Boris Mann

Open Source. Community. Decentralized Web. Building dev tools at Fission. Cooks & eats.


Switching to use Gmail IMAP - great for and iPhones, too

Me showing Monique the magic of flagging and unflagging and showing how it changes the starred / unstarred in the Gmail web interface. Photo by Duane Storey, you can buy some great photos of Vancouver from him.

I've spent this past week or so having switched to using Gmail's new IMAP interface. I had switched to using the web-only interface for perhaps the last year or so, and it worked quite well for me. POP3 doesn't cut it when you have multiple machines (laptop and home desktop) and devices (Nokia smartphone, iPhone, etc.). And that's exactly what the IMAP protocol was invented to take care: keep folders, messages, and other status (read / unread, flagged, etc.) synced across multiple devices.

I wasn't sure whether I would like going back to using a desktop email client. And it's been great. Email is fast, I can go back to having a couple of drafts open as separate windows to remind me to get to them today, and so on.

Gmail's labels become folders....with a few funky side effects, in that thinking of them more as folders rather than things you might use multiple labels for will be less confusing.

A big thing I miss: I'm so used to the Gmail search interface that I find myself typing "from:Some Name" in's search box, rather than typing the name and then clicking the "From" button. I bet some enterprising soul could do a good job of an AppleScript or something that could change this to work Just Like Gmail Search.

OK, enough just talking about the outlines. Head over here for extended instructions on setting up Gmail IMAP for or your iPhone, which has the excellent extra tips of "mapping" your Gmail Trash, Junk, Drafts, and Sent folders to the right folders in your local app, and everything "just works".

Those of you with iPhones (or Nokia phones or any other device that can talk IMAP to get email) will want to go this method, so you can actually quickly manage email on the go and have all those changes reflected when you get back to some other device.

Now what? Well, I need a way to sync my contacts in Gmail to my local Address Book. A Plaxo plugin already takes care of synching between machines, and the standard Bluetooth iSync syncs to mobile.