Have you ever been frustrated with that 1GB stability limit on Microsoft Outlook or Apple Mail (it’s that point where everything starts slowing down incredibly, as your mailbox grows). It’s not just limited to those two – it’s something that desktop email clients are just not equipped to handle. Over the years, I’ve been forced to constantly (every 3-6 months) archive all my emails and empty my inbox and quite frankly, it’s been the biggest pain in the ass, especially when you’re looking for an old email in a stack of PST’s or MBox files. I consider myself an email power user – I can receive and send about 500 emails on a good day – which can add up very quickly. My current GMail account is pushing over 100,000 emails (and it’s marginally slower than a fresh Gmail account with 1000 emails – such is the scale that Google’s infrastructure can offer!).
I originally thought that it was an Outlook problem, but when I switched to a MacBook Pro 3 years ago, the problem persisted with Apple Mail and created a very slow email client that took forever to load, and even longer to search for emails. So I then decided to switch full time to just using GMail for about the past 18 months, without a desktop client – and it works great – but I’ve had to really spend a lot of time refining a process that makes it all manageable.
I’ve been able to develop my own system for managing emails, just on the back of Google Mail which works great even if you still need to have offline access to your emails on your desktop as well as access it via your phone, PDA.
I also wanted to access all my old emails (usernames, passwords, old photos emailed to me, work emails, etc) that have been archived into about 25 different files, spanning 8 years and 10GB’s.
Luckily, GMail Apps for your domain offers me a 25GB account – so space was not a problem. The best thing is that by being a web application, Gmail does not suffer from the constraints that a desktop app has, and does not slow down my MacBook or take up a lot of memory and other system resources. I’m also able to search my emails dating back to 2000 in an instant, as Google’s search technology is utilized within GMail.
I finally believe that the time is right to move all your emails into the cloud, and not have to rely on desktop based email anymore, unless you want to. I believe strongly that applications are moving away from the desktop and into virtual world and GMail in particular offers a very strong alternative that I swear by. This is my system, and it works perfectly for me, and I hope it works for you too!
1. Firstly, reroute ALL your emails from all your various email accounts and aliases to your central GMail account. If you have any email accounts that you cannot forward, use Gmail’s POP fetcher to retrieve the emails. If you have GMail or a premium “GMail Apps for your domain” account – you should consolidate everything into your GMail account by using the POP fetcher – it might take a few days, but it’s worth it. If your desktop client still has your POP settings in your accounts, you may want to disable or remove them at this stage. You only want your emails going into GMail going forward.
2. Next, you need to upload your most current PST file into GMail. For that, you’re going to need the Google Email Uploader. Now this only works on Windows, so I had to use Parallels to make it work, but it works really well. You need to shut down Outlook or whichever email client you’re using before doing the upload. Also, make sure that you flag any and all emails that you still need to work through. In the settings for Google Email Uploader – make sure the tickboxes for “convert folders into labels”, and “archive everything” is ticked. The uploader may take some time so make sure that you only do this over a weekend if you have a large PST (over 100MB). All new emails should continue to go into your GMail inbox, if you did step 1 correctly.
3. Once your emails are uploaded – it may take a day or two to reflect in the account. You need to go to the starred emails folder – this is where all the emails that you flagged will be. Select All and move all the starred emails into your Inbox.
Now you should be operational in terms of your Desktop emails being in GMail and all new emails flowing into Gmail.
4. Now, the goal for you to manage your emails, should be to constantly archive (using Gmail’s archive button) emails that you are done with, and have a very lean inbox (mine is currently 350ish). As emails come in, deal with them and archive them. If people respond to an archive email – it will head back to the top of your inbox. And don’t worry – you can always search for them. Once you’ve pruned your emails in your inbox, by using filters, labels, etc, you will really have a handle on things – and be patient – this takes time.
5. So now, for Desktop access… Before you go any further, make sure that you are no longer using the PST/MBox file that you just uploaded to Google. You should have a clean inbox and no big files slowing down your email client.
Now, you need to setup IMAP – which basically synchronizes your mail with GMail. Make sure that you do not download All Mail – just mail that’s in the Inbox Label in Google. Your various email clients should support this (I’m using Apple Mail and I know that Office 2007 supports it too). This will really allow your inbox to work with Gmail whilst keeping the size of your PST or MBox file down, and your email client working much, much faster. All the emails you send will also flow into your Gmail Account.
By using IMAP, what you’re really doing is allowing your Desktop client to access only the most important emails to you and not the gigabytes of archives that you don’t need on a daily basis. You still need to be using the web interface to archive your mails, but you can at least work offline when you need to.
6. If you want to access your emails on your cellphone, PDA, iPhone, etc – use the GMail Mobile Application or your phone’s browser. If you’re savvy enough, you can even configure it to work with your blackberry!
7. Once you’re fully up and running, and can feel the vibe of being fully in synch – now it’s time to start dusting off those old PST’s and uploading them. Using the Google Email Uploader again, start uploading those emails straight into your GMail Archives, and they’ll be there forever more. Be carefull though – any flagged emails that you didn’t deal with way back when will be in your starred email folder – but it’s quite easy to get rid of them – just unstar them and they’ll go away.
That’s it – now I’m fully up and running without having to worry with being out of sync with my emails regardless of whether I access it from a cellphone, desktop or laptop. Also, I have 8 years with of emails at my beck and call, and everything works quickly and smoothly.
The trick really is to archive mails once you’ve dealt with them, star them if you need to remember something important and follow up sooner, and leave the rest of the “to do’s” hanging around in your inbox. You can also get fancy with labels and filters to deal with newsletters & regular emails. Basically, once you archive – you can forget about it, unless someone responds to that mail. It’s very important to keep a well managed inbox with this system – that’s one caveat I must emphasize!
That’s it from me – I hope this helps you become more efficient at managing your emails! It’s certainly made my life easier!
Disclaimer: I’m not an email expert. I don’t have any ties with GMail. I can’t help you with your email problems. I don’t have time to answer specific email client questions. I cannot and will not be held liable for anything goes wrong with importing emails into Google. Please backup all your emails and settings before attempting to use my system for managing your emails. Transitioning to this system takes time and energy – it will not happen overnight, but once it does, even then I can’t guarantee you that you will be more efficient!
Update: I forgot to mention that to only access your inbox from Apple Mail, you need to set the IMAP Path Prefix to “Inbox/”