Pros and Cons of Microsoft Outlook

Outlook is Microsoft's email app that has both benefits and drawbacks

Microsoft Outlook offers solid spam and phishing filters, seamless integration with to-do lists and scheduling, and effective organization features. Outlook's message templates could be more flexible, though, and its smart folders could learn from example. Compare the pros and cons of Microsoft Outlook to decide if it is the best email client for you.


Whatever you want to do with email, chances are Outlook delivers. Outlook manages multiple POP, IMAP, and Exchange, as well as third-party providers such as Gmail. It can be set up not to download remote images and can display all mail in plain text if desired

Outlook offers powerful filters and ways to organize, thread, label, and find messages. Search folders automatically corral all items matching certain criteria. You can search for any message in any folder or account quickly and thoroughly.

A woman using email on a laptop.
@ajknapp via Twenty20 


Outlook uses effective junk mail and phishing filters to move unsolicited messages to a junk email folder automatically.

Spam and phishing filters are easy to use and effectively sort out the junk; you can set the filtering level to control how aggressively these filters work.

Unfortunately, you can't train the junk mail filters—or even the otherwise helpful categories. Outlook also offers no way to apply categories to messages in IMAP accounts (they do work perfectly with Exchange accounts).

Utility and ubiquity aside, Outlook is as well known as a target for viruses as it as a personal assistant. In spite—or because—of this history, Outlook goes to great lengths protecting your privacy and security. Outlook supports S/MIME message encryption, lets you display all mail as super-secure plain text and even sports a custom, more secure (albeit a tad clumsy), HTML message viewer.


Email editing works like a charm, with features you appreciate in Word. This, however, can result in large messages showing jumbled text for certain recipients. Plain text is available as a safe alternative to HTML and rich-text formatting to get around this limitation.

The program's intelligent use of virtual folders, fast message searching, flagging, grouping, and threading make dealing with even substantial amounts of good mail a snap. It's easy to set up Quick Steps buttons in the toolbar, for example, which afford one-click access to new messages to oft-mailed recipients, replies, flagging, and more.

Outlook supports S/MIME email encryption and IRM access control, allows previewing of attachments right inside messages, and treats news items like emails with its integrated RSS feed reader.

Add-ons and More

The included RSS feed reader lacks sophistication, but it does turn up news items as emails automatically—and typically, that's just right.

The Social Connector add-on delivers social posts and messages and picks up photos and status updates. It includes earlier emails exchanged, meetings planned, and attachments received in the mix, too.

Of course, Outlook has powerful filters and you can program it to perform many tasks automatically or expanded to learn new tricks with add-ons. There is no option to set up flexible message templates for boilerplate replies.

Overall, Microsoft Outlook is a powerful communication and organization tool that does what you need it to do and more.

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