The Email Experiment Isn’t Over

Posted on May 22, 2019 by Paul Thurrott in Android, Cloud, Google, iOS, Microsoft, Mobile, Outlook.com, Windows 10 with 69 Comments

Life is too short to use the Windows 10 Mail app. So, I’m on the hunt again for a desktop email solution. And I’m changing the rules, again.

As you may know, Google’s September 2018 decision to kill its superior Inbox service—essentially an efficient and minimalist front-end to Gmail on both web and mobile—really threw me. I used it to consolidate all of my email accounts into a single place. For me, Inbox was email. And I didn’t just rely on Inbox, I preferred it—liked it—and recommended it to anyone who would listen.

So I looked at Gmail again, with the understanding that Google had spent much of the previous year improving it, and I figured that at least some of those improvements had to include adding key Inbox functionality to its core email service. Nope. While Gmail on mobile is mostly just fine—it has one glaring problem for me that I describe below—Gmail on the web was, still is, a nightmare of complexity and busy user interfaces. It’s everything that’s wrong with Microsoft Outlook on Windows, but on the web. And I quickly decided that I could not—would not—use Gmail.

And so the experiment began. I set out to find new desktop/web and mobile email clients. I started, quite naturally, with Outlook.com and Outlook mobile. After all, one of my two major online accounts is a Microsoft account that I’ve had since 2001. (The other, for Thurrott.com, is a Google account using G Suite, which is essentially a lightly managed version of Gmail and Google Calendar.)

But then something happened, as we say in the Microsoft world.

As part of my test of Microsoft’s email solutions, I decoupled my Microsoft account from my G Suite account so that I could test Outlook.com and Outlook Mobile with just that one account. Meanwhile, I continued using my Thurrott.com account and a secondary Gmail account through G Suite. And I found that I was suddenly receiving emails again that I hadn’t seen in a long time. Somehow, in combining multiple accounts into a single place, some combination of factors—I’ve long suspected competing spam filters—had been preventing me from getting all my email.

This triggered a major rethinking. Long story short, I decided that I would no longer consolidate email accounts in the cloud. (Essentially, forwarding email from two accounts to a primary account and then configuring that primary account to send mail on behalf of those secondary accounts.) Instead, I would keep my three email accounts—Thurrott.com, Gmail, and Microsoft—separate and apart. And I would use client-side email applications, on both Windows and mobile, to consolidate the email from those three accounts into a single view.

This system works fine, assuming you can find a good email client. On mobile, I’ve found that Outlook works fine: It’s not perfect, but it supports both Gmail/G Suite and Microsoft accounts very well, and in a similar fashion. But the desktop has been problematic. There really aren’t any great email clients on Windows anymore. Microsoft Outlook is too big, heavy, and complex, and it does not play well at all with Gmail/G Suite, no matter your opinions of this app. And the Windows 10 Mail app, well. I’ve voiced my concerns about this terrible charade of an email app for years. It doesn’t even let you configure the text size of emails independently of the system-wide scaling configuration. It’s borderline useless.

So, I naturally settled on the Windows 10 Mail app.

Yes, I hate myself. But I figured I would just try and live with its limitations and suck it up. I switched reluctantly, on all my PCs. I did enjoy the fact that I had nothing to install each time I brought up a new PC, which I do a lot because I review PCs. But I hated the app, and myself for using it. And I never really wrote a follow-up to my Email Experiment series for those reasons. This is not something I’m proud to use or can recommend. It’s terrible.

Aside from the text sizing issue, Mail has failed me repeatedly when it comes to search. It’s almost like Mail’s search feature just randomly generates results, because I can never find what I’m looking for. So then I just visit the web app for the email service in question, use search there, and bam, I find what I’m looking for immediately. Every. Single. Time.

And now I’ve had enough. I just can’t do this anymore. I need to move on. And that’s why we’re here today.

But just as I did previously when I discovered the issue with consolidating email accounts in the cloud, there is a silver lining to my troubles. Because I hate Windows 10 Mail so much, because it is so worthless an email application, I’ve been forced to rethink things again. And I’m starting to come around to another behavior change that would never have happened had I not endured this suffering. So it’s not all bad.

And it goes like this.

I do have two primary online accounts, one Google and one Microsoft, plus a secondary or even legacy Gmail account that I can’t really give up. Those two primary accounts are both important to me, and both are used, among other things, to sign-in to devices (Google for Android and Microsoft for Windows), apps, and services. Neither is more important than the other.

