How To Switch To Gmail - Part 2 of 2

Part two of my two-part series on switching all my email to go through Gmail.
Published: Feb 4, 2008
Author: Michael E, Callahan
Related OS: Windows

Switch To GMail - Part 2 of 2

by Michael E. Callahan aka Dr. File Finder

Last week in part 1, I talked about my holiday experiment of going without my desktop applications. This led me to my grand experiment with my switch to Gmail. Last week I talked about some of the reasons why I picked Gmail. These included:

  • Use of the IMAP mail protocol
  • Mail Fetcher to get email from other accounts
  • Ability to send mail as my if it was from other accounts
  • Outstanding SPAM Control

To make the switch to Gmail you'll want to take each of your email accounts and set them up with both the Mail Fetcher and the Send mail as options. In this way you can send and receive emails from any account you own. The screen shot shows the Gmail interface with the "Send mail as" options at the top and the "Mail Fetcher" options at the bottom. In setting this up you can also specify what the "reply-to" email address should be, whether you want a default "signature", whether to use keyboard shortcuts, and more. Listen to my podcast tomorrow for more on keyboard shortcuts. If you're ready to take the plunge and make all your email more manageable there are lots of scripts, add-ons, and more.


I have to be honest and say that when first considering the switch to Gmail one of my biggest concerns was the use of Labels instead of folders. I was used to folders and I had come to depend on them. If you think about it though, it's all just a matter of terminology. For example, say you have three stacks of papers and three empty folders. You put each stack of paper into a different folder. How do you tell them apart? Labels! So, once you wrap your head around the fact that a label is just another way of looking at a folder you'll be all set. The one benefit of labels is that you can put multiple labels on an email or a set of emails. So, I may have an email that is labeled Tucows, but also Article, and How To. This makes it much easier to find exactly what you're looking for. You can also assign labels automatically to mail that comes in from certain accounts. So, for example, my Tucows mail gets a Tucows In label, my SIAF email gets an SIAF In label, and so on. If I click on a particular label the emails associated with label are there so it's very much like folder. Labels give Gmail a great deal of power.


This was another concept that seemed like it was going to be odd and then it turned out to be wonderful! I'll give you a good example. In the past I've always sent out updates to my clients once a month. I had a filter that would put those messages in a certain folder. When clients would reply to my "update" I would put those in another folder. Of course, all of the replies to updates were in one folder. Now, using Gmail, I send out an update to Joe and his comments become part of a conversation about the update. If Joe sends one comments or 10, all of our correspondence regarding the update are held together in the form of a conversation. I'm finding that conversations are a very handy feature.

Keyboard Shortcuts

Tomorrow in my podcast I'll talk about Gmail's keyboard shortcuts, but I wanted to mention them here. The shortcuts allow you to handle your email without having to take your fingers off the keyboard. The shortcuts primarily use mnemonics so they are easy to remember. For example, c is compose, r is reply, a is reply to all, and so on. By default the shortcuts are off so you have to go into the settings and turn them on. To me the shortcuts give a power to using Gmail that you don't find elsewhere.

Scripts and Add-Ons

Another great feature of switching to Gmail is if you use Firefox as your Web browser. The Open Source community has embraced Gmail and as a result a number of really handy scripts and add-ons have been created to enhance Gmail. Take email "signatures" as an example. Since I'm handling all my email accounts through Gmail I still want each email to have the appropriate signature. I found a little add-on for Firefox called Clippings that lets me quickly insert a signature from a drop down list as shown in the screen shot. Nothing could be easier. Another cool item I found was a collection of scripts that run under GreaseMonkey. The collection is called Better Gmail 2. You can download this collection and use it to really improve a number of things in Gmail. Another GreaseMonkey scripts I found called Gmail Addons lets you add just about any functionality to Gmail via scripts. Out of the box it lets you have Google Calendar and Google Chat right in Gmail, which is very handy.

Summing It Up!

First off I'll admit that switching all of my email accounts to Gmail was not easy, but it wasn't near as bad as I thought it would be. Kind of like a trip to the dentist that you've really dreaded and then when you got there it wasn't so bad. In the long run I've found that there are many benefits to running my email accounts through Gmail. To name a few they include:

  • Receiving all my mail from 4 accounts in one spot
  • Sending all my mail from 4 accounts from one spot
  • Ability to access my email from anywhere!
  • Never having to synchronize email between computers
  • Very little SPAM
  • Ability to keep all my mail so I can find anything
  • Ability to see conversations from beginning to end

In a way it's kind of ironic because I believe a part of me didn't want to like using Gmail. I was used to my email clients and my folders and this new way couldn't be better, could it? Well, from my perspective, which spans over 30 years in computers, I think this is a better way to do email. In fact, I'll go so far as to say that I believe this is the way all email will be handled eventually. Online and available from anywhere and everywhere.

If you have questions about the process of switching to Gmail they have excellent help on the Gmail site. You can also feel free to write me and ask for tips. I'll be updating you in the future as I find more new and innovative ways to use Gmail.

If you have a question on how to do something on the computer you can submit it via email by clicking HERE You will not receive a reply, but all topics will be considered.

About Michael E, Callahan

Michael E. Callahan, known around the world by the trademarked name Dr. File Finder, is regarded as the world's leading expert on shareware. Dr. File Finder works with software programs and developers full-time, and in the average year he evaluates 10,000 programs. Since 1982 he has evaluated over 250,000 software and hardware products. Mr. Callahan began evaluating software online in 1982 and no one has been at it longer. He currently works doing online PR and marketing for software companies, and is the Senior Content Producer for Butterscotch.Com.

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