Leopard + Gmail IMAP + .mac = Good Times!

Just got putting Leopard on another system. One of the things I’ve done is give Apple’s very own Mail.app a second chance. Not that I ever gave it a first. The last email client I used was Outlook Express mostly in combination with Hotmail. The only thing it did was create a terrible mess as I tended to travel a lot between computers. Then of course I found Gmail and never looked back.

Gmail really did wonders with it’s innovative conversation threading, integrated search, large storage, and labeling. They also have great capabilities for integrating with other email accounts:

  • Fetching email from other POP accounts
  • Allowing you to change sender for accounts you have access to
  • Automatically, respond to emails fetched other accounts with the same sender as said account.

These features allow you to integrate a variety of accounts into one webmail interface and lets you wear a variety of hats with one convenient account. Of course, there is a gotcha: responding to stuff sent to lists defaults the sender to your main account and some lists bounce emails with smtp servers not matching the sender.

These features all work great and I have no issues per se. I’ve been using Gmail for both work and private seamlessly for months. However, not that Gmail storage is steadily approaching 5GB and just unrolled the much coveted IMAP support I’ve decided to give it a try.

The beauty of IMAP is that mailboxes are all created server-side so accessing an IMAP account from any email client should always be in sync. Of course, this doesn’t make it all that different from webmail since most clients just download headers and fetch messages on an as needed basis.

If these set ups aren’t that different why bother? Even with state-of-the-art web apps such as Gmail (which is undoubtedly one of the best in its class), there will always be a lack of advanced features and productivity boosters compared to desktop clients. A case in point is advanced filters. Although Gmail has a lot of advanced search capabilities and filtering capabilities, these necessarily don’t map to each other cleanly. In other words, you can’t create persistent searches that function as labels such as dynamic date-based filters. You can leverage Mail.app’s advanced filters to create Smart Folders (such as all unreads in the last 7 days) that are extremely fine-grained without cluttering actual folders/labels created by Gmail that serve more as archives.

Desktop clients have the added advantage of being a lot more snappy than web interfaces which is a big advantage when you have to just put your nose to the grindstone and go through a bunch of emails. At the end of the day, having Mail.app properly set up and running occasionally gives you more options without sacrificing the other (especially in the case of Gmail). This point was driven home when I had to access email on my mac but behind a strict firewall that didn’t allow Mail.app to do its thing. If you’ve been using Gmail but couldn’t see the utility of using POP when you had to use several computers (trying to keep things organized the same) then now’s the time to give it a spin.

How-to: Proper Gmail IMAP for iPhone & Apple Mail

Hack Attack: Build advanced Gmail filters and persistent searches

Categories: osx