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[This is an email POST to by blog from my brand new outlook.com email account.]

I am pleasantly surprised at the clean new email experience microsoft has churned out. And frankly the Gmail UI has been getting a bit too boring lately. So I started test driving this email (b****@outlook.com) for the last few days. After making sure that migrating is not so difficult from Gmail (simple POP3 forwarding, change Reply To etc.) I loaded it with some real data. This I achieved by linking one of my junk email addresses, boni***@gmail.com, as a POP account in outlook.com. Within a few hours the outlook.com email pulled in 10000 emails from my Gmail. Here what I wanted to test was how easy it will be search and locate data. Everything worked perfectly. Next step was to see whether I can setup automatic email sorting by creating some filters and target folders for incoming mail (eg. all the emails from my Scala user group I want to be delivered to a folder named – well ‘scala’ Emoji). DONE in no time. So far so good.

I noticed that the familiar conversation grouping feature from Gmail is not there in Outlook UI. Well – as far as I know it is default view only over at Gmail. I also vaguely remember how ‘weird’ it felt when I started using it many years back. Will I miss it if I migrate? Probably will. But is it an imperative must for me to expect in an email UI – hell no!

Gmail over the years had become the pivot point in a bunch of productivity tasks. I use an android phone whose central database is google contacts. My life is organized around my Google calendar and lately I am finding huge benefets of storing data on the cloud through Google Drive. My family uses Picasa for storing and sharing vacation pictures. I maintain personal and business documents through Google Documents. My residents association is connected through a google group. I have one or two blogs hosted through blogger. Most recently we had a family hangout on Googe+ to where from Pune hung out with family members from Johannesburg and Frankfurt. A week before that my friend from Atlanta and I had a long video chat on Google plus where I was using my android phone and he was using an iMac. My wife and I use Gtalk through out the day for non disruptive chitchat. You can say that for a large part of inter connectivity in my life I depend on Google products.

Apart from these I am indebted to Google for the opensource technology innovations it has tirelessly driven over the years. It has been inspiring to see large amounts of good quality code fearlessly open sourced for the better engineering around the planet. It continues to be the most respected engineering firm anywhere in the planet. It continues to define the code quality any product engineering guy should look up to. But once again that is not the point of discussion here.

Google gets a one up over any other competitors because it delivers consistent user experience across all the varied user interfaces it has. All these apps work flawlessly on web, through various desktop integration clients that use Google APIs and my android phone. It is not only hard but tedious as well to replace all that one fine day. In fact I don’t even want to replace anything else but this clumsy email UI. But is it possible for me to look for an alternative for my email alone? Sort of to ‘have the cake and eat it too?’ Answer is an emphatic YES.

Whatever I saw of outlook.com so far I love it. The UI is clean and attractive. It is so inviting that I want to connect with all my long lost friends over an email again. It is simpler than Gmail. It does not have any spooky advertisements on the side bars. It has all the key features Gmail has – after all an email editor should be fairly simple. And who thought someone can make it simpler than Gmail team could. However they did it, these guys at Microsoft has nailed it for good. I experienced that moving with my baggage is not so difficult either. I can continue to use Gmail credentials as my passport to rest of its ecosystem. So shall I pull the plug? Or should I phase it out slowly. After so many years of the Gmail life I am deciding to do a slow migration over the next few weeks.

Are there alternatives if you are just hating the Gmail UI but not the @gmail.com account? Well you can choose one of the Pop clients (such as Mozilla Thunderbird). Or move to another one of the web mails. Frankly I do not know many that are really popular and has an ecosystem of collaborative products.

Microsoft has introduced outlook.com with a solid product suite backup. It allows web based creation and management of all Microsoft office product formats. It comes with a SkyDrive feature that lets you store content on the cloud and make it accessible from anywhere. It has an iPhone and Surface application to support. It has video streaming support (not tested yet) through embedded skype. Where it falls short currently is at the android application which is not at a great shape currently. Hopefully it will get a priority upgrade in its product roadmap soon.

I will start using myaccount@outlook.com from today. I will start by making a beta release of my new identity to my friends and family. I will also setup a mail forwarding to this account from Gmail for this select group. I will evaluate the success after a month and take a call on whether to shift over completely or go back to Gmail grumpily.

Gmail, listen up, we are thinking of ditching you for nothing else but a crappy user interface. This not a race that you want to lose. Please upgrade and make us stay. Please…

[Below is the running log of my experiment. I will keep adding more data as I find more features or bugs]

Day 1 after Migration [7th AUG 2012].
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My family was very supportive of this experiment. In fact four of them already signed up for outlook.com service and started using it. We shared a few emails. Along the way I discovered that getting the conversation stack is very much possible on outlook.com UI – all I had to do was to sort emails per conversation. I disconnected my Gmail account’s POPping into Outlook. In place of it I setup an email filter to forward emails from my family into outlook.com. This would help me to reply back from my outlook address. Later in the evening I had a picture to share with my family on email. Then I realized that my android phone does not yet have the outlook email client setup. So I used Gmail for sending that image but soon enough installed the hotmail client and connected in my outlook.com account. First impressions are not very encouraging. It severely lacks all the simplicity and attractiveness Outlook.com web UI has. So I think it is a win for Gmail client on the android device front.

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