Outlook Mail on the Web Review 2016 - Free Email Service

Outlook Mail on the Web
Outlook Mail on the Web. Microsoft, Inc.

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The Bottom Line

Outlook Mail offers rich email on the web and via IMAP or POP that automatically bans spam, collects clutter and is smart about large file attachments.

Among its many organizing talents, the ones to postpone incoming and schedule outgoing mail are missing, and Outlook Mail on the Web could be smarter suggesting replies.

Pros

  • Outlook Mail on the Web includes tools to prioritize and categorize mail automatically
  • Integration with file sharing and other services helps extend email's utility
  • Outlook Mail on the Web can access IMAP accounts (including folders)

Cons

  • Outlook Mail on the Web does not offer saved searches
  • More help with replying intelligently would be welcome
  • Outlook Mail on the Web cannot schedule emails or let you postpone them

Description

  • Outlook Mail on the Web offers free email with practically unlimited online storage.
  • A spam filter automatically moves junk email to a special folder with high precision. You can also block individual senders or domains.
  • Newsletters, promotional emails, and similar messages that are neither spam nor personal emails are automatically collected in a "Clutter" folder.
  • Both the spam and the clutter filters can be trained by moving messages to and from their respective folders. You can also set up "sweeping" rules that automatically delete old newsletter issues, for instance.
  • In addition, Outlook Mail offers automatically applied categories that let you easily collect and filter out mail from relatives, newsletters, bills and shipping updates, social media notifications, and emails that contain photos, for example.
  • You can also set up your own categories and folders to organize mail, and Outlook Mail on the Web organizes emails in conversations.
  • Outlook Mail on the Web can connect to IMAP accounts as an IMAP client, which lets you access your other email addresses' emails and folders. From POP accounts, Outlook Mail can collect emails.
  • In addition, Outlook Mail on the web lets you send messages from all connected accounts.
  • Outlook Mail accounts are accessible via POP and IMAP, and you can have them forward incoming messages automatically.
  • Forwarding as well as many actions more can also be automated using filters: these can also delete, move, flag or categorize messages based on certain criteria (including the sender and subject, but also whether you are a direct recipient, for example).
  • When you are unable to respond, you can employ Outlook Mail on the Web's auto-responder.
  • When you want to respond more quickly, you can make use of Outlook Mail on the Web's message "templates", text snippets easily inserted into emails you are composing.
  • Outlook Mail on the Web also offers text formatting as well as inline images and emoji, of course, and can deal with attachments in more than one way: in addition to traditionally including files with emails, you can also share them easily via (and save incoming documents easily to) file storage services such as Box, Dropbox, and OneDrive.
  • On the web, Outlook Mail's interface offers handy shortcuts such as buttons that appear as you hover over items, context menus and key combinations aplenty.
  • For finding messages, Outlook Mail on the Web lets you search across folders (and accounts) with a simple search field, but can also narrow results using criteria such as the date received, sender, recipient or whether files are included.
  • Outlook mail on the Web can be extended with add-ons; available extensions include PayPal, email translations, to-do lists, email encryption, customer relationship management services, Giphy and much, much more.

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    Outlook Mail on the Web - Expert Review

    It was the era of large white glossy boxes stacked atop wardrobes and shelves across the continents; it was the era of software on disks in cartons; it was the year 1997 when "outlook" first appeared as the name of an email offering from Microsoft on one of those boxes.

    In the past two decades, Outlook has found its way to the web as an email offering from Microsoft (with a legacy of Hotmail, which first appeared on the web—not boxes—in 1996). Has it found ways to tackle and tame the ever-growing tide of email, too?

    Spam and Phishing Emails Filtered Out

    Let us begin with that tide: there is spam, of course, lots of it—of which, thankfully, you will barely ever see any in Outlook Mail on the web. Its combined spam filters manage to either block or relegate to the "Junk Email" folder most of it, with very few good messages caught.

    That spam folder does warrant the occasional visit, though, as emails in it will be deleted automatically after a while, and recovering good mail erroneously caught there is easy—as is marking any message as spam.

    In addition, Outlook Mail on the web lets you mark phishing scams—emails that, looking official and believable, try to trick you into handing over passwords, PINs, phone numbers or other personal details—, from which it also protects you, of course, if it detects them itself.

    Outlook Mail on the Web Gets Rid of "Clutter"

    In the Hilbertian Hotel that is email, a deluge minus a deluge means—a deluge: email without spam is a humongous list of all the messages that are not spam and not essential, personal messages either. We tend to find our inboxes filled with newsletters, confirmations, social network alerts, follow-ups and more.

    What may be true of email inboxes in general need not be true of inboxes at Outlook Mail on the web. To help you deal with these transactional messages and newsletters, Outlook mail on the web does two things: it identifies them, and it shoves them into their own room.

    As with junk mail, you can teach Outlook Mail on the web what you consider fit for the "Clutter" folder, and the whole thing is remarkably helpful in getting you to the important messages in a clear manner fast while giving you a whole delightful deluge to explore at leisure.

    Sweeping Rules and Actions Help You Clean Your Inbox

    Do you want more control than that? Outlook Mail on the web also lets you set up explicit "sweeping" rules: for individual senders, say newsletters, you can have it move or delete new messages automatically, or keep only the latest issue.

    To swiftly clean a folder, Outlook Mail on the web lets you take the sweeping actions manually as well.

    With all these pieces in place, possibly the one missing to complete the puzzle is an easy way to postpone messages—and be reminded of them when they are due.

