Gmail vs Outlook: Which Is Better in 2021?

With the rise in popularity of real-time communication apps like Slack, WhatsApp, and Skype, you may find it surprising that email is still the primary tool for communication at work – and with 3.9 billion users around the world, that’s unlikely to change anytime soon.

Dominating that space are Gmail and Outlook – two of the most popular email providers in the world.

Although there are a lot of similarities between the two, Microsoft Outlook is more of an email client while Gmail is essentially webmail. The major difference between an email client and webmail is that with an email client users can access their emails without the use of internet, because the emails are saved on the computer. With Gmail being a webmail there is a requirement for an internet connection to access emails.

But which one is right for you? Let’s see how Gmail vs Outlook compare:

The History of Gmail and Outlook

There’s quite a lot of history behind the battle for dominance between Gmail and Outlook.

Let’s take a quick tour through the timeline.

  • Outlook was originally called Hotmail and launched in 1996
  • Microsoft buys Hotmail in 1997 and rebrands to MSN Hotmail
  • MSN Hotmail is then rebranded to Windows Live Hotmail
  • Gmail is launched in 2004 – with massive fanfare because it offered 1GB of free storage
  • Eventually, Windows Live Hotmail is rebranded to Outlook to try and compete with Gmail

Despite working hard to compete, as of 2020, Outlook only has 9% of the email client market share compared to Gmail’s 28%.

Gmail vs. Outlook: Features

Outlook’s Folder and File System

Outlook has a traditional folder and file system, much like most other email service providers. Its familiarity makes onboarding easier.

One of the downsides, though, is that Outlook’s folder and file system can feel restrictive. Emails can only be assigned to one folder, which limits how effectively you can organize your messages.

Gmail Labels

In typical Google style, Gmail’s launch changed the face of email on account of its innovative labels and categories system. It can take a little time to wrap your head around, but Gmail labels wins on features and functionality, hands down. The ability to add layers of granularity to your inbox is head and shoulders above the folder and file system.

Winner: Gmail

Gmail vs. Outlook: Design

Design can be very subjective. When it comes to choosing an email service provider, people are always going to have their own take on the look and feel that they prefer.

Today, Outlook arguably looks a little dated, while Gmail feels somewhat more cutting-edge.

The basic Gmail design:

The Outlook interface:


As design and feel are so subjective, it’s difficult to declare a winner for this round.

Winner: Personal Preference

Gmail vs. Outlook: Productivity

A recent study  found that office workers receive around 121 emails a day, with that number set to rise to 126 by the end of 2020. So if you’re going to keep your inbox clutter-free and your emails answered, you need to be able to customize your workflow.

Add-ons and Extensions

Let’s take a look at a few of the most popular add-ons, extensions, and add-ins for the two services:


Right Inbox – Right Inbox thrives on helping people be more productive. There is a suite of tools that can help supercharge your inbox, from multiple signature management to customizable templates.

Crystal Knows – Have you ever wanted to discover more about someone, ahead of a key meeting? Crystal Knows can predict someone’s personality using only publicly-available data.

Voila Norbert – Norbert is a Chrome extension that helps you build lists and contact persons of interest to build resourceful relationships. It’s invaluable for tasks like sales and outreach.


Docsend for OutlookDocsend is a popular tool for secure file and document sharing. You can see who is reading your files and how much of those files they actually read. This is especially useful if you’re sending out proposals. 

FindTimeUnfortunately, meetings are unavoidable. The only thing worse than a meeting that runs on too long is the chain of emails that takes place before it, in order to arrange a date and time that suits everyone. FindTime streamlines the process of pinpointing a slot in which all attendees are free. 

EvernoteIf you’re an Evernote user, then their Outlook add-in is a great way to save time on projects, and move note-taking directly into your inbox.

Who wins this round?

Simple. Gmail has so many more options for customization that it wins hands down.

Winner: Gmail

Additional Reading: 25 Best Gmail Extensions for 2021

Gmail vs. Outlook: Cost


Personal use of Outlook in your browser is free. Beware though – there are some restrictions on these accounts. Use of the app requires Office 365, for one, which is currently about $60 a year.


Gmail is also free to individual users (if you’re using it for work, you may need a paid account). As a standalone product, Gmail just squeaks past Outlook for the win here. 

Winner: Gmail  

Gmail vs. Outlook: Storage and Attachment Limits

As you know from earlier in the article, the amount of storage that comes free with the account is crucial when it comes to winning market share.

So how do Gmail and Outlook compare?

Gmail storage is capped at 15 GB for the free service, whereas Outlook now boasts 15 GB of free storage for email and then an additional 5 GB for storing files on their OneDrive cloud product.

What about attachment sizes?

Gmail allows you to send attachments up to 25 MB. Outlook, on the other hand, has a maximum attachment size of 20 MB – so not a big difference.

Winner: Outlook

Gmail Vs. Outlook: Connectivity

It’s not uncommon nowadays for users to have multiple email accounts. The thing with multiple email accounts is that you need to manage them all somehow. Many people choose to use third-party tools to help manage this. One of the most popular on the market is Thunderbird.

So how do Gmail and Outlook stack up as far as connectivity is concerned?

Gmail supports both POP and IMAP. It’s also incredibly easy to set up – in fact, you can see our guide on Gmail SMTP settings here.

Outlook also supports POP and IMAP. This means there isn’t much to call between the two. While there’s some anecdotal evidence that suggests that Gmail is a little faster, there isn’t any hard data available.

Outlook loses out a little because it’s less intuitive than Gmail when it comes to setting it up.

Winner: Gmail (only pinching it because it’s easier to set up than Outlook). 

There are many things you need to take into consideration when choosing an email service, from storage to attachment limits.

It’s pretty apparent though, that if you want to stay on top of your emails in 2021, you have to choose Gmail (sorry, Microsoft).


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