compatible with third-party apps, add-ons, and extensions. 

Quickly and easily you can integrate almost any extension that you wish, providing you with all the features necessary for any circumstance. You can also uninstall any integrated app, if you no longer need it.

Outlook offers more in-built features than Gmail. By default, you have a Calendar and Contacts list. You can set different options, called Rules, to manage the emails you receive. You can make email templates, and have the Clean Up function that will delete any duplicate messages. 

The downside of Outlook is that it is not nearly as open to third-party app integrations and add-ons as Gmail is. The rigidity of Outlook can be alleviated by integrating it with Focos – it will allow you to integrate other third-party apps you may need, circumventing Outlook’s lack of customizability.

If we are looking at the basic versions of Gmail and Outlook, Outlook offers more features and functions, hands down. When it comes to openness of integration for third-party apps, Gmail cannot be matched. 

The winner comes down to your preference – if you want a basic version with more features, choose Outlook; if you want the possibility of integrating almost anything you can think of, choose Gmail.

5. Which One Is More Secure?

Which service provider is more secure is impossible to evaluate, as the inner workings of the systems are kept secret, while the basic security features offered to users are very similar. Both offer a two-step authentication process and allow you to enable trusted senders. 

Gmail allows you to see when your account was last used, and that is the only clear difference. Both Gmail and Outlook encrypt outgoing emails; in Outlook you need to check the option, while Gmail does it automatically.

As far as anyone can tell, Gmail and Outlook are comparable when it comes to security. Most likely, the security of your account will depend on the personal security measures you take, not on the degree of security of the systems.

6.  Storage Space

Gmail offers 15 GB of storage for free users; it is shared between Gmail, Google Drive, and Photos. Google Drive integrates perfectly with Gmail, so there will be no problems there. Paying users get more storage space, starting with 30 GB for G Suite Basic.

Free Outlook users start with 15 GB of storage space. If you are a paying user, you can go up to 50 GB with a Microsoft 365 account. The OneDrive that Outlook uses for storage does not integrate as well as Google Drive does with Gmail, but it is still perfectly functional.

When it comes to storage space between Gmail and Outlook, it is a wash. They offer similar amounts of storage space, and it will depend on the payment plan you choose.

7. Pricing

Both Gmail and Outlook offer free versions, as well as multiple payment plans. If you want to use the Outlook app and not just the web version, you will need to pay for Microsoft Office 365. Most of Gmail’s features can be accessed for free, unless you want a business account.

There is no clear winner when it comes to cost, as you can choose what suits you best. The free versions will have ads, while the paying ones won’t. Try out the free versions and see if you are missing any features you think are important, and go from there.


No matter which service you choose, you can’t make the wrong choice. Both are professionally designed and maintained, and offer all the functions you will need from an email provider. 

It will probably come down to your preference for Google or Microsoft products, and your professional needs. If you are still missing some features after you have made your choice, integrate them with Focos and allow third-party apps to bridge the gap, all from the platform.

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