    Fast Ways to Act on Mail

    Speaking of taking action, Outlook Mail includes helpful shortcuts aplenty in its web interface.

    Not only can you take action via a classic toolbar, for instance, key buttons—such as flagging or trashing—also show up when you hover the mouse over a message. Not only can you access the same commands (and, typically, more) through a right-click context menu, keyboard shortcuts across the board and interface are often the quickest way to get something done in Outlook Mail on the web.

    To move an email, for instance, you need but press "V" to be presented with a list of destination folders, which you can not only navigate using the up and down keys but narrow intelligently by typing letters from the desired folder name.

    Organizing Messages

    In addition to classic email folders, Outlook Mail on the web offers categories: you can assign as many color-coded categories to an email as is useful, and set up as many categories as you need.

    As useful as this can be, categories are not first-class citizens in Outlook Mail on the web. You cannot easily sort or search by category, for example, set up categories that learn by example or use them via IMAP.

    For quickly marking certain emails important—without further categorization—, Outlook Mail on the web includes flagging (available via IMAP) and pinning messages. Pinned emails always appear on their folder's tops—except via IMAP, of course.

    Finding Emails in Outlook Mail on the Web

    Other than overlooking categories, mail search is usefully comprehensive and reasonably easy in Outlook Mail on the web: Outlook Mail will auto-complete names, for instance, and searches across all your folders and emails quickly.

    To help you narrow results, Outlook Mail on the web offers to limit by date, folder sender, and recipient, or just include results that contain attachments.

    Sending, Receiving and Sharing Files by Email in Outlook Mail on the Web

    Speaking of attachments—the ever mushrooming and skyrocketing email attachments—,Outlook Mail on the Web offers more than mere sending and downloading of files: you can add files from your computer to emails you send, of course, but you can just as easily add files from OneDrive, Dropbox, Google Drive and other online storage services. (When you do add a file from your computer, Outlook Mail on the web will offer to share it via OneDrive, too.)

    The same works with reversed roles and directions as well. Files you have received attached to emails are swift- and easily saved to the same storage services—or downloaded. If the file is a type Outlook Mail on the web can display or open, it will do so.

    Possibly, an option to strip saved files off their original emails would be useful.

    Email Templates in Outlook Mail on the Web

    Back at composing emails and adding, one fast way to type is to not type at all—and use a template or templates perhaps. Outlook Mail on the Web comes with a template system that is as simple as it is effective: you can save snippets of text and easily insert them into emails.

    For more sophisticated templates (such that offer variables for mail merging, for instance, or can suggest the most likely suitable snippets), you will have to turn to an email program, however.

    While Outlook Mail can connect to Evernote (to save emails and easily share notes), you cannot, alas, insert content from notes in a simple manner either. There is also no way to schedule emails for later, or perhaps to be sent repeatedly.

    Formatting Options Abound

    Whether with text from a template or content newly created, Outlook Mail on the Web's message editor offers all the comfort and tools you would expect, and then some: you can pick fonts and alignment as well as your text's color, of course, but also add sub- and superscript, for example, or strike through words.

    For what is both less and more than words, Outlook Mail on the Web offers all the emoji you could sneer at and inline images (from your computer and OneDrive).

    Do you or certain recipients prefer plain text and smileys? It is always easy to strip an email off its formatting and send a message that is just text—and secure to display in fine shape for every recipient.

    Accessing Outlook Mail Through IMAP and POP

    We have talked a lot about Outlook Mail on the web (it is called "Outlook Mail," after all, "on the Web"); that should not be the only place you can use your email account, though—and it is not.

    Outlook Mail comes with a comprehensive IMAP interface: in just about any email program, on a computer or device, you can access not only the emails in your inbox but all folders as well.

    This includes the "Junk E-mail" and "Clutter" folders, and the automatic filtering, as well as any rules you have created, are still in effect. To train for "Junk E-mail" and "Clutter", you just move messages.

    What Outlook Mail on the Web IMAP access does not include is an interface to categories you have assigned on the web.

    In addition to IMAP, Outlook Mail can also be set up using POP, which lets you download new messages in a simple and robust manner as well as send, of course.

    Outlook Mail as Your Email Program on the Web (Accessing POP and IMAP Accounts)

    What if, in addition to accessing Outlook Mail via IMAP, you want to access your IMAP accounts in Outlook Mail on the web (and, consequently, in your email program via Outlook Mail IMAP, of course…)? Is it possible to consolidate your email accounts and addresses at Outlook Mail?

    It is. Outlook Mail not only downloads new messages from your legacy POP accounts, it can also connect to IMAP accounts like any good email program—with access to all folders, not just the inbox or new messages. Outlook Mail essentially acts like an email program on the web. For Gmail accounts, you need not even create an application password; Outlook Mail will connect directly using OAuth.

    Of course, you can not only read messages sent to email addresses you have set up in Outlook Mail, you can also send from Outlook Mail on the web with any of your email addresses in the "From:" line.

    Add-Ons Add to Outlook Mail on the Web

    With very few exceptions, we have ignored the world of add-ons so far, primarily for one reason: Outlook Mail on the Web extensions are as numerous as they are varied. You can add almost anything from to-do lists to email encryption to PayPal and connections to your CRM; the add-ons are not all of the same quality, but if you do miss something in Outlook Mail on the Web, an excursion to the "Add-Ins for Outlook" aisle is probably worth the while.

    (Updated September 2016)

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