My Unplanned Transition to Gmail

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Not to belabor the point, as I’ve complained about it at length any number of times previously, but our email is still pretty screwed up. In response to the priority:critical support ticket I opened the other day informing ASP-One that after transitioning from one mail server to another they forgot to turn on the IMAP connection, I got a response instructing me to update my host file. Seeing as this had nothing to do with my original problem, it didn’t prove to be that helpful. Efforts to contact said host this morning failed when I didn’t have the endurance to sit on hold for over 20 minutes.

But being quite the fan of Neal Stephenson, I’m attempting to demonstrate some adaptability by configuring Exchange to reflect messages over to my Gmail account. A couple of quick thoughts on this unplanned transition (which will continue until I get IMAP restored):

  1. UI: I’m still a little surprised at just how easy the transition is from thick to thin; I haven’t had a single instance yet where I desperately craved a missing feature from my desktop client. The argument could be made, I suppose, that this is simply due to the limitations of my client of choice – Evolution – but I can’t see any UI features really missing from Gmail that I’d need (apart from the obvious offline shortcomings). I get by in Gmail just fine.
  2. Calendar: Functionality-wise, the lack of calendar integration is a definite shortcoming. Rumors abound that Google’s poised to deliver a next generation calendar app, and that might be enough to get me off Exchange, but for the time being the integration between Gmail and my Exchange calendar consists primarily of cut and paste. And yes, since you asked, it *is* 2005 and we *still* don’t have a seamless, universally accepted and implemented calendar format.
  3. Data: This is the big sticking point for me; there’s no easy way to migrate from Evolution to Gmail. So essentially what’s happened is that my email has been forked; there is pre-Gmail mail, and post-Gmail mail. If I could seamlessly import from Evolution, I might not ever go back. But I can’t, so any potential permanent transition to Gmail is made tremendously problematic.
  4. Spam: This is a huge advantage for Gmail – I get virtually no spam any longer. Their filters along with my custom rules have reduced the amount of spam that trickles through to maybe 1 or 2 messages per day. My Spamassassin equipped Evolution is not nearly as capable in this regard.
  5. Address: Gmail added a few months back the ability to select from multiple “From” address; i.e. my emails don’t have to go out as [email protected], but can rather be stamped with an [email protected] address. This is pretty much a must have feature for my little experiment, but I do have one complaint. As nearly as I can determine, there’s no autodetection and selection of the “From” address – merely a single default. This means that unless I select otherwise, everything goes out with the Gmail address (some of you may have seen this already). I’d love it if Gmail would detect which address someone had used to send to me and simply use that with no further input from me. In other words, I’d prefer that Gmail recognize when someone sent to my redmonk.com address and use the same address when replying. Not a big thing, but definitely a hassle.

Anyhow, those are my quick reactions after relying on a Software-as-a-Service email client for a couple of days. I wish I could say that I had confidence in ASP-One and that this would be the last such update, but I’m sure I’ll be stuck on Gmail for a little while longer so if I have any other experiences worth sharing I’ll be sure to let you know.


  1. It may not be pretty but it is relatively straightforward to use Google GMail Loader (http://www.marklyon.org/gmail/default.htm) to transfer from mBox to gmail. I did this a while ago to transfer all of my old mail from Evo (everything from 2001-2005) to a backup gmail account. The unfortunate this is that it takes bloody forever since it can only send one message every few seconds (so be prepared to leave it going all night, and possibly all the next day).

    I actually do not use my backup account everyday, but it is useful to use as a remote resource if I need it. I have all three of my email addrs copy-fowaring to that backup account (suprisingly only 250mb for all my mail since 2001). I don't like losing old messages :).

  2. Hey,

    You can change the default FROM address.

    Settings>Accounts>Make default (on your sogrady email acct).

    This would mean though, that even if you compose an email, it'll go out from [email protected] or whatever you have as default. (unless you change the from address from the drop down list, obviously).

  3. My Gmail experiment

    Not too long ago, I decided to experiment with using Gmail as my main mail client. It went fairly well; Gmail is definitely usable, and reliable. However, I found that I had many of the same problems that I had the previous few months, when I was usin…

  4. Is Zimbra really an ambient microsearch engine?

    I read somewhere this morning that Alan Turing said, and I paraphrase very roughly here, most computing tasks are actually about search. That seed sparked something in my mind while reading Scott Dietzen on Zimbra today. Zimbra, for those of…

  5. Heh – Neil Stephenson is tops, I have the System of the World a few inches away from my left hand, not started it yet but my fingers are twitching…

    Our hosted exchange service from Cobweb is pretty good, giving teh best of both worlds as well as Outlook integration. While I might berate Microsoft on a number of issues, not least the fact that their email interfaces are largely closed, to be able to mix and match MS-only technologies (PDA, Web, desktop) and be accessing teh same email repository is pretty neat. There are companies looking to offer more open alternatives but the mainstream will have to wait.

    Also, I find this another opportunity to promote my "tool of the week" for Outlook users – Nelson Email Organizer. http://www.joncollins.net/wordpress/?p=111 for more info on what I'm doing with it.

  6. TimmFin: IIRC, Gmail Loader strips the date off when it uploads, does it not? given the volume of email i have, i'm not sure that'd work for me. if it can correctly process dates though, i may well look into it.

    Josue: thx for the tip. i had actually thought of that, but i send a fair amount of personal email out of the account so i've held out thus far. maybe it's time to make that switch, however.

    Jon: will have to look into Cobweb, but odds are pretty good i'm going to hold out for either Zimbra or Hula.

    highly recommend System of the World, BTW. great finish to the series.

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