Home > writing > An email mess cleaned up–maybe

An email mess cleaned up–maybe

At work (yes I have a day job), I check two email accounts. One is mine and one is the catch-all address for the company. Then at home I have four accounts. The first is an old one that I have too many contacts with to terminate. The other three are on my own domain–one for me, one for one of my characters, and an “info” account I use on my web site.

This works all right under normal circumstances. I use an email client named “Thunderbird” that does all I require. I can even check my home emails from work if I need to. But what about less-than-normal circumstances? Like when I am gone for almost two weeks and can’t check my work email.

I can access my personal email through a “webmail” client if I have access to the internet. But my work accounts are limited to 16 MB each, so if I let them stack up, emails start bouncing with undesirable results. My work computer dutifully scrapes them off the server so I can’t use webmail to see them.

Besides that, it’s unhandy having two systems to maintain. Why not just have one? That’s where Gmail comes in.

Yes, it’s yet another account to check, but Gmail is handy to have for other uses not germane to this discussion.

Under Gmail I can pull in email from all my other accounts and then separate them into various sections according to my uses of work and personal accounts. I can check work email at home or on the road and vice versa. Works great on my semi-smart phone, too.

Before you get all excited, though, I have a warning for you. The way Gmail organizes its files is fundamentally different than your POP3 or IMAP email client.

For one, it’s always on the server (there is a local option I haven’t tried). And then there’s the difference in folders and labels.

In Gmail there is only one copy of an email on the server, ever. There’s only one folder, and it’s call “All Mail.” There is no Sent folder or Inbox. No Trash, either. So how does that work? With Labels.

A message in your Inbox is really in the All Mail folder. It just has a label of Inbox attached to it. It can also have a label of Work or Vacation Stuff attached at the same time. This can be a hard thing to wrap your mind around if you’re used to storing things in folders, where if you want to store things in multiple folders you have to make copies. Remember, only one copy in Gmail.

Scare you off yet? It’s not really that hard, only a different way of thinking.

“But,” you interject, “I need my folders. I set up filters to arrange my incoming mails so I can organize the chaos.” You can do that with labels, it’s just a little challenging until you get your mind right.

When you check an account from gmail, you can attach a label in addition to Inbox. For my character’s email, I attach a label of “Michael,” so it shows up under Inbox and under Michael.

Then it gets a little hairy. My main email receives regular correspondence, plus postings from several groups. I don’t want the considerable traffic from these groups clogging up my Joe box. So I go through several gyrations to pick out and label the groups and send everything else to my regular spot.

When assigning filters remember they work on incoming mails. But what about outgoing emails? Note: all messages (including Sent) go to All Mail. Messages you receive and messages you send are ALL incoming! So filter with care.

Gmail also defaults to grouping sent messages and replies to the same messages in “conversations” so you see them in context. New messages send the whole conversation to the top of the list.

You also will want to set up all your accounts in a “send from” list. You can mark the email to send from any of these accounts and reply to emails sent to them.

Still think you have what it takes to make your mail more manageable? If you can visualize how the system works, it’s not that bad. But it will take time to set up. There is plenty of information on the Gmail forums and on the web. And I only charge $795 per 30 minutes of assistance. Only kidding. Really, I’m no help at all.

The good thing is, you can tell Gmail to leave your mail on the server and use both systems until you’re comfortable with it. Give it a try!

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  1. jennifer mathis
    March 5, 2011 at 6:17 am

    in the beginning i was like hell ya i need to do this but by the end of the post i was like wow i’m a little scaried . guess i’ll stick with the million different email accounts lol

  2. March 5, 2011 at 12:59 pm

    I guess I don’t want to bother to “organize” my emails. I organize by using the delete button….

  3. March 5, 2011 at 2:01 pm

    Sounds like it might work, if you get it all set up. But I think I’ll stick with what I have now. Fortunately, I get almost no e-mail at work, since I have to check it there. My main e-mail address, linuxjim@programmer.net is actually on mail.com, but I pay them to forward to my ISP. I have several gmail addresses for special purposes, but again, they are forwarded to my ISP. Anything that gets to the ISP is downloaded and handled with Thunderbird … I am much more comfortable having it all on my computer than on somebody’s server somewhere. Oh, and I have one other account, on Yahoo, which I ignore most of the time, log in once in a while to keep it active, but on vacation I can forward things there and check them from anywhere.

    You can do a lot with e-mail if you are technically talented, but I know a lot of people are disinclined to do a complex setup, either like yours or mine!

  4. March 5, 2011 at 2:38 pm

    Hope I didn’t scare anyone too badly. 🙂

    I wanted to include a few of the things I had to dig out. It’s not for the faint of heart, but it’s working for me so far.

    And Jim, I’m also leary of trusting my email totally to gmail, so Thunderbird is still collecting them.

  5. March 5, 2011 at 8:44 pm

    i’d have to set up another email account to use gmail. aghhhhhhhhh…then i’d have to sit still long enough to learn how to. aghhhhhhhhhhhh. the way i have it organized, if you can call it that, is to have incredmail on my laptop retrieve from hotmail which retrieves from yahoo and my website. anytime i go on the road, i just go to the web to hotmail. and please, don’t get me started on trying to use my phone for any of that. lol. I don’t even use folders in my email. and to think, i really did used to be a fairly organized person. i used to have time to do things like knit and sew too. see what happens when you become published? all you can think about is edit and promote, me anyway, when i’m not submerged writing. kodos to you for taking the time and patience to manage.

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