9/9/08

Mail and Gmail

In commenting on David Strom's column Ten years of email, I said,
I've long ago switched from POP to IMAP, but cannot imagine having to rely on Internet access to read or manipulate e-mail. I'd love for you to talk about the changes that doing that requires. I just cannot imagine.
He replied (see it in my entry Strom's Ten years of email) and it got me thinking.

Of course, I have used Google's mail (gmail). But, I never linked it to my avolio.com email, except to forward email to my gmail account to my avolio.com account. E-mailing back and forth with David convinced me to try it, but I wanted to do more. Dave is almost always connected. So, he just uses Google's webmail interface. It suits his needs and he likes the interface. I like using Apple's mail application (cleverly called "Mail"). So, I decided to use it to read Google Mail and go one step further: to have my avolio.com email hosted on Google. My avolio.com email was hosted by a "true friend". Google, with Google Aps, gives clear directions for setting up a Gmail account for a domain. In fact, you can start immediately using it, even before MX records are changed through temporary gmail email addresses. The MX record change took about 10 minutes, because Google automates it's side and my domain records are run, as I mentioned, by a true friend. That is to say, email to "username@avolio.com" started showing up on username's email box on Google. Coolness! It was working. (Now, almost nothing in DNS-land is immediate; information needs to propagate. So, I did check my old server location some that transition day.)

Set up on the Google side was easy and I set it up to be an IMAP server. (The major benefit is that it is stored on my client and on the server and I can access it from anywhere on the Internet.)

The next step was to set up my Mail application. Before I did anything else I backed up my email.

Google recommends setting for Mail and the Internet has many comments about the "best" settings. These are mine and my reasons.
  • I set the incoming and outgoing servers to be as Google instructs.
  • I set the IMAP Mail Prefix to be "[Gmail]" (This is under Advanced for the Account in Mail.)
  • The Trash mailbox showed up under my account in Mail. I selected it, went to Mailbox, and Use this mailbox for... Trash. I made similar settings for the Google Spam mailbox (use for Junk) and Sent.
  • I don't store drafts on the server.
  • I store Sent messages on the server.
  • I have Junk processing enabled. I do this so that the Junk mailbox shows up. Mostly, Google does a great job of Spam catching. When it doesn't Mail might. When it doesn't, I can click on the Junk button and off it goes.
  • I set "Move deleted messaged to the Trash mailbox" and Store on the server. (I know Google has this store everything forever, but there are some things that I want to delete: notices from the library when my requested books are waiting, Facebook notifications, "Send this to all everyone you know" email, etc.) See the Mailbox Behaviors.


I started moving IMAP mailboxes from my old account to my new (Google-based) account. I found that I needed to move one mailbox at a time. I have a lot of mailboxes and folders of mailboxes (see MailFolders, and I found that while the Labels were being created on Google (more on that in a minute), not all mail transferred. This should never happen, but it did. I am not sure if it is a client or server problem. A word about Google mail and storage. Google mail stores all the mail in one big mailbox called All Mail. It uses labels to organize email messages. So, when one "archives" a message, Gmail removes the "Inbox" label; it stays in All Mail. If I have a message in mailbox "Accounting," it is labeled "Accounting." (See Labels.)

There was one thing that really bothered me. My PowerBook now has 2 copies of every email message. Gmail doesn't; Mail does. Here's why. When I move a message from my Inbox to, let's say, "accounting," the files associated with that email message get moved in my directory hierarchy; the file(s) get moved. Gmail sees this as one file with 1 or 2 labels. When the client syncs with the Gmail IMAP server, I will end up with 1 copy in the place I moved it and an additional copy in "All Mail." Because the client sees the message in 1 mailbox and it sees another message in All Mail. It has no way to link them. Hence, 2 messages on my PowerBook. This really bugged me. Until today. What changed? Nothing. I just said, "Oh, what the heck." Disk space is cheap, and my email takes up less than 1G of disk space. I still delete some mail rather than keeping everything. I have started Archiving mail, which in my Mail application means moving it to "All Mail." Eventually, my local storage may become a problem. But, not today.

I mentioned Dave Strom's help. Check out a video he made How to become master of your domain for less than $20 a year in which he touches on some of the things to do. Consider buying his other video tutorials. (This one is free.)

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