But when it comes to email, one of those accounts is more important. Because the Google account is my Thurrott.com account, it is my primary account for email. It is the only account I really need to be on top of. Readers and podcast listeners contact me there. It’s my name, so it’s pretty obvious. Anyone using the contact form on the site will trigger an email to that account.

Put simply, I really only need a desktop email solution for Thurrott.com. And that means I could use a web-based solution or a desktop app. That means Gmail, which is terrible, is still in play. After all, the Simplify browser extension, which was created by Inbox’s founder, makes Gmail look and work much more like Inbox. Maybe it will be OK. Or, maybe I could use a third-party front-end to Gmail, like Shift. Suddenly, there are new possibilities.

What about my other accounts, you ask? That’s the crux of this plan. In addition to my PCs, I also have phones—several phones—which are checking all of my email accounts via Outlook mobile. I can just deal with my less essential emails, to my Microsoft and Gmail accounts, on mobile. I don’t even have to consolidate them on the desktop.

So we’ll see where this takes me. Maybe I’ll access Gmail/Simplify as a web app through the new Microsoft Edge. Maybe it will be a front-end like Shift. We’ll see. But I’m just happy to have finally put the nightmare uselessness of Windows 10 Mail behind me. I can’t believe I endured it for the months that I did.

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Comments (69)

69 responses to “The Email Experiment Isn’t Over”

  1. RamblingGeek

    I use Outlook, Outlook for iOS and outlook.com - it works.

  2. codymesh

    why not try Newton mail? It was resurrected recently by Essential. Brad seemed to like it a lot.

  3. thatdwayne

    I've been happy with Mailbird for multiple GMail accounts and a G-Suite account. And I agree - Outlook on Mobile is generally fine (or fine enough).

  4. jumpingjackflash5

    Outlook 2016/365 desktop app is a great email client. I also experimented with Windows 10 mail but I do not use it now much. Outlook 365 now offers even simple one line toolbar mode, which helps if you needn't have many functions on Ribbon toolbar.


    so Outlook is fine for me now.



  5. mmcpher

    "The Email Experience", a/k/a "The Swindle Continues"! I really appreciate these posts on the mobile/desktop, multiple account email conundrum. I have been tinkering in various labs for years without ever hitting on an acceptable solution. It got away from years ago as part of the fallout from Blackberry's demise as those devices at their peak flawlessly handled email to the point where my phone was often more reliable and versatile than was our MS Exchange Outlook desktop setup. Anything that good has to be commercially selected for market extinction, for some damn reason (I think it had something to do with emojis).


    But that went away and I have been chasing that level of productivity ever since, and my 'solutions' inevitably lead to more problems and it's just a clanking mess by now. We have a finicky MS Exchange server, when it comes to remote access. which always complicates things. On my home desktops, I really liked Postbox but it took a lot of effort, tweaking various iMap or Pop3 server setting to get it to work and when I finally hit paydirt, Postbox insisted on trying to go back to the Dawn of Man and populate my inbox with tens of thousands of old emails. And I couldn't make it stop, so I too, was sent back with my tail between by legs to Windows 10 Mail. Which works, at least.


    On the mobile side, I have Outlook Mobile, but it has a voracious and randomizing junk mail filter that refuses to be tamed or trained and is literally driving me off my personal Outlook accounts. Right now that means the dread, ugly and greedy Gmail Gulag, with it's presumptuous promotions and it's face-hugger instincts to track and entwine and is just plain lousy. Right now, on the mobile side, it is a toss-up between Newton, which does the best overall job of allowing and rendering in larger fonts, and Blackberry Hub, which can handle a lot of social media and various email accounts in a single, unified but still customizable app.


    I have a day off this weekend, and I am thinking about re-configuring my whole setup on Android and desktops. So I really appreciate this post and discussion.

  6. c_j_martinez

    I have a similar dislike for desktop email clients. On the Mac and iOS Spark has been very good, almost Inbox-like. Hopefully now that they ,made an Android app, they'll get to Windows next. In the meantime it's web clients on Windows for me.

  7. ggolcher

    If you decide you can stomach Outlook, try this: https://tools.google.com/dlpage/gappssync?visit_id=636941449711043823-1706615648&hl=es&rd=1


    It works surprisingly well and makes G-Suite (which I assume you have for work) a no-brainer

  8. PeteB

    Can't believe Paul used it even for this long. Crappy, feature crippled metro apps were never going to supplant proper Win32 desktop programs. Ever.

    • codymesh

      In reply to PeteB:

      Its okay for the casual/basic e-mail user but it's not good enough for a prolific e-mail user. It's nice to have modern email syncing and notifications on Windows without the need to have something constantly running in the background

  9. Alex Taylor

    Thunderbird. Definitely Thunderbird.

