Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Gmail IMAP e-mail access

So I'd heard about Google offering IMAP access a few weeks ago, but didn't think anything of it. Then I read Paul Thurott's review of the service, and learned how Gmail's labels work - rather than treating each e-mail as if it were kind of a file (like typical e-mail clients), it treats it more as a piece of information in a database.

What that means is (similar to the postings in this blog), each message can be in multiple categories, then you can go to a view that shows you all the messages that is listed in that category. Powerful, but up 'till now, only available through their web interface.

The power of the IMAP interface is that they've managed to let each label be a folder when viewed from your IMAP client. Make a new folder, and you'll discover that a new label with that name was created in GMail. Move a message to a folder, and you've applied that label to that message in GMail. But the cool part is that if I've labeled a message as both personal and tech-related, that e-mail will show up in both 'folders' in Outlook. And no worry about backing up your e-mails...they live on Google's servers (right now, up to 4.5 GB free, but always increasing), so even if your Hard Disk bit the big one, you can just point another client (presumably on your reloaded system on a new HDD) to your IMAP account, and everything's restored! Also, if I relabel or delete (or read) a message in outlook, that information is updated when I check my e-mail on my phone...IMAP is sync technology rather than 'checking for unread messages' technology like POP. It's very cool.

So now I'm in the process of moving my locally stored e-mails into my IMAP folders in outlook. I can even move messages from my local Sent Items folder into Google's Sent Mail folder and it appears in my gmail as if I'd sent it right from there!

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