Ok, Microsoft has two major mail clients – the kind that you run in Windows rather than access from the web using a browser. I've often wondered if the free mail client that comes with Windows Live services, Windows Live Mail (WLM), could replace the onerous Outlook Mail that comes with Microsoft Office.
Bottom line: Yes, I think that for quite a few people the Windows Live Mail client will do just awesome. But there are differences between the clients, and Outlook is definitely more powerful, so you will have to look at your situation. Here’s what some of the differences are.
Third Party Support
There are many third party applications that integrate with Outlook. These often come in the form of toolbars or addins, and some examples include Mindjet (Mind mapping), OneNote, Evernote, Skype, etc. These third party applications add a lot of value to Outlook and the efficiency of using it. For the most part, you just don’t get third party applications for WLM; they just simply don’t work. For example, Skype has the ability to show Outlook contacts within the Skype contacts list. Nice, because if you change a contact’s information in Outlook that same information is changed in Skype’s display. That won’t work in WLM.
Compatibility with Internet Calendar Subscription (ICS)
Ever get an email or conference call confirmation with a link that says “Add to your calendar” or “Add to Outlook”, or something similar? Most all of these links will download a .ICS file to your computer, which can be read by your calendaring program and automatically added. It really works nice in Outlook. But WLM had zero ability to read ICS files. Zip, nada, nothing. There is no hack that I’ve been able to find to make that happen. So although WLM has a calendar program (which is nice) you will have to enter all the meeting details manually.
Sending as email From Other Applications
There have been several applications that I use which have an ability to take what I’m working on and send it as an email. For example, say I’m working on a page in OneNote and I want to email that page to someone. With Outlook as my mail client, when I click the email button in OneNote it formats a nice email message with the OneNote page as a full email message complete with pictures and attachments. But if I do the same thing in WLM what I get is a basic email with a .mht (html archive page) attachment to open and a simple message that says to open the attachment to see the information. Definitely not as pretty or useful as Outlook.
Filters, Searches, and Rules
Outlook is way, way more powerful than WLM when it comes to filters, searches, and rules. Outlook allows you to define custom search folders (views) and put them in various places. So I can create a search for items on a particular topic and put that search folder in my favorites list for easy access any time I want. Not the case with WLM… with WLM you get several predefined searches and that’s it. No custom searches. And the rule setup and customization is much more limited in WLM than it is in Outlook.
WLM doesn’t provide any method of categorizing mail. The way you do it in WLM is to either simply flag the message (only one type of flag) or move the messages into different folders. Moving the messages to different folders is fine for a lot of people because that is how they work. But I personally don’t like folders quite as well because I might have several different “categories” for the message and moving it to multiple categories isn’t as convenient as assigning multiple categories to the message. In addition, searching and views don’t work as well across multiple folders as they do across categories.
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