Consolidate Email With Windows Live or Gmail

It’s easier than ever to consolidate your email accounts in one place. If you prefer Windows Live Mail (free with the Vista or Windows 7 OS), or if you prefer Gmail, both make it easy to get all your email under control and in one place. Let’s take a look.

Here are great step-by-step instructions from Microsoft, so I won’t go into that level of detail here. These instructions assume you have WLM (Windows Live Mail) already downloaded to your computer and installed. Windows Live Mail has replaced Outlook Express as a desktop client for those of us using Vista or Windows 7. You can also choose to access your Windows Live or Hotmail from any web browser by going to http://home.live.com and signing in with your Windows Live ID.

Why would you want to bring all your email accounts to one location? Most of us tire of logging into all of our email accounts or keeping multiple browser windows open all day. So using Windows Live Mail or Gmail makes a lot of sense.

Let’s take a look at the features, benefits, and limits of each:

Windows Live

  • Supports 3 types of servers for importing mail accounts
    • POP (typical of most personal email account users. If you have an ISP mail account (like Cox), that will be a POP account
    • IMAP – these servers let you work with mail without downloading them to your computer first. If you want to import your Gmail account into Windows Live, you’ll first need to change your Gmail settings to enable IMAP. There is a link to these instructions in the WLM link above.image
    • SMTP – this server handles outgoing mail only and works with POP3 or IMAP incoming servers
  • About upgrading to Windows Live Mail from Outlook Express (I’ve duplicated this information below) “Windows Live Mail is the successor to Microsoft Outlook Express 6, Windows Mail, and Windows Live Mail desktop Beta. If you have Microsoft Outlook Express 6, Windows Mail, or Windows Live Mail desktop Beta installed on your computer, when you install Windows Live Mail, all of your existing accounts, settings, and e-mail messages are automatically imported into Windows Live Mail. Any contacts in your Microsoft Windows address book (A list of contacts, that contains the names, addresses, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses of each of your contacts. If you’re signed in with a Windows Live ID, Windows Live Mail uses the contacts list associated with your Windows Live ID.) are also imported when you install Windows Live Mail.You can’t create Microsoft Outlook Express e-mail identities (A method used in Outlook Express that allows multiple people sharing the same computer to keep their e-mail separate. Identities aren’t used in Windows Live Mail.) in Windows Live Mail. Instead, to protect each user’s e-mail with a password, create a separate Windows user account and password for each person who wants to use Windows Live Mail on the computer. If you upgrade to Windows Live Mail from an Outlook Express account that contains multiple e-mail identities, you can import the e-mail messages and account information from the identities by clicking Identities on the Windows Live Mail File menu.”
  • If you have multiple accounts, each is separated into its own folder to keep them separated
  • If you import your Gmail account, you’ll be prompted to choose which folders/labels you want to be able to see. This is nice if all you will still use your Gmail web access from time to time and just want to see your inbox from within Windows Live.
  • easily export your email messages or your entire folder to your hard drive to back up your mail.
  • the only popular web based email account that won’t work with this is Yahoo. If you upgrade to their premium ($20/yr) service, then it’ll basically be a POP account and you can import into WLM.
  • You can work in offline mode with your mail.
  • No easy way to import Outlook mail into Windows Live Mail-strange, but true. I’ve seen some give advice to export your Outlook into Outlook Express and then import it into Windows Live. I think this would work, but now it’s hard to find Outlook Express.
  • You can send mail from one of your imported addresses (a Gmail account, for example). Just click the drop down to the right of the ‘To’ box to select which account.

Gmail

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For all the hype and buzz around Gmail, Hotmail & Live Mail still have more users than Gmail. But Gmail is a powerful and useful mail client. Multitudes are flocking to it, leaving Microsoft Outlook behind. I’ve had a Gmail account for several years and have recommended clients get one to alleviate access problems – especially when travelling. It’s reassuring and convenient to know you can get to your email from anywhere.

I find the Gmail web interface cluttered and quite frankly, ugly. Yes, I have changed my theme and I still don’t like my user experience. If you want the convenience of Gmail and the comforting interface of Outlook, here’s how you can import, view and manage your Gmail from Outlook.  Some features, benefits and limits of bringing your mail accounts into Gmail:

  • With Gmail, you can work with your mail offline – you’ll need to go to the ‘Settings’ tab and click on ‘use offline’. You’ll be prompted to download ‘Gears’ in order to do this.gmail settings screen
  • People rave about the ability to filter and label email. With filters (accessed from ‘Settings’, you follow the ‘create filter’ guidelines to sort your incoming mail into particular folders. For people with huge amounts of incoming mail, this is valuable. Labels are really folders and you can make as many labels as you wish and file your mail into them.
  • Ability to import Outlook mail into Gmail (difficult to do with Windows Live)
  • Gmail supports the same type servers as WLM. You’ll just need to have all your settings handy during the process (this is usually the sticky point-sometimes you don’t know a server setting or remember a password).
  • Gmail does not import Yahoo mail either – unless it’s the premium Yahoo Mail.
  • There are ways to backup your Gmail, but it’s not an easy File>Export process as in WLM. We’re not covering it here, but it’s certainly something to address. If you’re using Gmail for business, what would you do if there was an extended outage? Very rarely, accounts have been deleted by mistake. You need a backup plan!
  • You can respond to messages from within Gmail using one of your imported addresses. You can set up a default, but then you’ll need to remember to use the drop down to select which address you want before sending.

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Conclusion

Comparing the lists, it seems both programs share many of the same features. With Gmail, you can import your Outlook mail, but it’s very difficult with WLM. It’s easy to export and backup your WLM folders and messages, however, it’s not as easy with Gmail. Both can be used off-line. Rules can be set up to filter mail with both.

It seems to me if you like the Google culture and all of the things that accompany Gmail (calendaring, contacts, plus access to new software that Google develops, then go with Gmail. If you like and already use Microsoft products, then it might make sense to go with Windows Live Mail as it integrates well with other Microsoft products and services.

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