Microsoft Outlook: New Webmail Service Takes Aim at Gmail

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Other features have to do with email organization. The QuickView panel on the left rail is best described as a smart filtering system. Microsoft has a list of preset categories -- including, documents, photos, newsletters, bills, shipping updates -- which automatically put emails that fall into those categories into their respective QuickView filter. You can configure it so that those messages are automatically removed from your inbox and moved to those QuickView folders.

You know those all-annoying newsletters we all sign up for and only occasionally read? Microsoft has built a feature called Sweep to help manage those and other non-personal messages. (Microsoft says newsletters, offers, daily deals, and social updates take up over 80 percent of a typical inbox.) Instead of having to delete every newsletter or Twitter follower notification email, you can select one and then hit the Sweep button. Outlook will ask you if you want to move all messages from that user to the trash. You can also set up a rule to have them moved in the future or to show only the most current message from that user. It's all very, very handy and worked well when I wanted to clean out my Twitter follower emails.

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But the biggest differentiator could be advertising integration. You won't find ads crammed into every little crevice on this service.

"We don't think personal conversations should be advertised against," Jones said. While Gmail will show you ads based on your personal messages, Microsoft is taking a stance against the practice and emphasizing its privacy settings. While Outlook will show you ads on the right side of your inbox, it won't show ads on a specific email message.

Microsoft is releasing a preview version of Outlook.com today. And even better it is providing unlimited storage for all -- no need to worry about attachment sizes, etc. All users will be able to sign up for a brand new @outlook email handle or bring in their other email accounts, including Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, etc. and use Outlook as an all-in-one email service. (You can receive messages from those services in Outlook and send messages from that address.) Microsoft seems to be aware that many are tied to their email addresses at this point and is making it easy to switch between accounts.

"Similar to how you can keep your phone number -- but change to a better service -- we want to make it easy for people to enjoy all of the benefits of Outlook.com without having to change their email address if they don't want to," Jones said. And there you have it: even more proof of Microsoft's summer mission to break from the past.

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