Wednesday, December 19, 2007

I <3 IMAP -> Gmail

I've been a long time webmail user. Back when I first started using email, it was probably around the 5 grade when I got my first email account, it was my Yahoo! account. I still use it today. Back then, POP3 access from Yahoo! was free. Since the Internet wasn't as omnipresent as it was today, I used Outlook Express. Being the geek I was, it wasn't bad. However, disaster struck as our hard drive crashed and I lost all of my emails! Silly me, I didn't keep them on the Yahoo servers (which has something like 5MB of storage).

Luckily, as I really didn't have any important emails I learned a hard lesson with not very significant consequences. I kept using Yahoo! Mail but stuck with the web based access. I didn't like deleting messages because I am just a computer packrat. Bits and bytes don't really hurt anyone (for the most part) if you keep them. Often, old emails can prove very useful. As a result I ended up upgrading to Yahoo! Mail Plus when I went to High School. It was quite useful to have the added features.

A premium member received additional filters, which I was a heavy user of. Also, additional storage which I was more than happy to use. However, this is a moot point now as storage is "unlimited." Even never deleting emails I wasn't able to even get close to using 2 GB. Other features they boasted were improved SPAM management! Back in the day, I think Yahoo! did a good job with SPAM, but my recent experience is that such a large amount of SPAM is getting through, switching to Gmail really relieved some of the annoyances with email that were slowly building.

Now that I'm done telling my history with email, I'll get to my actual point. I really love having an application based email client. In my case, I use Outlook 2007.

Why Outlook 07? Well, I get it free from Speed School so cost isn't a question. As for functionality I absolutely depend on the Calendar and Tasks features which I find second to none. All of my classes, meetings, and homework assignments are all neatly organized and color coded. It takes a large amount of time to maintain but it keeps me on task. It is what works for me. As a result, I always have Outlook open on my laptop. Mainly to be able to quickly glance at for my calendar and tasks. With a simple touch of the tablet pen I can mark things as complete or drag things around during class if the professor decided to announce any changes.

However, when I used Yahoo! Mail, I wasn't willing to use POP3 to move my email into Outlook. POP3 results in segmented management of email. I would be dependent on my laptop for email. Even though my laptop is never far from arms reach, web based email shouldn't be dependent on anything but the Internet.

What is my solution... abandon Yahoo! Mail and move over to Gmail. I have just finished tweaking the IMAP settings for my new Gmail account in both my laptop and my fairly new desktop. Now, when I have Outlook open, I get email notifications, and I can read and reply to email without opening a web browser. To make things even better, everything remains the same if I were to just log into Gmail in a browser. I do realize that there are Gmail notification programs and other ways of doing things, but I'm already using Outlook! Also, there is just something about having emails in an application like Outlook that is satisfying.

I won't be able to use Outlook and my email more tightly with other Office applications until the new semester starts but I think that will also prove to be a time saver. Things like being able to send files and Office documents without launching a browser may prove to be the best way of dealing with things. I'm also curious if Outlook is easier/faster in dealing with attaching and downloading files to emails.

While I haven't found a good way to deal with my contacts, I am satisfied with my decision to move over to Gmail. I currently do not wish to mess with Google Calendar in so far as I'll subscribe to ones I need in Outlook 2007, but nothing more than that for the time being.

I have one last lingering problem that I need to sort out. I am afraid of completely abandoning my Yahoo! Mail account as I have used it for such a long time and have so many things tied to it. For me to keep POP3 access I would have to pay $20 for a year of service. My account goes up for renewal in January and I may end up paying just to keep that account funneling into my new Gmail box just for safety. After a year it would probably be safe to finally pull the plug and let the account drift off into the distant corner of the Internet. If I don't renew, I would be forced to log into Yahoo to check the account every so often.

While my ramblings about email may not be the most exciting thing, I will try to follow up with a post on useful things I have learned and actually found very difficult to configure. While the answer to many of my problems were posted on the Internet, it took quite a bit of searching to find the good answers. Hopefully I can link to them in a future post and help get them a bump.

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