Saturday, December 16

Using Gmail to Check Other Email Accounts

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I have three email accounts, one with Hotmail, one with Gmail and one with Yahoo.  Gmail, despite its ugly interface, is by far the most powerful email account that I have to date.  In fact my only issue with Gmail is the poor chat interface and integration of social networking features into the site, which Hotmail and Yahoo tend to handle better.  But for what you really need your email to do gmail is the best site by far to utilize.

If you have a bunch of email accounts with different providers and would like to check all of your email in one place Gmail is your best bet. Gmail also has POP and IMAP access, which we will get to later.  The first thing you want to do is create a Gmail account, which is simple enough.  Once you have done that click on the “Settings” link at the top of the page.  You will find it next to your own email address at the very top on the right to the left of help. 

When you click on “Settings” click on the Accounts and Import option.  Then click on “Import from another address”.  The first page asks “What account do you want to import from?”, enter in the email address you want to import your email from, not your gmail account as you are already logged into the account.  Then click on next, which will take you to a page that asks you to enter your password.  Again, enter in the password for the email account that you want to import, not your gmail account.

There is a message at the bottom of the window for that question that states that “Your password will be stored securely and deleted after we’ve finished importing your mail.”  What this means, is that the email will be checked automatically and is in essence, automatically used by Gmail when it checks the account.  This is not to be confused with Outlook or Outlook Express that you can prompt to have your enter the password when you want to check a different account.  You are not “switching accounts”, just checking a different email account.

The next page asks you to “Select the import options for” the account in question.  You can leave everything checked, one thing to take note of though is the option “Add label to all imported mail:”; if you leave that filled out as the computer did so you will notice that when you check your inbox there will be a folder with the name of the email address you are importing as an additional folder underneath your inbox.  If you decide to change that option and type something in, you need to remember what you named the folder.  It is easier just to leave it filled in with the default tag.

Click on “Start Import”, and Gmail will begin the process of importing the email.  You will get a message that states “It may take several hours (sometimes up to 2 days) before you start to see imported messages.”, just click ok and close out of that window.  As stated it can take up to two days for this to take effect. The only side effect I noticed from doing this is that one of folders set up in an account I imported was replenished with email that I have already read, which was strange, but I just deleted all of that email. 

When everything is over and done with you will see a folder for each email address to the left.  Gmail was even nice enough to import the folders that I created on those other systems to manage email for those accounts.  For example a folder I set up to automatically filter messages from Associated Content was imported to Gmail as well.  It does not matter whether or not Gmail knows what the behavior of that folder was supposed to be, or whether or not it imported the filters from my other accounts at all because that behavior is already taken care of at those other accounts.  I will repeat; if you have your Gmail checking your Hotmail account, and Hotmail is filtering the messages it recieves you do not necessarily need to have Gmail run the same filters because the filtering is done at Hotmail before it the message is forwarded to Gmail anyway.  Do not loose sleep over it, because you can still set up your rules on your other accounts.

In fact if you go back to your “Settings” page and click on “Filters” you will not see any of those filters set up.  Just know that they are still working.  You will see them if you go under labels.  Personally I do not care for the labels and would like to have everything in one huge inbox so I removed all of those labels by clicking on “Hide” next to the label on the label screen.  Go back to “Accounts and Import”, as you will show you some other options that Gmail has.  If you look at the category “Send mail as:” you may notice that you can send email with a different name than what you had originally used to register the Gmail account under.  What is even more interesting is when you check out “When receiving a message:” and you have multiple accounts set up in Gmail.  You can set up Gmail to automatically send out replies from email that was sent to a different address, as a different address.  In other words if you do all of your business through these other addresses, as I do, they may never realize that you are really using Gmail to facilitate the communication by email to them. 

This is only the beginning though.  Gmail also has options for POP3 accounts.  These are accounts that your Internet Service Provider offers for free with their service.  What typically happens is that the email from your ISP is hosted through a website that is inferior to what Gmail offers, or people end up checking such email on Outlook Express or Outlook because it is more practical than going online.  Well in Gmail you can set up these addresses for free, which is something that Yahoo and Hotmail charge money for.