    If your driver is functionality, particularly for search, the answer is Thunderbird.

    Search is fast, accurate and very flexible, with easy but powerful options for things like filtering results by a timeline graph or people or folders or accounts.

    It's not especially touch friendly, and you may want the Monterail Theme to look a bit nicer, but it's the power user's choice.



    And Aquamail for Android.

  10. CompUser

    I think Microsoft Office Outlook is far and away the best Email app there is, and use it on my two desktops and laptop, and I use the Outlook app on my cell phone. The only complaint I have is with the Outlook app on the cell phone. There doesn't seem to be a way (that I can find, anyway) that enables me to have an icon for the calendar on the home screen, so I have to open Outlook first, then access the calendar from there. On the computers, I access the calendar directly from the Start menu. I really dislike having to basically open two apps (Outlook and then calendar) to view the one I want.

  11. glenn8878

    I tried consolidating email accounts for one view, but it didn't work for me. The transition from the desktop to mobile experience made such consolidation difficult to impossible. I also changed accounts due to security. Currently, I have several accounts since I didn't exactly stopped using Yahoo. I am instead actively using Gmail. So just tell everyone your <blank> email account is the preferred email account and everything else will be monitored less frequently.

  12. anderb

    If you're ruling out Thunderbird as too old-fashioned, I'll give fastmail.fm a plug.

  13. red.radar

    I got to admit. I feel for you. You find a google product you really like and they just get bored and kill it. One of my biggest frustrations with google. No stewardship of their products.


    I still haven't forgiven Google for killing Google Reader.




  14. conan007

    "Microsoft Outlook is too big, heavy, and complex, and it does not play well at all with Gmail/G Suite, no matter your opinions of this app."

    Have you tried G Suite Sync for Microsoft Outlook (search "G Suite Sync for Microsoft Outlook")?

  15. dontbe evil

    "its superior Inbox service" LOL

  16. datameister

    And here I was thinking Google solved the email problem a decade ago. I don't see what is so complicated about Gmail. Am I just a super geek or something?

  17. michael_jones

    Maybe you should just try a Helm, one of the devices Leo has advertised on the TWiT network. Your own personal mail/cal server and you can just forward all your e-mail to it from Google? Or better yet just redirect the MX record for Thurrott.com to it like they say you can do? Then you own it, it support IMAP, etc. and you can just do whatever you want!

  18. happy30

    You can also use the Simplify extension inside Shift...best of both worlds.

  19. legend

    Microsoft needs to make Outlook.com a true PWA that supports multiple accounts (like Outlook Mobile does). That would be amazing and future proof (platform agnostic). Since UWP is dead, this should be their top priority...

  20. Winner

    I use Thunderbird on my PC and GMail on my phone.

  21. Sbeisner1

    I really like the free Thunderbird mail client from Mozilla. It works great and has great search built-in. I use it everyday for work email.

  22. roho

    I had nothing but trouble with Thunderbird, stopped using it.

  23. roho

    So what's wrong with Yahoo?

  24. a_seeker

    For now, I’ve settled on Microsoft Edge Chromium gmail.com account with simplify extension and live.outlook.com account installed on Windows and Mac OS as PWAs. So far not too bad. Still not Inbox.


  25. alpensturm

    I use Outlook on my ThinkPad X1, and the Windows 10 Mail App on my ThinkPad 10 tablet as well as my Lumia 950 XL - no issues at all with the Windows 10 Mail App - but I only connect to my Outlook.com account - with Office 365 subscription. I ditched my Google account nearly two years ago.

  26. Vladimir Carli

    I have the same problem, can't find a solution since one year and a half now. The only software that handles my mail correctly appears to be Mail for MacOS. I even subscribed to Newton but search doesn't work properly. I continuously find myself pulling out my iPhone to find the emails I need there and then forward them to myself, so that they are available on my PC. It's crazy.

    The newest version of Outlook is much better and I am trying it. It appears to work but sometimes it just freezes, it doesn't receive email anymore until I restart it. No crash, no information about it. It just stops pulling mail and I discover it when my phone beeps for new mail but the pc does not

  27. wbhite

    Have you considered Outlook Express? /s


    I agree with you about the horrible state of the Mail app and its sibling the Calendar app. Microsoft really could have used these built-in, everyday apps to showcase their UWP platform, but like all other UWP apps, they're boring, unstable, and lack features. I know one person who uses the Mail app and it's my 92 year old grandfather.

