of what Gmail did to email when Google introduced it in 2004.
First, Gmail scrapped the use of folders to organize older messages. Instead, it gives you labels, and you can apply as many as you want to a particular message. So an email among friends to make plans for "The Hobbit'' movie might be filed away as "friends,'' `'movies'' and even "The Hobbit.'' With folders, you had to choose one folder to put your message into or create multiple copies of the messages. It's a relic of the offline world, in which a paper document can only go in one folder without a copying machine.
Meanwhile, those 50 emails it might take to coordinate your movie date with friends could have easily cluttered your inbox. Gmail automatically groups those into "conversations,'' so you see all 50 messages as a single item in your inbox.
These changes took time to get used to, but that's what happens with revolutions.
Outlook.com adopts conversations, which makes it feel like it's catching up to Gmail, but it still uses folders instead of labels.
The improvements over Gmail are mostly around the edges:
_ Outlook integrates with leading social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.
Gmail mostly integrates with Google's own services. With Outlook, you can have the service automatically fill your address book with contact information not just from Google but also from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and even China's Sina service. You can chat with a Facebook friend directly from the Outlook website.
And if you get an email from a Facebook friend, you might see that person's latest Facebook post to the right, as long as Facebook has that email address registered to the social-networking account. Keep in mind that your posts won't start showing up next to correspondences with people you're not friends with, unless you've set them on Facebook to be publicly visible.
_ Outlook offers many ways to customize and manage the mailbox.
One of the complaints I have about Web-based email is the lack of versatility. You're not given as many options as you are with stand-alone email software.
I was pleased to see a number of options with