MS Outlook to Google Gmail: One Tech Tale

I’ve been on Microsoft Outlook and Google Gmail since those systems began and I know them cold. MS Outlook has always been my main email program. As for Gmail, I used it as an alternate address and when I was on the road. I set Gmail up to retrieve the email from my main POP account.

That way I could get my email from any Internet-connected device. However, my Outlook folders were not available.

For the last few months, Outlook has been whining — I’ve reached my storage limit, even though I was well under the limit. I knew that Outlook was using the storage limit from a previous version of Outlook that didn’t get reset when I upgraded, but even Microsoft couldn’t help me solve the problem.

Although I eschew Gmail’s format and use of labels, I knew it was time to make the move to making Gmail my default go-to email box. With more than 10 years of email in Outlook folders, I knew I faced a monumental task. So I archived some of the older stuff and just bolstered myself for an ordeal. It was time-consuming, all said. But it really wasn’t as bad as expected.

At last I stopped Gmail from forwarding from my POP account and, instead, made it into an IMAP account. Then I added my Gmail account to Outlook.

As shown below, I was then able to drag my Outlook folders into the Gmail account which now showed up under my Outlook folders.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a way to move multiple folders or messages at once, but I could move the folders and everything nested under them followed. I only had one folder that didn’t make it the first time. It was an all-important folder that held all of my product review information and it had close to 100 sub-folders. Only 1/3 of it appeared in Gmail, so I had to redo the move. It worked the second time around.

I exported my 1,000+ contacts from Outlook, imported them into Gmail. I found that when I imported all of my contacts at once, I lost all of my contact groups. After a little experimentation, I found that if I moved my contact groups individually, I could give each imported group the appropriate label.

I was up and running. I started using Gmail as my main email program. To my amazement, within two days, I was completely hooked on Gmail. If you don’t use a template, the interface, shown below, is clean and simple and you can choose your own color preference.

The label structure that I thought I would hate, was much more flexible than Outlook’s folder organization. As an old programmer, I found Gmail much better thought out and better coded. Several times when I did things that would have caused me to have duplicate messages in Outlook, I found Gmail smart enough to sync the messages and give me only one copy.

One reason that I didn’t move to Gmail earlier was their lack of a Preview Pane. Luckily Gmail had recently added a Preview Pane option, which is available in the Google Labs (under Settings) and shown below.

In the Labs, I also found several other useful features, like shortcut keys and chat settings. The only thing I really missed from Outlook is the ability to customize a tab with my most used functions. That missing option was softened by the fact that I could now use Google’s Themes to spice up my email. Below is a screenshot showing the new puppy that I adopted by changing the Theme.

I keep my Outlook IMAP email intact, as it is a good backup for Gmail. While I am very happy using Gmail, Microsoft just announced a new online version of Outlook called, so I signed up. has a clean interface, a reading pane and some advanced filtering.

Looks like I might have to try that next.


About the author

Sandy Berger

  • Pammy

    Thank you for your post. I have been using categories in outlook and was wondering if those would migrate into gmail as “labels”. instead of categorizing my emails into folders i have used categories. I, however, would like to switch to gmail, but now that my categories are set i’m in the same position as you were.. quite a monumental task.