Productivity

Outlook.com aims to ease the switch from Gmail

Microsoft renews its battle with email user inertia as it tries to convert more Gmail users to Outlook.com.

For those who are considering the switch, a new Outlook.com import tool aims to make the transition easier. It helps guide users through the set-up process and quietly imports old Gmail messages into Outlook.com.

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Outlook.com's Gmail import tool

This isn't Microsoft's first attempt at helping Gmail users switch, but it's an improvement over past efforts. Instead of dumping all messages into a single “Gmail” folder, the new import tool retains all your existing Gmail labels, sorting them into corresponding folders on Outlook.com.

But even this approach isn't flawless. For sorting messages, Gmail uses labels, allowing you to apply more than one label to any message. Outlook.com users folders, so adding an e-mail to more than one folder creates a duplicate message. If you're a label-crazy Gmail user, you'll end up with a lot of duplicate messages in Outlook.com. To cut down on copies, Microsoft recommends deleting any outdated Gmail labels before importing to Outlook.com.

Once the import process is under way, Microsoft sends instructions for setting up Gmail forwarding, so all new messages will land in your Outlook.com inbox. Users can also view instructions for changing the default “From” address in Outlook.com. If you're just taking Microsoft's e-mail service for a spin, you'll want to make sure Gmail is your default “From” address, so any replies will show up in Gmail.

An Ipsos study paid for by Microsoft found that one in four people would switch e-mail providers if the process was easier. That's not exactly a huge figure, and shows how hard it is just to get people to even think about a new e-mail provider.

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