While you may think of Outlook as part of the paid Microsoft Office suite, there is a free email option. Outlook handles large attachments, has 1TB of inbox storage space and has the easiest mobile app we’ve tried. Add in the great support features, stellar security and extra convenience functions, and Outlook easily wins our Top Ten Reviews Bronze award for best free email provider.
When you use Outlook online, there are some distracting inbox ads, but overall it isn’t difficult to find the tools you are looking for. Some tasks require several steps, such as attaching files to outgoing messages, which is a big reasons Outlook scores lower for overall ease of use compared to the Gmail. However, Outlook has the best mobile app because it’s very easy to use.
Outlook is one of the few email service providers we tested that lets you import social media contacts straight into your address book. It also automatically saves contact information from sent and received email messages, so you don’t have to manually enter them.
You can add other email accounts to your Outlook profile, conveniently bringing all of the email from your other inboxes into Outlook. And you can send emails from your other email account addresses without having to log in to your other accounts.
One great feature we found only in Outlook is category tags. You can create color-coded categories so you can tag related messages (for example, all messages from family, or all messages with attached photos) and easily find them in the future, either via search or by using a filter.
Outlook doesn’t include a message translator for emails written in another language, but there is a free add-on translator that you can download that integrates with your Outlook account. It can be hard to find; we found it by searching the Microsoft FAQs section for a message translator. Gmail is another free email service that includes a translator that is already included among its tools.
Writing an email using Outlook is easy and straightforward. You’ll find tools we to adjust fonts sizes and types, set indentions and margins, and add bulleted lists. The conversation feature lets you see all the messages and sent and received from a single recipient in one view window, so you don’t need to hunt down each message of the conversation thread. You can also create a unique signature that is automatically inserted at the bottom of all outgoing messages, and the program can be set to send auto reply emails when you’re away.
In our tests, Outlook let us attach images and files up to 50MB, which is twice as much as other free email providers we reviewed, and we could upload multiple files at once. However, more steps are required to upload and send an attachment than with other services, mostly because you have to navigate through options for attaching files from Outlook’s cloud storage. These options are handy if you need to share files larger than 50MB, but it does get a bit frustrating to go through all the steps just to send a picture or a small document.
Attachments look like thumbnails in both outgoing and incoming email messages, so you can preview an attachment without first having to download the file. This is a good way to save space, but it is also a good security feature since you can see if the file is legitimate before downloading it to your desktop.
The process for uploading attachments using the mobile app is similar. We found the Outlook mobile app was the easiest to figure out and use, especially since it mimics the online version, something most free email service apps don’t do.
Outlook does an exceptional job of keeping spam out of your inbox, boasting a 97 percent success rate. If you do receive spam, simply mark it as such and you’ll never see a message from that sender in your inbox again. However, you do need to manually enable the spam filters before Outlook starts blocking these messages for you.
Outlook scans all incoming and outgoing mail for viruses, and it blocks images and restricts downloads from unfamiliar addresses. You can choose to trust all messages from an email address, and Outlook will not block anything from it. Outlook also blocks incoming messages from known phishers; however, you should still always be cautious when opening email from someone you do not know.
Outlook gives you access to several other great programs, including a task calendar that is probably the best and most seamless of any connected to a free email service. It is easy to set up appointments and receive email reminders. You can also send and receive email invitations and add them to your calendar. You can choose a theme, too, such as your favorite baseball team, and related events – including games times – will automatically appear on your task calendar.
Outlook’s chat feature is a fun way to stay in touch with family and friends, and a quick way to connect to co-workers or business partners. The chat program has video capabilities, so you can choose to see someone as you talk with them in real time.
Microsoft offers help online for Outlook with FAQs and user forums. Both are searchable, so it’s easy to find answers. If you can’t find what you are looking for, you can contact customer service by email or phone. We found the customer service to be helpful in the few instances we needed assistance. Most our questions and issues were resolved quickly using the FAQs.
Outlook is an easy-to-use, flexible email service with spam filtering, large inbox storage and social media integration. It does take several extra steps to add attachments and include a message translator. However, the mobile app is very easy and convenient, which helps you keep connected to your inbox wherever you are.