Gmail vs Outlook: The Missing Features

(Part of our Organize Gmail Into An Effortless Task Manager guide)

So you've chosen - or perhaps been forcibly pushed - to switch from Outlook to Gmail?

Fear not, this little guide will shine a light on where to find every feature you loved in Outlook, in Gmail. The transition can be as sweet as a step into a fresh meadow!

And where Gmail can't quite compete with Outlook, we'll let you know how our little creation, ActiveInbox, can fill in the gaps to put you effortlessly in control of your email. (We admit it's a little sales pitch, but over the years a lot of our customers have said they love us precisely because we recreated the power of Outlook in Gmail, making it business-ready!).

Removing 'Clutter' from your inbox

Gmail has two mechanisms for this:

  1. It has tabs for Primary, Social, Promotion, etc., so you only see what's most important by default.
  2. It puts a little yellow tag (not the star!) against emails it is very sure are important, e.g. people you've spoken to before.

Replacing Skype Chat

Gmail has Hangouts, for chatting with all your contacts - available from the left-hand sidebar.

Applying Rules to incoming mail

Gmail calls these Filters. You can click 'More' in a message and 'Filter Messages Like These' to set them up quickly, or go into Settings (the cog in the top right), and go to the 'Filters' tab.

Extending the feel & features

Where Outlook had a single interface and the Store, within Gmail's Settings (the cog in the top right), you can change the Theme and add features from the Labs. You can also go to the Chrome Web Store to find lots of Extensions for Gmail.

Undeleting Emails

Gmail doesn't have Outlook's 'Undelete' button, but does hold deleted emails in a Trash/Bin section for 30 days before really deleting them, so you can bring them back to life.

Sweeping Emails Older Than 10 Days

Gmail can sort of do this - you can select all emails in the inbox, and archive them (they're still accessible from the 'All Mail' folder when you archive, just not the inbox); but it will do everything. The only workaround is to select all, then manually uncheck the first page of items.

ActiveInbox's primary purpose is to handle email overload though, turning important emails into tasks and getting rid of everything else - a workflow you might find more supportive than 'sweeping' ever was.

Flagging, Categorising and adding mail to Folders

The Gmail equivalent of flags are stars, which are clickable on every inbox row, and within an email.

And you can add as many Labels as you want to an email, which serve the role of both categorising and pseudo-folders (if you create a 'Nested Label' in Gmail, this is the same as a sub folder).

ActiveInbox gives you true folders in Gmail, which can be sorted to priotiize items, and contain both tasks and emails.

ActiveInbox also has inbuilt categorisation for Due Dates, Priority, and can be extended for context/location, reference materials, and any more power you need.

Getting Person data with Social Media Connectors

Gmail has basic people info that it shows in the right-hand sidebar of emails, but you might want to install a plugin like FullContact to see deep information.

Filing emails from the inbox

There's no equivilent in Gmail of Outlook's hovering mouse-over menu. You have to first select the email by its checkbox, then take an action from the buttons on the top row.

ActiveInbox does let you rapidly process the inbox, by adding a similar hovering mouse-over menu.

Managing Tasks and Calendar events from emails

Gmail has the wonderful Google Calendar, which you can create an event for by clicking 'More' in an email.

And it has a simple to do list, which is available from clicking 'Mail' in the top left of Gmail (under the logo) and choosing 'Tasks'. You can also click 'More' in an email, and then 'Add To Tasks'.

ActiveInbox gives you super powers though: its features are designed to turn Gmail into a full blown task manager to rival Todoist et al; but making things even more effortless by treating the emails themselves as the tasks.

Sorting your emails by date or sender

Gmail chose to never implement this, but ActiveInbox has your back - see how you can sort your email task lists.

Missing Desktop Notifications?

Don't worry, Checker Plus has you covered.