Hobbit'' movie might be filed away as "friends,'' `'movies'' and even "The Hobbit.'' With folders, you had to choose one folder to put your message into or create multiple copies of the messages. It's a relic of the offline world, in which a paper document can only go in one folder without a copying machine.
Meanwhile, those 50 emails it might take to coordinate your movie date with friends could have easily cluttered your inbox. Gmail automatically groups those into "conversations,'' so you see all 50 messages as a single item in your inbox.
These changes took time to get used to, but that's what happens with revolutions.
Outlook.com adopts conversations, which makes it feel like it's catching up to Gmail, but it still uses folders instead of labels.
The improvements over Gmail are mostly around the edges:
_ Outlook integrates with leading social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.
Gmail mostly integrates with Google's own services. With Outlook, you can have the service automatically fill your address book with contact information not just from Google but also from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and even China's Sina service. You can chat with a Facebook friend directly from the Outlook website.
And if you get an email from a Facebook friend, you might see that person's latest Facebook post to the right, as long as Facebook has that email address registered to the social-networking account. Keep in mind that your posts won't start showing up next to correspondences with people you're not friends with, unless you've set them on Facebook to be publicly visible.
_ Outlook offers many ways to customize and manage the mailbox.
One of the complaints I have about Web-based email is the lack of versatility. You're not given as many options as you are with stand-alone email software.
I was pleased to see a number of options with Outlook. For instance, I can have contents of emails automatically appear in a reading pane, rather than just as a list with subject lines. This is the part that feels most like Outlook software for work. You'd need to turn this feature on, though. It's something you might not want if you check messages a lot from public places and don't want messages to automatically appear. But Gmail doesn't even give you that option unless you install a tool that Google says "may change, break or disappear at any time.''
Outlook also lets you create alternate email addresses without signing up