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Outlook vs. Outlook.com vs. Outlook Web App

Call me old but I can’t seem to keep up anymore with what exactly is meant with Outlook, Outlook.com Office, Office 365 and logging on with Outlook.com or Microsoft Accounts to Windows and Office.

What is what exactly and what do I use it for when?

Yes, this can become more than a little confusing for anybody sometimes; age doesn’t have much to do with it.

Although the similar naming makes a lot of sense for marketing purposes, for troubleshooting and looking up information it is quite a pain to find out if it indeed applies to you.

The Outlook brand

Outlook 2013 logoBasically, the “Outlook” brand stands for everything that focuses on email.

  • Outlook is the mail client application of the Microsoft Office suite.
  • Outlook.com is a free web based mail account (which used to be Hotmail).
  • Outlook Web App (aka OWA) is the web based mail client that is part of Microsoft Exchange Server which is also available for Live@EDU users and subscribers of Office 365 for Business and Exchange Online.

Then there are still some other mail clients within the Outlook brand:

  • Outlook Mobile for Windows Phone
  • Outlook RT for Surface RT and Surface 2
  • Outlook for Mac
  • Outlook Express (only on Windows XP)

Office 365 for Home vs. Office 365 for Business vs. Office 2013

Office 2013 logoThe Office brand generates quite some additional confusion as well as it can refer to the actual application, a subscription based license for use of the application or a subscription based service for hosted solutions of Microsoft Server products.

  • Office 2013 is currently the latest version of the Microsoft Office suite which you can purchase and install on your computer. There are several suites available. The Office Home Student 2013 suite is the cheapest but doesn’t include Outlook. For this, you’ll need Office Home & Business 2013 or Office Professional 2013.
  • Office 365 for Business is a subscription based service which provides you with access to hosted solutions of Microsoft Server products which include Exchange (Online), SharePoint and Lync. You can subscribe to these individually or as a package deal. This package deal can also include a license for the latest version of Office which you can install on your computer.
  • Office 365 for Home applies to the subscription based version of the latest version of Microsoft Office. It basically is a “hired license”. Currently that is for Microsoft Office 2013 Home Premium (which includes Outlook) or Microsoft Office for Mac 2011 (which also includes Outlook) when you use a Mac instead of a Windows PC. It doesn’t come with an Exchange Online account though but you can configure it with an Outlook.com account or any other POP3, IMAP or Exchange account.

Logging on with an Outlook.com or Microsoft Account

Windows 8 logoIn both Windows 8 and Office 2013, you can now log on with a Microsoft Account as well. This allows you to use it in combination with cloud based services from Microsoft such as OneDrive (formerly known as SkyDrive). It then also stores several settings in the cloud so that these travel with you when you log on to another computer.

All Outlook.com accounts are automatically also Microsoft Accounts but you can turn any other email address into an Microsoft Account as well via: https://signup.live.com.

Signing up won’t turn that email address automatically into an Outlook.com account and you can still use that address as you always did. However, if you want to, you do have the option to use it with Outlook.com as well.

So, you can logon to Windows 8 with an Outlook.com account and logon to Office 2013 with an Outlook.com account but this doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to configure this account in Outlook itself as well. You can use Outlook with any other account that you own as well.

Similarly, you can use your own email address to sign up for a Microsoft Account with which you then can log on to Windows 8 and Office 2013 and use that address within Outlook as you always did or with any other account.

To check your currently configured mail accounts in Outlook 2013 use:
File-> Account Settings-> Account Settings…-> tab E-mail



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