Moving from GMail to Outlook on iOS

I'm a power user of GMail and its label system. This brings a lot of benefits, but it also means huge vendor lock-in. Why? Well, because as awesome as labels are, they are not standard IMAP stuff. IMAP only supports folders. And a message cannot be part of multiple folders. If you are using labels to their full potential, you probably have more than one label on a given message.

If your phone runs iOS and you depend on GMail features, them you're pretty much stuck to using the Google-made app. Yay for vendor lock-in! On Android, that's not necessarily a bad thing, since the native GMail app runs like a charm and has everything you need. However, the iOS app is not as good. To be frank, it's crap. More often than not, trying to load the app either from the home screen or by clicking a notification, the inbox/message won't load. It's that bad!

Recently, Microsoft acquired Accompli, an up-and-coming email app. To be honest, because it didn't advertise any GMail specific features I didn't really look into it. Besides, its schedule-for-later approach seemed like what Mailbox does, and I'm not a zero inbox person. I do have 0 unread messages, but I don't archive stuff.

However, after the MS acquisition and the favorable reviews that I read online, I figured I'd at least give it a shot. It turns out that the new Outlook app does everything I need from a mobile email app, which means no more waiting on and restarting that crappy GMail app!

To understand why Outlook works for me, here's the workflow that I have to have on mobile:

  • I get an email
  • I read it, but I cannot reply or do what I need to do about it right now
  • I mark that email as TODO
  • Later, when I log into desktop GMail, I have my Priority Inbox set up such that the TODO emails are right at the top, so that I don't miss any of them

My inbox

Turns out I can use Outlook's schedule feature for exactly that. What's more - and this is the winner for me -existing labels on the message will be kept, so I get to keep my heavily organized inbox.

Here's the flow (pictures right after the steps):

  • Swipe to schedule the message
  • Choose a timeframe - pick a sensible one since the app will mark that message as unread after that time
  • The app will prompt you to choose a folder for the scheduled messages or let it create one - select choose another folder
  • Choose the TODO folder
  • Profit!

Swipe to schedule

Choose another folder

Select the TODO folder

After doing the steps above, the scheduled messages end up in the TODO section of my inbox, just like I'm used to. This is perfect for me, which is why I kept Outlook as the default mail app on my phone. I also like the fact that I can have all my calendars in one place - same for the cloud storage providers (Google Drive, OneDrive etc.).

That's it from me. If you have a similar labels-based workflow and are looking for an alernative to that awful GMail app, have a shot at Outlook - it might be what you need.