Updated on 11/2/2015.
This post is intended to get you familiarized with the different email options for your Surface tablet.
Email setup questions have, by far, been the most-asked-about topic from other Surface tablet owners. We get at least one a day. The email topic is both complicated, annoying, and a major pain to understand. But the good news is that once you grasp the basic concepts, you will be able to choose the best option for your needs.
So, I will cover the 3 most common questions we get on this topic:
#1 Email Account Options Question: What is the difference between Mail App, Outlook, Outlook.com, and Exchange Outlook?
Basically, Mail App and Outlook are email readers that talk to mail services. They’ll talk to almost any mail service and act as the interface between you and the back-end mail system. They don’t really ever send or receive email themselves, they pass the information to the back-end mail service to do the sending.
Think of readers as the person behind the counter at the post office. They give you your mail and take your mail to put it in the bag but someone else does the deliveries.
Outlook.com and Exchange are both mail “services”. This means that they actually sort, send and receive email from other systems. Carrying the post office analogy forward, think of these services as all of the people who sort and transport your mail between post offices. It should be noted both of these services come with their own readers (web based).
Hopefully, this clears things up a bit. To help you distinguish the differences better, I created this table below:
|Description:||Email application (“reader”) that comes with Win 8.x and is installed locally. It is only a “reader” and requires a mail service.||A personal information manager. Can work as stand-alone with a local Outlook Data File or with Exchange for multiple users.It is only a “reader” for email.||Free web-based email “service” that combined Hotmail and Live.com into one. They are all now just called a Microsoft account.||Collaborative server product. Provides email “service” among many other collaborative tools.|
|Built-in?||Yes. Win 8.1 and 10||Yes on Surface 2 & 3. No on Surface Pros.||No – Online. Free and pay versions.||No – For-pay or work email.|
|Includes:||Email only||Email, Calendar, Contacts, Tasks, Notes||Email, Calendar, Contacts, Tasks||Email, Calendar, Contacts, Tasks, Notes|
|Good for:||Easily view all your email accounts. If you have many, you can quickly see them all in one place. See when new messages arrive, right on the Metro screen.||View email, calendar, tasks, and contacts all in one place. Especially useful with Outlook.com and Exchange for syncing all personal information across different devices.||Free email service account. As bonus calendar and contacts were added. Can be used via web browser on any computer without additional setup. For-pay version is Ad-free.||Excellent email (plus a lot more) service. Very good for multiple users and data sharing. Typically used by large networks. Can be purchased for individual use through Exchange online hosted plans|
#2 Email Account Options Question: I have a Gmail or Yahoo account, which reader option should I use?
Both of the readers I’m covering in this post (Windows Mail App and Outlook) will give you the basic functionality but differ a bit on the feature set. Here’s my advice on the differences:
|Surface 2 / RT||Surface 3, Pros & Surface Book|
|For basic email only||Windows Mail App||Windows Mail App|
|For email and calendar||Outlook RT – FREE with Outlook.com service. Google Calendar in “View Only Mode”.||Outlook 2016 – For pay Outlook.com (free). Google Calendar in “View Only Mode”.|
|For notifications via Metro tile.||Windows Mail App||Windows Mail App|
|For sharing calendar/contacts with others. Google for email only, contacts and calendar though Microsoft account.||
|For one stop shopping for all personal info and sharing.||Consider moving it all to Outlook RT with Exchange for primary account. And, if you must keep your Gmail, use it as a secondary account for email only.||Consider moving it all to Outlook 2016 with Exchange primary account. And, if you must keep your Gmail, use it as a secondary account for email only.|
However, I’d advise you to experiment with the options yourself. Different people have different preferences and my preferences may not be what’s best for you when it comes to an email application.
#3 Email Account Options Question: Do I need an Office 365 subscription?
If you have a Surface 2 /RT, you have Office RT (including Outlook RT) built-in. So, unless you are looking to use it on other devices, you do not need Office 365.
If you have one of the Surface Pros or a Surface Book, you may want to consider purchasing either Office 2016 or Office 365 to get not just Outlook but also Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc. Otherwise your only built-in option for email client is the Windows Mail App.
This is fine and is entirely up to you. Also remember that on Surface Pros you have the ability to install anything you like, including other email clients like Thunderbird, for example.
I hope this helps to clarify the email account options you have for your Surface tablet.
Joanna is a former IT Director for a major public university, who gave up a high paying career to blog full time. She is proud to be a professional geek. Joanna loves all things technology and Surface tablets are her passion. She and Tim created LoveMySurface.net to help others be more productive using these awesome tablets.