  28. Aaron44126

    I've found that desktop Outlook works really great as long as all of your accounts are Exchange. So, I moved my personal domain account from Gmail to Office 365, and I use Outlook, and I'm totally happy with it.


    However, if you don't want to do that, check out Postbox over at postbox-inc.com.

  29. Skolvikings

    It's interesting that you say search on the mail app doesn't work. That's been an ongoing issue with Outlook for me as well. I don't know the what or why, but searching in Outlook is not reliable. (I'm using the Outlook that comes with Office 365 ProPlus set to the Monthly Channel.)

  30. lvthunder

    Have you tried Thunderbird? It kind of reminds me of Outlook Express.

  31. BigM72

    If you're going to use GMail in the web browser, can you not just have a separate tab open in your browser for outlook.com too?

    Is a unified inbox really so important on the desktop?

  32. Daekar

    I have been accessing Outlook.com via New Edge as a web app and it's been a good experience. Still don't get the hate for the Outlook desktop app (never had trouble with Gmail on it...), but if you're trying to get by with mediocre hardware maybe it's a problem.

  33. Rob_Wade

    Obviously, email app preference is subjective, to each his/her own. I've been very happy with the Windows 10 Mail app, and I hate the traditional Outlook. I used to use that for many, many years...until the Windows Mail app came along with Windows 8. The biggest complaint I have is that they have NOT carried forward one of the best features to the other platforms: being able to swipe to Junk. You can only swipe to a folder, and then you have to go through the painful process of selecting and verifying a folder to send stuff to...thus DEFEATING THE FLIPPING PURPOSE OF A CONVENIENT SWIPE. As for Gmail, I hate all things Google, and my Gmail account is the one I use when I want all the garbage to go to (because that's exactly fitting).

  34. silversee

    Search works fine for me in the Windows 10 Mail app. Perhaps you don't realize that it shows "suggested results" at the top, and "all results" below?

  35. Atoqir

    Just use Gmail and install JasonSavard his Gmail/Calendar extensions and boom you have a productive mail flow.


    I really don’t understand why you always promote PWA and describe UWP apps as fisher price toys (which they are) and then start using UWP and old desktop apps like Outlook.


    The best solution would be to move your stuff to Office365. Forward all your mail to your new Office365 and only reply from that adress.


    Now you can use OneNote OneDrive Outlook, Outlook.com etc without hacks, extenstions or sync issues. This stuff works really great. And it also fits your job more than Google Apps

    • Paul Thurrott

      In reply to Atoqir:

      Given how many different PCs I use, it's always a win if I don't have to install something. I never liked or recommended the Windows 10 Mail app, in fact, I complained about it incessantly.


      I literally describe in this article that I discovered that forwarding email to a single account resulted in lost emails. I will never do that again.


      My job is to write about personal technology. Google's apps and service fit that, whatever that means, just as well as anything Microsoft makes. In some cases I don't have a choice. Where I do, I choose what's best for me, not something that just happens to be made by a particular company.

  36. chaoticwhizz

    I actually like the WIndows 10 mail app but I only use it for my outlook.com account that I get about 15 emails a week on. Higher volume email would probably be an issue with it.


    I don't care for the Outlook desktop app. It randomly doesn't connect to my email account even through we use Office 365. Also, OUtlook has always been a bloaty, clunky email program. If I didn't have to use it for work, I wouldn't use it at all.

  37. bluesman57

    I think you should move your Thurrott.com hosting to an Office 365 account and use Outlook. I've had my personal domain with them for more than 5 years and it's been a great experience. Outlook can be a beast, but you can configure it to do just what you want it to do. They've rolled out a lot of new sorting options in the last couple of years. I don't know what I'd do without the auto-sorting in to folders that it does. I open Outlook in the Unread Mail folder, quickly scroll through everything new and delete stuff I don't want. The important stuff is already in the proper archive folder, and I flag stuff I need to get back to soon.


    I have important Gmail accounts, too, but I don't bother trying to use them in Outlook, I just use Gmail in Chrome.

  38. Daninbusiness

    I’m a bit concerned at your continuing efforts to punish yourself in the name of finding the “one true setup” for you. You are no doubt aware that the minute you find something you like, something else will change, causing you to restart your quest, right?


    Inspired by your perseverance.

  39. Greg Green

    I don’t understand how they could mess up search. Back at work when we used Outlook 2010 (I think it was 2010) search failed regularly there. I’d call in the IT guy and point to the email I was looking for then enter it in search and Outlook was unable to find it.


    We cleared caches, reindexed, rebuilt files, held hands, nothing worked. We just lived with it. Search seems like one of the most basic functions a program should be able to handle.

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