While no one has ever asked to pay for Outlook.com, there are some associated paid Microsoft services that will make for a better overall experience.
Here’s what’s available.
Available for $20 per year, Ad-Free Outlook.com removes the graphical ads from Microsoft’s consumer-oriented webmail client. Oddly, if you pay for Office 365 Personal or Home (see below), you still see graphical ads, so this (or Outlook Premium, also described below) is something you may want to still consider.
To be clear, “graphical ads” refers to the awfulness you see in the rightmost pane of the Outlook.com web interface. And using an ad-blocker doesn’t help: That pane will still be there, with a message that reads, “It looks like you’re using an ad-blocker.” So it may still make sense to pay for Ad-Free Outlook.com (or Outlook Premium, below) just to get back that onscreen real estate.
Note: If you never access your Outlook.com email on the web from your PC, you can skip Ad-Free Outlook.
Available now in Preview, Outlook Premium provides a number of nice features. These include:
- Custom domain support for five users. You can pick a personalized email address (like thurrott.com) and assign email addresses (like [email protected]) for up to five users.
- Information sharing. Outlook Premium helps you easily share calendars, contacts, and documents (via OneDrive) between those five users. As Microsoft notes, sharing relationships are set up automatically between the people who have email addresses on your domain. So this is an ideal solution for families.
- Ad-free inbox. Like Ad-Free Outlook.com (above), Outlook Premium offers no “banner ads” (which I assume is the same as “graphical ads”) for a “distraction-free view of your email, photos, and documents.” In other words, this works across Outlook.com and OneDrive.com. (Though I’m not aware of ads on OneDrive.com.)
Outlook Premium costs just $20 per year during the Preview time frame, but the price is going up to $50 per year after that. So you can save if you jump on board now.
There is one other nuance to know about: Getting a custom domain isn’t free. If you purchase a domain elsewhere (or already own a domain), Microsoft will let you use it for free with Outlook Premium. But if you use Outlook Premium to find and then acquire a custom domain, you will need to pay for it on an annual basis. The cost is $10 per domain per year. (Which is roughly what most domain registrars charge.)
Office 365 Personal or Home
Office 365 doesn’t directly impact Outlook.com, but if you do subscribe to an Office 365 consumer product, it will be associated with the same Microsoft account.
As I noted previously in Which Office 365?, Microsoft offers two versions of Office 365 for consumers, and each uses Outlook.com for email, contacts, and calendar management. Office 365 Personal is aimed at individuals only, and Office 365 Home is aimed at families with up to five members. They break down like so:
Users. Office 365 Personal supports just a single user. Office 365 Home supports up to five users in a household.
Full Office. With Office 365 Personal, you can install a full version of Office on one PC or Mac. With Home, you can install full Office on five PCs and/or Macs, which can be spread out over up to five different people in the family.
Office on full-sized tablets. With Office 365 Personal, you can also install Office apps on one full-sized tablet (iPad or Android) and gain access to the premium features that only come with this subscription. With Office 365 Home, you can do so on up to five full-sized tablets (again, across up to five different users).
Office on smartphones. With Office 365 Personal, you can also install Office apps on one smartphone (iPhone or Android, currently, Windows Phone is a freebie) and gain access to the premium features that only come with this subscription. With Office 365 Home, you can do so on up to five smartphones that are used by up to five different users.
Online versions of Office. Both subscriptions provide access to Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote Online on the web. Office 365 Home applies to five users.
OneDrive. Every Office 365 Personal and Home subscriber gets unlimited cloud storage on OneDrive, but with Office 365 Home, all users get unlimited storage.
Skype calling. Every Office 365 Personal and Home subscriber gets 60 minutes of Skype calling to mobile phones (in 8 countries) and land lines (in over 60 countries).
Both subscriptions are tremendous deals. Office 365 Personal costs just $69.99 per year, though you could pay $6.99 per month, instead, which works out to about $84 per year. And Office 365 Home costs $99.99 per year, though you could pay $9.99 per month, which works out to about $120 per year.
Choosing between these two subscriptions is simple, I think. If you absolutely, positively only need a single full Office install, just grab Office 365 Personal. But if you need two or more, for yourself or with one or more other family members, Office 365 Home is a tremendous deal.
Note that Office 365 does not provide custom domain support or an ad-free Outlook.com inbox. So if you need the former, you should sign-up for Outlook.com Premium, noted above. If you would just like an ad-free inbox on the web, you can add Ad-Free Outlook.com instead.