Moving from Outlook (Exchange) to eM Client (Google)

For the last 14 years I’ve used Microsoft Outlook to manage my life. Last week, with some trepidation I moved to Google (Gmail, calendar, and contacts) and something else for tasks (I’ve not quite settled on it, although Todoist is currently a very strong contender). I thought it may be useful for others in a similar situation to document my experience.

Over the years I have used Microsoft Outlook 2000, 2003, 2007, and most recently 2010. I have synchronised it with various Psion handheld computers, with Windows Mobile, and I’ve used it for the last four years with a hosted instance of Microsoft Exchange 2010 from the excellent, UK-based Simply Mail Solutions.

ActiveSync kept sinking

I moved to Exchange in 2010 mainly because I was having issues synchronising my Windows Mobile phone via ActiveSync with two PCs: home and work (below). Synchronisation didn’t always work successfully and I had no end of problems: duplicated, missing or deleted content. Enough was enough, so I looked at the options.

Workflow for using ActiveSync with two instances of Outlook
Workflow for using ActiveSync with two instances of Outlook. I found this caused all sorts of problems when using the phone as the ‘golden copy’.

Move to Exchange

At that point, in 2010, I considered moving to Gmail but Windows Mobile 6 didn’t support Google data particularly well and I had no real need to share my data with anyone else but myself. My main concern was synchronising data between devices not between people.

So I research the options and in the end I moved to an Exchange 2010 account rented from Simply Mail Solutions. It cost me around £70 per year, plus my domain name. But I felt that cost was worth the expense when set against lost time and frustration due to synchronisation failures.

Synchronisation with Exchange Server 2010
Synchronisation with Exchange Server 2010

With this model everything was synchronising with the Exchange server in the cloud. It was fast, it was efficient, and I never once had an issue with duplicated or missing content. I could add a task on my phone during my walk to work and when I got to the office it was already there on my PC. It felt like magic.

When I moved away from Windows Phone a few years ago and bought a Google Nexus 4 it had support for Exchange under its “Corporate” account settings. So, again, there was no need to move. If it ain’t broke…

Why move to Google, then?

What has changed recently though is that now I do need to share my data with (my wife) Jane. To add another user to Exchange was going to be expensive and unnecessarily complex, particularly when you factor in which domain names we use and that Jane was already using Google mail. The logical conclusion was for me to move to Google.

eM Client for mail, calendar and contacts

One of my hesitations about moving lock, stock and barrel to Google was that I’m not particularly fond of the standard Gmail or Google Contacts interface; Google Calendar is okay; Google Tasks is terrible.

As I said, I’ve used Outlook for a long time. It’s become very familiar and some of the workflow processes have depended on features exclusive to Outlook. I would need to find something else, as Outlook’s support for Google doesn’t extend much beyond IMAP support for Gmail. If you want to synchronise your Google Calendar with Outlook you can forget it: it’s a clunky business at best, and impossible at worst.

Calendar view in eM Client, showing different colours for shared calendars
Calendar view in eM Client, showing different colours for shared calendars

Someone I follow on Twitter mentioned eM Client which claims to be the best email client for Windows. I gave it a go, trialled it alongside Outlook for just a week and decided that although it lacks a few features that I really like about Outlook this was perfect for my needs. I will write a more complete review of eM Client in a later post.

Something else for tasks

Like Outlook I like that everything is together: email, calendar and contacts. I decided not to use the tasks as support for Google Tasks isn’t great even on Android.

For a week I trialled Wunderlist, which is one of Lifehacker‘s favourite to do apps. I’d tried it before but after a week I still wasn’t convinced: I wanted to use their Windows 7 client but it simply wouldn’t synchronise with the Android app, plus the Android widget was clunky. So I gave up.

Todoist—simple and clean-looking task application
Todoist—simple and clean-looking task application

That’s when I stumbled on Todoist, which I really like. The Android app is clean and simple, the Windows app just works, it synchronises really quickly, and the widget is perfect for my needs—it does what I need, and works the way that I want it to.

I expect that I will stick with Todoist for the near future.

How to move from Outlook to Google

Moving from Exchange to Google was fairly straight forward: mildly complex but not complicated. Here’s what I did:

  1. Synchronise Outlook calendar and contacts data with Google using demo version of Sync2. It allowed me to copy all my data from Exchange to Google Calendar and Contacts with no restrictions.
  2. Add Gmail account to Outlook as an IMAP email account, then copy (or move) emails from Exchange/Outlook account to Gmail.
  3. With everything moved over and essentially backed-up to Google, change MX records in my domain name DNS. Basically, this tells all email to go to my web hosting company (Heart Internet) rather than my Exchange server (hosted by Simply Mail Solutions). The DNS took about 4-6 hours to update.
  4. Create a forward for my email address so that it all gets passed on to Gmail. I did this within my Heart Internet control panel.
  5. Install eM Client and add my Google account. All my data, email, calendar, and contacts is then synchronised with eM Client.

The nervous bit was waiting for the DNS to update, as you need to set the MX (mail) records correctly otherwise it doesn’t work. But as soon as my emails started trickling into my Gmail account I knew that everything was fine.

