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Gmail IMAP Support Makes Email Archiving Practical

October 30th, 2007 Leave a comment Go to comments

I was thrilled to find that IMAP access was finally turned on for my Google Apps for Your Domain account. All the email for the ReWinD Blog is handled by Gmail (and my web hosting is provided by asmallorange.com if you were wondering). I absolutely love the services I get from Google, the generous storage for all the accounts, great uptime, custom web interfaces for my iPhone, calendar, documents, spreadsheets, presentations, etc. IMAP gives me instant access to my inbox anywhere, anytime.

But here’s the real advantage of IMAP – you now have two-way syncing between your email client software and Gmail. Not only can you download messages from your Gmail account, you can also upload messages to your inbox or other folders. This works in real-time too. As quickly as you can upload a message to your Gmail account, you can view that message through the web interface or from another IMAP client. There are lots of neat tricks you can use here, but the most practical result for most people is that you can import your old archived messages into Gmail with drag and drop ease.

You can create a new account in your email client for your Gmail account using IMAP and instantly see your inbox and all your labels (can we just call them folders?). You can drag messages from another account or a local folder into your Gmail inbox or to a label using that same client software. This is enormously useful because now you can use the blazing speed of Google’s search engine to comb through all your old email by uploading it to Google and making it available through your Gmail account.

My biggest complaint about Outlook on Windows was that searching folders with hundreds or thousands of emails was frustratingly slow. Part of the reason I switched to using Gmail for my own domains was to take advantage of the speed of searching through emails through their service. In fact, it is so fast that I really stopped using folders completely and just started searching with keywords using Google’s web interface. Now I can transfer all my archived email from the last 10 years or so to Google and get that incredible search speed for thousands more messages.

I did a quick test using some messages from another account and was able to retain all the information about sender, proper dates, etc. That’s really hard to do with a POP3 account (using redirects and all that is a pain). This is dead simple.

My next post will be a practical step-by-step guide to setting up your own IMAP account with Outlook so that you can transfer messages to Google and starting reaping the benefits of being able to search through thousands of messages in seconds.

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