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Outlook vs. Windows Live Mail is going to be a matter of taste and functionality. Comparing their history might help you decide which one to use.

I just got a new Windows 8 laptop and needed to decide whether to buy Microsoft Outlook. I recently downloaded Windows Live Mail and it seems very similar to Outlook which I've always used in the past - and unless I'm missing something it's all I need. Do you know whether the program will be discontinued and if so, should I just buy Windows Outlook 2010? I hope you can answer my question. The Microsoft techs are not knowledgeable and only read what's on the web site.

In this excerpt from Answercast #88 I look at some of the history and between Outlook and Windows Live Mail, and give a tentative comparison.

Outlook vs. Windows Live Mail

Ultimately, I find this to be more of a personal decision than a technological one.

Windows Live Mail, the downloadable program, is in my opinion, a subset of a program like Outlook.

Outlook is huge. It has every feature you could possibly want in an email program - and then some. So, if you're comfortable with Outlook I think grabbing Outlook and running with Outlook may very well be the way to go.

If you like the looks of Windows Live Mail, well that may be okay too.

Outlook has history

The only caveat I have is one based on history - and that simply is this: Microsoft Outlook has been around for a long time. It's been around for at least a decade. Probably a long time more. Probably closer to 15 or 20 years by now.

Windows Live Mail and the mail programs that it replaces, have had a much more problematic history. Outlook Express is where it started. That is no longer supported and hasn't been supported for a very long time.

That was replaced by Windows Mail that came with Vista. Well, that isn't around anymore.

That then got replaced with Windows Live Mail. The one you're talking about now. Is that going to go away some day? Is that going to be replaced by something else? I don't know. I think Microsoft's strategy around free email programs has a tendency to kind-of sort-of change from time to time.

That would make me a little uncomfortable. Particularly, if you're comfortable with Microsoft Outlook and Outlook 2010, I'd be tempted to just go with what you know and install that.

(Transcript lightly edited for readability.)

Article C6253 - January 17, 2013 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

Mark J
January 17, 2013 10:47 AM

I used Outlook when I had a Blackberry, as it made synchronization very easy. Now I use Thunderbird, which has a long history and probably isn't disappearing anytime soon. If you only need the Email function and don't need the calendar and contact management functions, Thunderbird is also a great choice.

January 18, 2013 9:47 AM

In my mind it depends a lot on whether you want to use your email program for scheduling. Lots of programs can send and receive email, but I've never found one that I like better than Outlook for handling tasks, appointments, and meetings, etc. Of course I need to be able to connect to Exchange Server too, so that is another reason I stick with Outlook. It's one reason (along with Excel) I stay with Windows over switching entirely to Linux.

Ron Hoffman
January 18, 2013 10:59 AM

I see you are still bad mouthing Outlook Express. For someone that has never used it you would think you would leave it along. You should know that listening to what others tell you is not always true. Could you please leave it along? There are a lot of us that use Outlook Express and have never had a problem with it. Give me Outlook express any day over Thunderbird or Windows Mail. I have tried them and have to say they are POOR Email clients. Pretty Bad!

One correction to your complaint: I used Outlook Express for many years. Perhaps more telling I had my wife use Outlook Express for even more years. I stand by my current position on Outlook Express: it was a great email program, but continuing to use it put your email at risk. If you do so, please make certain that you're backing up everything regularly and that you know how to restore from that backup when a problem happens.

January 18, 2013 3:26 PM

@Ron Hoffman,
Just make sure you have Outlook Express backed up. The danger of losing your email grows as time passes and your data file grows. Here's a really good article on that:

January 18, 2013 4:52 PM

The last time i opened my Windows Live mail there was a message from Microsoft asking if i wanted to upgrade (free) to "Outlook" a online cloud based version, So yes Leo they are trying to change it again. But probably for good reason!
I actually like like what Microsoft is doing with the cloud, It's like Google Docs only better and it does not matter if im on a Mac at home or Pc at work, I can still access and edit my mail, calendar, Word & Excel docs, Photo's etc

January 18, 2013 5:16 PM

Oh and i meant to add that they are doing away with Messenger and or migrating it over to Skype!

January 22, 2013 7:04 PM

@John.P: I don't really like cloud computing myself and can access Windows Live Mail from other locations should my computer fail anyhow-that's absolutely no problem. Since I don't use mobile devices or Messenger and don't currently use VOIP, confrencing programs or videocommuications in general (I did get in on the ground floor with VOIP early on when it was more experimental and free), none of those things bother me a lot.

I DO like how WLM LOOKS vs. and I dislike having the right side of the page jammed with social networking items. I solely wanted email and a photo host when I first got Hotmail and feel like it went nuts for no reason. Unfortunately for me, there seems to be no simple solution that leaves the 'excess' out.

Having been through a few AJAX based and other types of email exploits on a major site in the last 10 years I know more than I wanted to about security or the sanity of expecting something will go wrong, to expect it and prepare. In nearly 16 years I've learned that it's inescapable, it will happen.

I do not have any real experience with the Outlook PROGRAM as I don't use Word but instead Word Perfect and I would save certain .eml files, even archive them on CD-R routinely under Outlook Express (I still have a few that are nearing 10 years in age).

The last reason I don't like is subjective-it's stark raving ugly to me, even bleaker looking than the Yahoo! Mail that replaced the Classic version. And being stuck with XP for the duration I like it simple, period.

At least the new Yahoo! Mail improved significantly and now works a lot better (I still won't use it as a primary account though).

January 23, 2013 3:59 PM

Sorry Steve i should have called it by it's correct name, "Skydrive" But never the less, It's all cloud computing and that includes Windows Live, Hotmail, Yahoo Mail etc etc.

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