Some Limitations to Consider When Using Outlook with Gmail

I want to take a moment to write a short post about using Outlook with Gmail. The decision on what is right can be a difficult one to make for many organizations. The information can be overwhelming to sift through, and confusing when trying to determine what might be best for your organization’s specific needs. In full disclosure, I use Gmail for personal use and Exchange for our company. We’ve looked at Office 365 but chose to stay on our internal server due to numerous integrations with our business apps.

Many organizations have moved to Gmail for their corporate email, and thousands have done so successfully. I’m not criticizing this platform – I believe every organization should choose the right tool for the job. Gmail is an excellent email application and I’ve come to appreciate Google’s approach to email management.

When organizations decide to ditch the licensing and IT costs associated with Microsoft Exchange, Gmail is a natural option. However, Gmail is not Exchange (and is not trying to be) but in being different there are a couple of critical things that Gmail can’t replace; namely, Microsoft Outlook. Of the half-dozen organizations I have spoken to, not one of them were aware of the limitations of using Microsoft Outlook with Gmail. Maybe that is the fault of the IT people or vendor hired to complete the migration. Regardless, I want to make sure everyone understands that, Microsoft Outlook will NOT work the same way with Gmail as it does with Microsoft Exchange.

Here is a short, yet important list to consider:

  • Outlook is just another email app with Gmail – syncing, offline mode, and other integrations with Exchange don’t function in the same way. Google Sync makes Outlook more usable but there are limitations. You should review the list.
  • No Public Folder Calendars in Outlook. If you use public folders for calendars (or any other type of public folder), that feature is not supported in Gmail or Outlook.
  • User Calendars are not viewable by default. If you want to be able to view calendars of coworkers, you need to share those calendars and distribute them in emails using links. You must also have Google Sync installed.

If you are making the switch to Gmail, my recommendation is that you migrate away from Outlook and use Gmail in Google’s Chrome. I think people will be happier knowing they are using their tools in the way they were intended to be used.