How I Consolidated My Many Email Addresses

posted on 10/30/07 at 08:39:07 pm by Joel Ross

The Problem

With the recent announcement that Gmail would support IMAP, I've started to rethink how I handle email. It's not that I had a major issue with the way I was reading my email, but at certain times, it was a pain.

  • Remote Email: Any time I am away from my laptop, reading email is a pain. There's two different ways I read email when I'm away: on my Axim (Pocket PC) or on another computer. I had all of my accounts set up on my Axim using POP access. The problem is that most of the time when I am away from my laptop, it's usually on anyway, with Outlook running, so it's pulling down my email every 30 minutes. That means that if I check my accounts remotely, at most I have email from the last 30 minutes available. I could set it to leave mail on the server, but that has always led to issues in the past when the account gets filled up. Gmail doesn't have this problem, and I know you can use recent as part of your email address to allow messages to be retrieved on multiple devices, but this all leads into another issue.
  • Synchronizing Read Statuses: If I read a message from anywhere other than my laptop, my laptop doesn't know that. If my laptop pulls the message down, then it's marked as read automatically. That means if I go onto my Gmail account online, the message has been marked as read already. I can usually tell what I've actually read and what I haven't but it's not ideal.
  • Too Many Accounts: I regularly check six personal email accounts. I have reasons for each, but it's a pain if I'm away - six places to go to find online email. For the most part, I didn't even bother, partly because I didn't want to check six different places, and partly for the reasons listed above. It's also a pain to set up whenever I have to set them up on my laptop. Remembering all of the different setups is difficult, and usually takes a while to complete.

The Requirements

In many different ways, I've been trying to streamline my life. Email was one of those things I wanted to take a look at, so last night, I started the process. I had a few goals in my transition.

  • Funnel all incoming email into one email account.
  • Allow email to be managed and stored online.
  • Allow "thick client" access to email, while still allowing the online service to manage the email.

The Solution

I mainly use my email address, so that's where I wanted to funnel the email to. For three of my email accounts, it was just a matter of going into the account and setting up forwarding to my main address. Since I am the only person who uses email on the domain, I used separate addresses for each account - for example, I forwarded my address to gmail [at] rosscode [dot] com. This allows me to use Outlook to filter emails if I decide to do so in the future. For my other accounts, I set up POP access to those accounts in Gmail. Gmail allows you to set up accounts that it will grab email from, so that's what I did. By the time I was done, all of my email flowed through my email.

Having it all go through Gmail satisfies the second requirement, and having IMAP access to that account satisfies the last one. I can now read email on my laptop and have it all reflected online. I can have the same IMAP access on my Axim as well. And if I'm away from both of those, I can go to my online account and read email that way - and it all gets updated on my laptop and Axim. The perfect email world!

Lastly, I was curious how Gmail would handle creating folders in an IMAP account. Remember, Gmail doesn't have the idea of folders. It uses labels and stars. When you connect to Gmail for the first time, you get a [Gmail] folder with the views that Gmail provides underneath it. Here's my IMAP account in Outlook:


Notice I've created a few folders, such as one called "Info I Need" with two folders underneath it. In Gmail, those are treated as labels:


That's a pretty good implementation - Google's done a good job of translating from their no folder model that Gmail introduced to a traditional folder model.

Now that this is all set up, I'm able to read email on my laptop, Axim and online and have it all be updated on my other devices - and any device I add down the line that supports IMAP.

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Categories: Personal, Software