4 Ways The New Hotmail Is Better Than Gmail (And 3 Ways It's Not)

Hello, World!

Sometime this summer, users of Microsoft's Windows Live Hotmail Web e-mail client will wake up to find their usual inbox replaced with a summary of messages from contacts, another from social networks, and yet another list of e-mail that has been "flagged." Depending on how you use e-mail, the welcome screen might not be a welcome change.

Redmond this week unveiled a preview of Wave 4, which includes a total rewrite of its venerable Hotmail Web client. How does the new Hotmail compare with arch-rival Google's Gmail? Here's a breakdown of some major points of comparison.


With the new Hotmail, Microsoft claims to let you "take back your inbox" by letting you sort messages by those from people in your contact list, social networks or e-mail groups that you belong to or by other factors you select. Gmail cannot do this today.

HOTMAIL BEATS GMAIL: Graymatter Handling

Hotmail will be able to classify messages as "graymail," which might include newsletters or other things that you signed up for but no longer want. No time to unsubscribe? Simply "broom it" into the trash with a couple of clicks. Gmail handles this with custom filters, a simple process that also permits forwarding to outside domains, which is still absent from Hotmail.

HOTMAIL BEATS GMAIL: Handling Large Attachments

All of us have come up against the "attachment too large" wall at some time or other, and the wall keeps getting higher. Microsoft tears down that wall with SkyDrive, a free online service that stores large files that are sent as attachments and delivers links to the recipient for viewing, editing or downloading. Up to 200 files of 50 MB each can be e-mailed, and are stored indefinitely or given expiration dates. That's a total of 10GB of free storage with Microsoft versus 2GB with GoogleDocs.

HOTMAIL BEATS GMAIL: Editing Office Docs

If you share a lot of Office documents, Hotmail will probably have the advantage. Not only will your documents (presumably) retain all their formatting when edited from the inbox, but recipients on PCs and Macs that do not have Office applications will still be able to open, view and edit document contents using Office Web Apps, said Microsoft. GoogleDocs can edit documents without the originating app too (even on Linux and mobile) and can handle PDF, plain text and many other non-Microsoft formats. But Google simply can't deliver formatting protection for Office documents the way Microsoft can.

GMAIL BEATS HOTMAIL: General Doc Handling

While the assumption is that Microsoft will trump Google for handling its own file formats, it will offer no solution for viewing PDFs or editing text files online at launch. Meanwhile, Google's PDF viewer is quite good at displaying and printing PDFs, which along with dozens of other file formats can be stored, indexed, searched and retrieved. GoogleDocs also can edit other file formats, and can do so on Linux, Mac OS X, Windows and several mobile operating systems. Also, we don't believe that "one inbox to rule them all" is necessarily the most efficient way to manage documents.


These days, few people still operate with a single e-mail account. And with the importance of e-mail comes the critical need to monitor every inbox so as not to miss that life-changing offer to import cash from Zimbabwe. Unfortunately, Microsoft continues Hotmail's 15-year tradition of not permitting bulk forwarding to accounts other than those using its own domains. Google has always permitted this, and also can retrieve Hotmail messages for disposition in Gmail, making this a moot point for Gmail users.


Without having tried Microsoft's "new and improved" mobile synchronization tools, it's impossible to compare them with those for Gmail, which we have tried and have found to be excellent. So we're going with the "bird in the hand" theory and giving this one to Google. Among Google's fine tools is one that automatically synchronizes Outlook's Calendar with Gmail's.

The Bottom Line

Of course, no one outside Microsoft that we know of has tried Hotmail's new features, so it's impossible to say for sure when they'll be available, how they'll work and which will even make the final cut. But with the announcement of new capabilities on the horizon, arch-rival Google is sure to counter with enhancements to its online collaboration suite. And when companies compete, everybody wins.