Moving my email onto the Internet – into the “Cloud”

Today I’ve been setting up all my email accounts using IMAP on Google Mail (GMail) so that I will be able to read my email using different computers/devices and have them all stay in sync. I didn’t expect it to take long, but I ran into some serious problems with Mac OS X Leopard Mail crashing when synchronising with Gmail.

After a lot of trying different fixes and searching, I worked out that the Growl email notification plugin was the culprit – and I’d forgotten that I installed it. It is clear on the Growl site forums that GrowlMail isn’t compatible with Leopard, so it was my fault for installing it – although it seemed to work until I tried IMAP.

So if you decide to use IMAP with Mac OS X Mail, make sure you disable the Growl email notifications first. Disabling them from within the Growl preferences doesn’t work either, you have to go into Mail preferences, find the GrowlMail preference pane (which might be hidden on the right if the window isn’t wide enough) and then disable it there.

So now I have GMail picking up email from my two main email accounts, and my account at my ADSL providers fowarding to GMail (for some reason GMail kept timing out when I tried to pick up mail from this account, and it only gets a few notices and invoices for the ADSL provider anyway).

I’ve copied a lot of my old locally stored email up onto the GMail server by copying it into either the “All Mail” folder (which makes it into GMail archived mail) or into a specific GMail “tag” folder. When you “tag” email on GMail, it then creates a folder under the GMail IMAP folder in Mail. Putting things into the “tag” folder put them into the GMail archived mail but also add that particular GMail tag to them. So emails that were in my Sent folder have been copied to an “Old Sent” folder in GMail, which actually is a tag of “Old Sent” on items in the archived mail.

The advantage of tags in GMail is that mail items can have more than one tag, so tags behave like smart folders in Mail – especially when seen as GMail folders in Apple Mail.

A few things seem a bit strange – when you delete messages in Mail, it actually puts them into the Google archived mail with a “tag” of “Deleted Messages”. So if you really want to delete the message, you move it to the “Bin” folder under the GMail folder.

I’ve only created tags for items that I think that I may want to see grouped when using my Nokia 770 Internet Tablet to view the Imap mail. I’ve set up filters in GMail to set these tags as mail comes in. In Apple Mail it makes more sense to use smart folders to group messages if you need them together. It is also easy to use the GMail web interface to search for particular messages or groups of messages, and you can then tag the search results if you want to keep seeing them together.

Another configuration tip is to map some of the folders in the GMail folder in Mail by selecting them and then using the Mailbox->Use this mailbox for-> menu to map them to the Mail folder for the same purpose. When you do this, they disappear out of the GMail folder in Mail and appear in the main list of folders. The four options available are; Drafts, Sent, Trash and Junk. I’ve mapped the Drafts and Sent.

Mapping the GMail Drafts folder to Apple Mail Drafts folder

Mapping the Gmail Drafts folder to Apple Mail Drafts folder

Mail folders after mapping

Mail folders after mapping – Drafts has disappeared from the GMAIL folder and appeared below the Inbox at the top.

I’ve turned off Junk mail handling in Apple Mail as it didn’t seem to update the GMail junk filters properly when I marked things as Junk in Apple Mail. So I haven’t mapped the Gmail Spam folder to Mail Junk. I don’t think it will be hard to do the spam management through the GMail web interface. I’ve also seen some reports of people having problems with what happens if they map the Gmail Bin folder to Mail Trash, so I decided to leave that alone too.

I’ll see how this goes over the next few weeks and write an update then.

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