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Sanity saved by Google

  December 04, 2009 — written by Chris Sloan | 0 comments »

No, this post is not about how I drank the Kool-aid that Google hands out on a regular basis to all those that like the taste of development tools. This post is about how easy it was to finally sync and manage all my email addresses and contacts, including getting my wife in sync with our busy family calendar.

Finally.

Let me first start off by stating, I am finally away from the cell phones of old and have entered the age of the smartphone. No, I did not get an iPhone — even though I would have definitely opted for it, but that is a completely different story in how AT&T service is virtually non-existent where we live.

Instead, I got rid of my long standing contract with US Cellular and after strong convincing from my sister to go with Sprint. I am now the proud owner of an HTC Hero. My main reason for going with this phone was because of the Google Android OS. Since I was completely out of luck getting the iPhone and I didn't want to pay the exuberant prices that come with a Verizon plan, I knew Sprint was my next choice to get on the boat with Android.

Linking other email accounts

With Gmail, it is a breeze to link your other email addresses into a main hub (your Gmail email) by using their POP3 importer. Of course you will need a Gmail account to do this. You are allowed up to five addresses for import, luckily I only needed to use three of those.

Masking as other emails in Gmail

Now if you are one to not care where your email comes from when you send to recipients, you probably will not need to change the Send as options. If you want to be professional and not let everyone know that you are using Google as the master hub for your email, then you will need to setup the email masking.

The steps you took to get to this point can vary, but if you already linked your accounts via POP3 importer, then those email addresses should show up under the Send mail as section.

Key points to this section to keep things as professional as possible is to make sure that Reply from the same address the message was sent to is selected and you edit the settings to make sure that you send mail through the specified SMTP server of your other email address. This setting relies on the fact that you know your email outgoing server settings.

If you do not know your outgoing server options and just want Gmail to send on behalf of, you can select the "Send through Gmail" option.

Masking as other emails in your mail app

This is all good through Gmail, but what if you still want to check and send your email on your computer through your resident mail application? You can set up your Gmail account on the app just like normal, but to make sure you can send as your other email addresses through masking, just chain your other email addresses together separated by commas in addition to your Gmail address. For example:

Email Address: me@gmail.com, me@aol.com, me@yahoo.com, etc.  

Google push (and pull)

I have been running this setup for about a week now, but one thing that kept bothering me was how random Google was checking my other email accounts. Sometimes it would be an hour for an email to come in, others it would be instant. This can get annoying when you are on a deadline and waiting to hear about changes needed.

After a quick search on Google, I found a simple workaround until the Google push system actually gets its act together.

If you have access to your email settings on your server, all you need to do is setup forwarding from your host to your Gmail account and whalla, emails instantly. Those of you that understand forwarding may be asking, "Wait a minute, doesn't forwarding also leave a copy of my email on my other server so I will have duplicate emails?" True, it does, but if you setup the POP3 importer to not leave messages on your other server, Gmail is smart enough to ignore the duplicate emails and delete the messages from your other server.

Labels as organization

As mentioned before, I am an organization neat freak. I'll be the first to tell you that I hate email to begin with and can't stand a cluttered inbox. I am very notorious for deleting emails. Thankfully, I do not have to worry about that anymore because of the ample space Gmail gives you and the use of it's label system.

I can setup labels that end up acting like folders on my mail app and through IMAP, they will always be synced. It actually took me a while to get my head around this as I had never used power categorization since I always just deleted emails after a given time. Now, I can stash emails for future or send emails directly to a folder so that my inbox is always clean with what is important.

Setting up filters to do all this is a breeze. With IMAP setup, you don't have to worry about doing your own custom filters directly in your mail app.

Contacts and calendars across the board

Since I was already on track with getting Google to manage my emails, I figured I would continue onto having it manage my contacts and calendars. I already have a .Me account, so I was a little apprehensive of doing this. I still use it to sync my bookmarks and the hosting space, but we shall see how long I keep it.

Only the contacts I want

Getting the contacts synced up is pretty simple, but with my phone, I didn't want the plethora of email addresses I don't contact, IM contact names without real names, etc. on my phone. The initial import actually put everything in my address book on my phone. I had to stop this real quick as scrolling through to get to one contact was a bear.

Gmail has two categories of contacts, well actually, one is a sub product of the other. The parent category of All Contacts is what I did not want on my phone. The child category called My Contacts is what is actually synced onto the phone so a quick edit to that list to whittle down to a more manageable list was done. This also was a great process because it allowed me to delete and edit those contacts that were a little hairy or un-needed.

Family calendars

With the addition of our daughter seven months ago, life has gotten pretty crazy. Our schedules seem to lead us to having things to do every weekend or doctor appointments during the week. My wife is one to write things down on a paper calendar, but I lean towards using the computer and phone. With the addition of getting a smartphone, I was able to get my wife one also.

The Google calendar system is great in that I can share a calendar directly with her Gmail address. With Apple Calendar, I could not do this very easily without purchasing a 3rd party app. Now she can edit and view the calendar as she pleases — I just have to get her used to not doing so on paper.

The only drawback I have found with the Google calendar system is the strange grouping that shows up in the Apple Calendar app. The grouping of delegates seems very convoluted and having a separate calendar in the list for just Google is kind of overboard. Not sure if this is an Apple Calendar or Google thing, but would be nice to condense into one without all the twirlies.

Week one down

So after using this system for about a week now, I find it working out very well. Gmail is pretty smart to sort out spam quickly and keep it out of view to not distract. It has definitely allowed me to feel more organized when it comes to having everything in sync, especially when I am on the go.

filed in: Geekery, Miscellaneous | permalink

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