Microsoft just revamped its Hotmail email client, which is now called Outlook.com, and while a lot of people abandoned the free mail service, it's especially worth considering in light of Gmail's not-so-well-received redesign from late last year. Though there are various things users can do to make Gmail better, as we discussed back in December, Outlook.com fixes a lot of those issues by default. Even though the switch involves some social shaming, for those looking for an aesthetic upgrade, Hotmail fixes a lot of Gmail's ugly. You might want to get used to the social burden that comes with telling the world about that @outlook.com e-mail address you just got.
Color Differentiated E-mail Threads
While Gmail makes all the e-mails in one thread the same white color, Outlook.com alternates between grey and white, making reading an ongoing mail conversation easy to follow, as you can see below in the e-mail thread between my Gmail account and my Outlook account.
Look at all this ugly Gmail white:
And now see how much easier it is to read with some grey in there:
Less White Space
In the new Gmail, the default setting creates a lot of white space between each e-mail. It takes changing that to "compact" to fix. Outlook, however, puts the successive messages not too close, but not too far apart.
Gmail's spacious "for kids" set at what it calls "comfortable." (Changing to compact, however, smushes things down to a more palatable size.)
Compare that to Outlook's default, which puts a nice amount of space between messages:
Icons Have Labels
The new Gmail expects a level of intuition that many users didn't appreciate. Instead of labeling things like "archive," "spam," and "trash," the service gave us a folder with an arrow, a stop sign with an exclamation point, and trash can. Outlook, however, uses words, instead of cartoon renderings of actions that only kind of make sense, as you can see below.
Though, Outlook, too, is guilty of this on the very right hand side with that smiley face chat bubble and the setting wheel.
No Ads Above the Inbox
Google added more ads to new Gmail, putting some above the Inbox. Outlook has prominent ads, but they only show up on the side and go away when an e-mail opens.
No Hidden Labels
One of the most annoying, impossible to fix things about Gmail is that either the chat box obscures the labels, or the labels obscure chat. (For an example of that, head here.) Outlook, on the other hand, decided to put chat on the right side and everything else on the left side. Neither of these things get in the way of one another.
Outlook offers some other reasons to switch, too. It shows multiple photos in an e-mail as a slideshow, as Wired's Alexandra Chang notes. She also mentions the "greymail" filtering, in which Outlook puts subscriptions and newsletters in a separate folder. Then again, there are plenty of reasons to stay on Gmail, of course, like you're obsession with Google Calendar or Gchat. But, if all it takes is a side-by-side beauty contest, start getting used to the idea of an email address ending in @outlook.com.