Go down to “Check mail using POP3:” (we are still on the Accounts and Import page).  Click on “Add POP3 email account”.  You get a pop up that asks for the email address.  Put in the email address that you have set up with your ISP.  Gmail will attempt to determine the POP3 settings for that account.  In my case there are two servers, *.east.*.net and *.west.*.net and Gmail incorrectly tried to set up the account with the *.east.*.net address.  I clicked on the arrow where it said “POP Server:” and changed it from east to west.  There are other options for port settings that you can get from your ISP; if you do not know them just leave it alone and see if Gmail can figure it out. 

Put in your password, where it asks for a secure server ask your ISP for support.  Typically secure servers are only used by your ISP when you are away from home and using someone else’s network to send email email from your ISP.  On the Internet, where HTTP is used this is not an issue.  It is an issue when you are using Outlook Express, Outlook, Windows Live Mail or any other software such as Thunderbird to send your email.  Since we are online and using a web browser you should be able to leave that option unchecked.  There is also an option to leave these messages on the server and the same option to create a folder in the same name as that of the email account you are importing.  I would check these options.

The only reason that I like to leave messages on the server is that if email is working through one method I can always go back and use another method to retrieve those messages if the first method does not work.  If I take messages off of the server automatically I will never recieve messages on the server that has sent that mail, and I may honestly think that I am not recieving my mail. 

Gmail also offers what is known as IMAP access.  In this event, instead of using Gmail to check other addresses, you are using software that can read email in the IMAP protocol to check your Gmail. So you can check your Gmail in Outlook, Outlook Express, etc.  But keep in mind that it is the email that is being sent to your Gmail account that you can check using this method.  If you want to enable POP access for your other accounts you will still have to pay those other providers for that level of support in order to read the email from those accounts in a stand alone email client, but again, IMAP is free with Gmail.

For the rest of us, the difference between IMAP and POP is that there is synchronization between what occurs with email when it is checked online, the automatic filters and rules that are ran on that email automatically online and what happens with the mail client in IMAP.  With POP what happens on the mail client and what happens on the website are two different things with one exception; POP does allow the mail client to make changes at the website (but not the other way around).  In other words, whereas with IMAP I can create a folder and set up rules in Gmail and see that happen automatically on Outlook Express I would have to initiate such actions in Outlook Express in order for them to happen through POP on the website; and even at that, typically the action would involve automatically deleting the email that was downloaded in the mail client at the website. 

You may have also noticed that Gmail gives you the ability to download email while being offline.  While that sounds like duplicating the efforts of a mail client in the browser while being unable to access a website through HTTP (as often you can still get your mail through POP and IMAP when you have a connection but HTTP is not working and your browser tells you that you are cannot connect to the Internet) it is not clear that this is what using Gmail offline truly means.  I would check with Gmail if you want an explanation of how this works, or browse their forums, but the option is there. 

That is all that there is to say about using Gmail to check other accounts.  Keep in mind that you cannot use Gmail as a third party to facilitate email between two different accounts. For example if someone sends you email to your Hotmail account, you cannot use Gmail to check that email and send it to your Yahoo account.  If you delete mail in Gmail you still need to go to the other email providers and delete the mail there at their corresponding websites.  Gmail offers IMAP for other software but cannot use anyone else’s IMAP, in other words, even if you had another online account that could use IMAP you could not do the synchronization through Gmail itself.  This goes back to my earlier point that there is no true synchronization of folders and rules between two HTTP accounts using Gmail, though it will import the folders.  Gmail is not going to replace your standalone email clients.  While you can do a lot of what these programs do you cannot do everything that they do in Gmail.  It is nice that Gmail can send automated responses while you are on vacation but it still cannot send a reciept to let you know if someone has indeed read the message you sent them.  To my knowledge this is only something that can be done when both individuals are using the same email provider anyway.  So while Gmail has some cool features it is hard on the eyes and they do not show any intentions of changing this.  However if you need features for free that you would need to pay for through other free online email providers Gmail is the best option to date.  They also currently provide 8 GB of storage, which is more than everyone else is offering.

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