Salesforce for Outlook (commonly referenced as SFO) was the first major iteration in connecting your email to Salesforce. Salesforce for Outlook is an executable application (.exe) that is installed on a Windows computer and allows a user to relate emails from their Outlook client to records in Salesforce.
Emails can be related to Contacts, Leads, Accounts, Opportunities, Cases, and even custom objects. It also can synchronize Contacts, Events and Tasks between Outlook and Salesforce, as well as directly create Cases from received emails.
Salesforce for Outlook will work with Outlook client versions 2012/2013/2016, however will not work with Mac, and is a purely client-based application, meaning that Outlook will need to be up and running on your computer for it to synchronize data.
As you can see in the image below, Salesforce for Outlook runs as a sidebar plugin within the main mail window of Outlook, with or without the reading pane active. Keep in mind that if you open an email message full screen, the sidebar will not be viewable as it is only displayed in the primary Outlook window.
When an email is first selected, the sidebar will automatically search through the records in Salesforce for a matching Lead/Contact based on the email addresses in the email header (To/CC).
The sidebar displays relevant information regarding that Lead/Contact, such as the Account or Company name, their title, email, and phone number. It will also look at related objects, like Activities, Opportunities, and Cases, and display those records as well. Clicking on any of the blue links in the related list area will open a new web page in your browser to that specific record.
If more than one Lead/Contact was matched, the first record will be displayed at the top, with additional records displayed in an accordion fashion at the bottom. If the plugin does not locate are records, you can use the magnifying glass icon to search for records within Salesforce and alternatively link your email to a result.
Lightning for Outlook
Lightning for Outlook (LFO) has very similar functionality and can be thought of as the successor to SFO. Rather than a standalone application, however, Lightning for Outlook is a cloud-based application that will run both within the client and on the web (OWA).
Since it was built with newer technology and coding practices, Lightning for Outlook will only work with Outlook 2013/2016 (PC), however it is also available for Mac with the Outlook 2016 client. Since it is a plugin app, and not an EXE application, it also requires Exchange 2013/2016 on premise, or Exchange Online with Office 365. To stay up to date with changing requirements, be sure to see the Resources section below for an updated list.
Lightning for Outlook can link emails to Contacts, Leads, Accounts, Opportunities, and Cases. It can also relate Events to records within Salesforce, however if you’re looking for a more automated sync of Events, you’ll need to look into Lightning Sync.
Lightning for Outlook also does not sync Contacts (Tasks will sync with an upcoming release) as that is also being handled by Lightning Sync.
One of the first things you’ll notice when using Lightning for Outlook is its design and layout – something very familiar if you are already using the Lightning interface within Salesforce. It also holds an advantage over Salesforce for Outlook in that you can navigate through Salesforce records within the app, edit existing fields, and create new records on-the-fly.
The sidebar plugin that runs with Lightning for Outlook will open in both the main Outlook window, as long as your Reading Pane is turned on, and within individual emails.
All Leads/Contacts that are matched from the email will be displayed together in one section, followed by Accounts, etc. This layout can be changed/rearranged/added to by a System Administrator if the default layout is not relevant for your organization.
There are numerous add-ons for the sidebar, including related lists, your own custom Lightning Components, even report charts!
In Lightning for Outlook, clicking on the text in blue will instead load the record right inside of the sidebar in most cases, rather than opening a new browser window. This will allow you to view and edit records right inside of the sidebar, without having to jump back and forth between Outlook and Salesforce.
So, how do you choose between these two options? If your organization is running an older version of Outlook or Exchange, you may want to look into Salesforce for Outlook. If your organization has Mac users, uses OWA frequently, or would like to be able to edit Salesforce records right from your email, you might instead look to Lightning for Outlook.
There are nuances in functionality between the two, so there may even be a reason to run both with in your organization, with your service department running SFO and your sales team running LFO. Just keep in mind that a single user cannot simultaneously run Salesforce for Outlook and Lightning for Outlook.