What now?

So far I’ve been using this set up for a couple of weeks and I’m really appreciating having only one place to check email; I’m loving that Jane and I can see each other’s calendars so easily.

I think this is going to work. I wish I’d discovered eM Client and Todoist before now.

Published by

Gareth J M Saunders

Hi, I'm Gareth J M Saunders, 44 years old, 6' 4", father to twins Reuben and Joshua, and their younger brother Isaac. I am employed as both the web architect and the Agnes Blackadder Hall warden at the University of St Andrews. I'm a priest in the Scottish Episcopal Church and worship at All Saints' Church, St Andrews, and I sing with the NYCGB alumni choir and the St Andrews Chorus.

9 thoughts on “Moving from Outlook (Exchange) to eM Client (Google)”

  1. Hi,

    Thanks for writing this blog entry. I was also looking at em client to synchronize my iCloud account, calendars and contacts in particular. I will looking forward to read some of your entries in the coming days in regards with your experience with Em client. I’m currently using Postbox 3 on my Surface Pro 3 and the problem is that it is not optimized to use the HiDPI mode in Windows 8.1 and all the GUI elements are very small to the point that it was hard to use. Outlook is no longer an option. I was using Apple Mail on my mac with Spamsieve and tons of plug-ins to make it an email powerhouse. I hope that I can replicate some of the features that I have on my mac setup in my Surface Pro 3.

  2. Hi Gareth,

    I’m interested in the part where you use IMAP to actually transfer your emails from Outlook.
    I’m on Outlook 2000 and intend to move to Thunderbird. (I looked at EMClient, but was not convinced, also I am somewhat loath to go with a small company that may disappear at any time.) My sent emails are organized/ archived in folders, also I have email going back to 2001 that is archived in separate .pst files per year.
    To go the IMAP route much as I understand you have to move all your emails from their folders to the inbox, otherwise they will not upload to the server (Gmail in your case), isn’t that so? But then you would loose the folder/ label affiliation, no? Also I would have to first re-import all the yearly pst’s into the currant instance of Outlook, which will be tedious but should work.
    I would then install Thunderbird or EMC or what, configure the GMail account and could then change that from IMAP to Pop3 and hey presto I’d have all my emails in the new software, though w/o folders. Any mistakes in my thinking here?

    Thanks for reading

    NB Hasn’t there been a new version of emc recently? Maybe you could write a couple of lines on how you like that. Ta.

      1. Now that you have been using Em Client a couple of years do you miss Outlook at all. I downloaded it today and instantly noticed some things that I may not be able to live with. First off no follow up method for contacts, in outlook you select follow up and pick a date and will be in task area. In Em Client does not appear to be anything for this. Also no time date stamps to make a note in conversations, I do not expect a crm but would like to use it as a good contact manager where outlook excels. I do like how you can attach files to contacts and also seems to sync well with gmail. You cant cope and past html files etc into calendar or tasks like outlook, just plain text

        1. I use Em Client for my personal email (Gmail) and I still use Outlook 2016 for my work email accounts (I have four that I have to check daily).

          First, the CRM-like functionality that you described is not something that I’ve ever really needed, so I don’t miss that in Em Client because I never really used it in Outlook.

          I don’t really understand by what you mean by “no time date stamps to make a note in conversations”.

          In Em Client you are able to attach files.

          I write most of my emails in plain text anyway, and write a lot of stuff using markdown, so I hadn’t even noticed that you can’t copy and paste HTML. So, again, that is not something that I miss because I don’t use it anyway.

          To be honest, I don’t miss Outlook. I now use Todoist for tasks, and Em Client for calendar, mail and contacts and I’m very happy with how these all work. I actually find myself getting more frustrated with Outlook because it doesn’t do some of the cool stuff that Em Client does, such as Ctrl+1 to insert my signature into emails.

          1. Em Client I thing works fine for what you are using it for personal email. It just is not good enough for work. For example I am a Realtor and need to keep track of contact notes, tasks, and have it sync with my phone, Calendar etc. Also I can do email merges with outlook, labels, and Follow up with contacts for the next call. Em Client is lacking as just plain text. What I mean by date stamp is when I call a contact I can they insert date stamp next to the note, in em client you would have to manually type it. If you wanted to insert a link, or copy and pasted something into the contact, calendar would just be plain text in em client, no way to schedule a follow up either. So to check email and basic contact notes Em Client is really only solution but Outlook has more features, comes free with Exchange and you do not have to worry about gmail syncing your contacts etc from Em Client which was not working for me, than I would have to send an email to Email client and wait for tech support vs Outlook where I can call an actual person for tech support. Once Windows phones are better in 2017 and can text from Pc will be quite happy that I can leave Android and have everything match in Windows.

  3. I’ve recently used eM Client and it’s faster than Outlook. One feature I would like to be added is the added security by encrypting the file with a password. eM Client only provides password when you open the application and not the file itself.

    If there is a feature to encrypt the file, I do appreciate if someone would share it. Thanks.

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