Analysis

Google’s Mail Fetcher: Read POP3 Mail in Gmail

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Yesterday, I decided to take the plunge and start using Google’s free web software tools to organize all of my digital data. It’s an experiment to see if Google’s tools are robust enough to replace their desktop equivalents – see yesterday’s kick-off post for more.

Google’s first victim in my little project: Apple’s Mail client, which has served as my primary desktop email client for the past 4 years.

Like most people I know, I have 2 main email accounts. I have an account tied to my personal website (snackfight.com) that comes with my hosting plan. I check it from the desktop, and I use it for personal mail from friends and family and for most listservs that I’m on. I also have a Gmail account that I use primarily for work. I receive press releases, pitches, stories and notes from coworkers at that address. Gmail is a killer app for this kind of thing, especially since the Archive feature means that I never lose emails (even when I’m on the road), but they don’t hang around the inbox messing up my zen. Also, I like the interface and the way it organizes threads.

Google has set up a new feature called the Mail Fetcher. It’s a Gmail tool that lets you route your non-Gmail addresses through Gmail. It supports up to 5 non-Gmail accounts. Mail Fetcher is not available to everyone just yet, but Google says it’s eventually going to make it available as a standard feature in Gmail.

1. Click on Settings at the top of any Gmail page. It’s up there next to Sign Out.

3. Look for an item in the list named “Get mail from other accounts.” If you don’t see this option, you can’t collect POP3 mail just yet. Google promises all Gmail users will have this feature in due time.

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5. Enter the email address of the account you want to run through Gmail and click next. Google will populate your account info settings, so all you have to do is type in your password. I actually had to futz with my server address a little – Google’s guess wasn’t correct.

6. There are some options to choose from, including labeling and archiving of incoming POP3 mail, deleting messages off the server and whether to use SSL during message retrieval. Set these up and click Add to commit.

7. The last bit, setting up a custom “From” address, is optional. I did it for mine, just because it’s easier for my friends to see email from me coming from the same address it always has. That way, if I ever decide to switch back to my desktop client, the whole switch looks seamless to the outside world.

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I added a custom account label of “SNK” to all of my non-Gmail message traffic. This is what it looks like when messages from my outside account land in my Gmail inbox (on the right).

First, you lose access to your local mail archives. If it ain’t on the mail server, Gmail can’t see it. So, if I want access to messages from last week or last month, I have to fire up my desktop client.

Second, this won’t work with every email account. Your external address must support POP.

Also, I can’t route my work email through Gmail. We have an Exchange server here at Wired HQ that uses some serious backend mojo, and since I really don’t understand it that well, my “good employee” spidey sense tells me that I should just keep using the software my admins gave me to check my work email.

Feel free to post your own experiences with Mail Catcher and hard-won Gmail knowledge in the comments. Also, you can continue to follow The Google Life at this URL.

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