Gmail is the best platform for email—and it also happens to be one of the least expensive. But one of the most common reasons businesses and individuals aren’t using it is because they’re used to Microsoft Office; switching would be a pain, and a disruption to the layout and workflows you’re already used to.

But here’s the thing; switching is way easier than you probably think, and once you’ve finalized the port-over, Gmail has so much room for customization, you’ll be able to create an even better system than the one you’re used to.

Why Switch From Outlook to Gmail?

So why would you make the switch from Microsoft Outlook to Gmail?

  • Better hosting. Google is one of the biggest companies on the planet for a reason; they’re stable, reliable, and have access to the best tech. As you might imagine, Gmail has superior hosting to most other email providers, which is vital for the sensitive information you send and receive daily.
  • More reliable filters and sorting. You can set up filtering rules in Outlook, but as many technicians have noted, these filters aren’t always reliable. Google offers a suite of different filtering, labeling, and organization options—and all of them work both reliably and intuitively.
  • Intuitive, faster searching. It shouldn’t surprise you that Google, the king of online search, has all but perfected email-based searching. Whether you’re looking for an attachment you think you lost a year and a half ago or you can’t remember where you sent emails from one of your clients, Google’s search feature will help you track it down—and far faster than Outlook’s analogous feature.
  • Integrations and add-ons. Best of all, Gmail offers far more support for integrations and add-ons, including apps that allow special hacks to improve your productivity, as well as full-fledged analytics platforms like EmailAnalytics to help you understand how you’re using the platform. This customization potential allows you to fully customize and take control of your email experience.

Outlook vs. Gmail: What are the Differences?

Let’s start by getting an understanding of the changes you’ll encounter along the way. If you’ve been used to using Outlook for years, you’re going to encounter some major changes to how certain features work, and you’ll have to learn how to use some of Gmail’s most innovative and useful features.

These are some of the biggest differences you’ll need to prepare for:

  • Thread views. In Outlook, you’re used to seeing email threads come through as individual messages. In Gmail, they’ll be grouped together as a single line item. This is an optional setting you can change in the Settings menu.
  • Message attachments. In Outlook, you have the ability to send other email messages as attachments, allowing the recipient to open other emails as if they were documents. In Gmail, you can accomplish the same thing more efficiently by using forwards.
  • Deleting vs. archiving. The nomenclature in Gmail may be confusing to historical Outlook users. In Gmail, you have the ability to “archive” messages, which works much like a “delete” function, clearing your Inbox of the message, but instead of being eliminated permanently, archiving adds the email to a private searchable database, enabling you to retrieve the message at a later date. You can also fully delete emails.
  • Search. As I mentioned earlier, the search feature in Gmail is swanky. The search bar seems basic, but it allows you to quickly search through any labels, folders, or marked emails you have—it’s fast and accurate.
  • Organization. Gmail has a system of organization markedly different from Outlook, and it’s probably the biggest change to anticipate. In Outlook, almost everything is folder-driven; you create folders and sub-folders to store your messages, utilizing flags occasionally to designate to-do or high-priority items. In Gmail, you have far more options to keep yourself productive. You can create labels to designate which emails belong to which categories, use markers to categorize emails further, and sort emails automatically into tabs based on specific criteria within the messages.
  • Mailbox sharing. In Outlook, you had the ability to “share” a mailbox with someone. In Gmail, you can do something similar; you can “delegate” your mailbox to an individual, or work within an entire Google group to collaborate.

There are other differences to anticipate as well, but these are some of the most common ones for new Gmail users to note.

1. Set Up Gmail (Bare Bones)

When you’re ready to switch over to Gmail, consider how you want to use your new Gmail features. If you’re using this as a personal email address, you can create a solo Gmail account from scratch without much of a hassle. If you’re porting over multiple email addresses for a business, you’ll want to look at G Suite, and sign everybody up simultaneously.

From there, you can start getting a feel for how Gmail works; you can download the Gmail app to your mobile devices, and bookmark the web address for Gmail on your desktop.

2. Migrate Your Emails and Contacts

When you’re ready, the big step will be migrating all your old emails and contacts from Outlook to Gmail. Thankfully, Google makes this process relatively simple.

When you’re ready to import your old messages and contacts, head to Settings in the upper-left corner of the desktop app, and click Accounts and Import. Then, choose “Import mail and contacts.”

migrate email contacts gmail

You’ll get a pop-up window asking you to sign in to your previous email address.

sign into other account

You may also be required to provide your previous email provider’s POP server name and port number; for most major providers, Gmail will enter these settings for you, but if you’re using a non-traditional provider, you may need to research these settings yourself.

That’s really it. Once you follow the rest of Gmail’s instructions and click Save, your contacts and old messages will be automatically loaded into your Gmail account. Once you’ve done it, Gmail will automatically forward messages sent to your old address to your new Gmail address for 30 days.

3. Keep Your Old Account Up

Until you’ve updated your email addresses, or have set up permanent mail forwarding, keep your old email account open and active. This will help you avoid lost messages if there are any hiccups in the importing and forwarding processes, though issues are rare.

Only close out your Outlook account when you feel confident that nothing is getting lost in translation.

4. Customize Your Experience

You’ve got your new email address set up and are receiving messages reliably. The final step is to make some adjustments to your Gmail account to suit your personal tastes (and replicate some of your favorite Outlook features, if you find yourself missing them).

  • Tabs, stars, and labels. Under the Settings menu, you’ll find dozens of options for how to label, sort, and organize your emails. You can use different-colored stars to organize your different categories in the General tab, create and manage Labels (which function similarly to Outlook folders, but are more flexible) under the Labels tab, and decide which tabs you want to be displayed in your Inbox under the Inbox tab. There’s much to explore here, so try out one feature at a time until you have a good idea of how you want to organize your new inbox.

gmail tabs stars labels

new label for emails

gmail inbox settings

  • Rules and filters. Under the Filters and Blocked Addresses tab, you’ll have the ability to create your own custom filters and rules, so incoming messages are automatically routed to where they belong. It’s a good way to block or flag email addresses that send you spam, or make sure all your incoming notifications from social media end up with the right label.

gmail rules and filters

  • Layout and preferences. There are hundreds of Gmail hacks and tricks that can make you a more productive Gmail user, so I don’t have time to get into all of them here. It’s worth playing around with different layout options until you find the perfect fit for your needs and preferences. For example, in the General tab within Settings, you can toggle off “conversation view,” which allows you to view email threads the way you’re used to in Outlook. It’s also worth venturing to the Labs tab, where you’ll find several experimental new features designed to make Gmail better.

gmail conversation view

  • Integrations and apps. Finally, spend some time looking for apps and plugins to make your Gmail experience even better. You’ll find apps that help you measure and improve your productivity, plugins that give you additional features when using Gmail in your browser, and extensions that help you use your email to manage other areas of your life, such as by creating to-do lists. Many are free, or at least offer free trials, so you’ve got nothing to lose by trying them.

There you have it. Once you’ve finalized your migration from Outlook to Gmail, you’ll start noticing a substantial boost in your productivity—and personal satisfaction with email. When you’re ready to get serious about measuring and improving your productivity, give EmailAnalytics a try.

With our 14-day free trial, you’ll get access to our full platform, giving you far more insight into how you’re emailing—and how you can improve it. The sooner you start, the sooner you can start saving time, so sign up today!

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