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How do I start using OS X Mail?
November 3, 2009 8:46 PM   Subscribe

How can I start using OS X .Mail App when I'm so in love with Gmail on the web?

I recently purchased a Mac and I'm really interested in using OS X's Mail program. The only problem is Gmail is my bread and butter. It has a lot of different features and I love the labeling system. Is there a way to integrate labels, IMAP, and some other Gmail features with Mail? Will it hurt my current setup on the iPhone? What are the pros and cons? Thanks!
posted by Junior687 to Computers & Internet (19 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
There's a discussion going on about this on Twitter right now, coincidentally. You can absolutely use Gmail via Mail.app, and it already knows the settings -- just put in your name and email address and it'll do the rest.

Unfortunately, you also lose the things that make GMail great: no speedy deep search, no conversation view, no tagging (labels are treated as folders). There's also some confusing options for drafts and trash. It's worth doing for composing long messages with HTML or attachments, but otherwise, it's not great.

John Gruber of daring fireball fame tweeted earlier asking for a native gmail client, but I don't think it's very likely: there's no API for developers to do it with. They can try doing what's called screenscraping to make it work (and I have), but that's fragile and break Google's terms of service. I don't think we're going to see much action there, and given that Apple gives away a free and Good Enough client for other mail uses, I don't hold out much hope of a general third-party client appearing that will be as useful as Gmail is.

(that said, a thunderbird fork called Postbox has ambitions in that direction, but seems to be some years off. You could also try looking at Mailplane, which is a cross between a site-specific browser and an email app. Am on phone just now, so no links, sorry)
posted by fightorflight at 9:25 PM on November 3, 2009


Stick with Gmail and try Gmail Notifier. I switched from mail.app to Gmail for many of the reasons fightorflight mentioned.
posted by dunderwood at 9:30 PM on November 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


what they said. I have Mail hooked up but only to grab offline archives, and even doing that led to some oddities in Gmail (mirrored folders from Mail).
posted by mwhybark at 9:52 PM on November 3, 2009


Set Gmail up as IMAP and it'll work just fine. (Apple's Mail client defaults to setting it up as POP if you let it configure the account for you, so don't let it do it for you.) Put in "[Gmail]" (without the quotes) as the folder prefix, and go into Gmail on the web (for the last time, hopefully), and change the settings so it DOESN'T show you the "Starred" and "All Mail" folders. Then go back to Apple Mail and tell it to use Gmail's spam, drafts, and trash folders as its folders for those things, respectively.

Get that done and you'll never log into gmail.com again. Deep search? Blah, whatever. It's worth it to not have to deal with the contextual advertising and other such bullshit.

(Full disclosure: I have a bit of a bug up my ass about Google. Getting too big too fast, and now I'm distrustful of them. I also resent their popularity. Yeah, that's rich coming from a Mac fanatic, I know. But I was a Mac fanatic back in 1996, so I've paid my dues. FWIW, I'm beginning to resent Apple's newfound popularity, too. Jeez, I'm a hateful person . . . )
posted by CommonSense at 10:56 PM on November 3, 2009


Apple's Mail client defaults to setting it up as POP if you let it configure the account for you, so don't let it do it for you.)
this isn't true any more -- it does IMAP by default now.

I wouldn't recommend turning off Starred or All Mail either -- flags show up as stars, so you need that, an without the archive you lose Spotlight search, which is better than nothing, and you lose the ability to archive.

As for deep-search-blah, that seems a bit strange to me. You're dismissing one of the key differentiating factors about gmail, there. The ads have always seemed inoffensive to me, but I know some people hate all sight of them; I don't know what the other bullshit you talk about is. Either way: never logging into gmail again effectively turns it into Any Other Email, and that's pretty clearly not what the OP wants.
posted by fightorflight at 11:13 PM on November 3, 2009


Or get Fluid, and make a Gmail 'app'. Together with Google Gears, you can pretty much surf offline, and the compartmentalization between normal browsing and 'emailing' increases my productivity.
posted by suedehead at 11:25 PM on November 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


I actually find Gmail's search feature a bit weak -- Mail.app searches as I type, and can search on to/from/subject as well as message bodies. Is there something I'm missing about deep search?

Mail.app also does have conversation view, or at least something close -- View > Organize by Thread.

I've never really gotten into labels, but you can use rules to mark messages, and/or smart mailboxes to create attribute-based views of messages. I doubt this will give you everything you get from labels, though.

As others have described, there's absolutely nothing preventing you from using Gmail and Mail.app interchangeably -- just access the Gmail account from Mail.app via IMAP.

I have to say, though, I'm finding that email-qua-email is increasingly less important. The email client that integrates with your ecosystem -- ie. your calendar, address book, etc. -- is usually going to be the best one, regardless of the feature list. My data lives on my Mac, so Mail.app works best. If all your data is in Google, I doubt that anything in Mail.app is going to make switching worthwhile.
posted by bjrubble at 12:58 AM on November 4, 2009


I find Apple's Mail to be vastly superior -- it's faster, more features, easier to search, no annoying "conversation" threading that can't be disabled, and it's sure nice knowing that you have a copy (and probably the only copy) of your entire mail. Most of this comes as an inherent part of being a real app on your own Mac rather than a web page connected to a server in California.

But that only applies if you use a single Mac. If you jump between five or six Macs and a few PCs the way I do (in the course of a month I probably use 12 different computers), then forget it: you're much better off using GMail than trying to sync/manage multiple Mail installations.

So Apple's Mail is probably the application that I like the most but don't use. Well, that's not quite true: I do have one running that just collects all my mail every hour as a sort of living backup. But I read and write through GMail 95% of the time, either on the web or from my phone.
posted by rokusan at 3:24 AM on November 4, 2009


Mail.app searches as I type, and can search on to/from/subject as well as message bodies. Is there something I'm missing about deep search?
keywords, I think. You can type things like "from:sender", "to:recipient" "has:attachment" "subject:xyz" and so on. Also, it's Google's server farm doing the search, which means itbhas rattled through my 7gb and returned results before Spotlight even has its socks on.

Mail.app also does have conversation view, or at least something close -- View > Organize by Thread.
it's really nowhere close: you can only read one message at a time, whereas online it's a flat page like a mefi thread, and on Mail you can only see threads in the current folder, so you don't get your replies interspersed like you do online. There are some folks, like rokusan, who don't see the value in conversation view, but that doesn't mean it's silly, or that subject-highlighting (what Mail does) is anything like a substitute.
posted by fightorflight at 6:33 AM on November 4, 2009


fightorflight: keywords, I think. You can type things like "from:sender", "to:recipient" "has:attachment" "subject:xyz" and so on. Also, it's Google's server farm doing the search, which means itbhas rattled through my 7gb and returned results before Spotlight even has its socks on.

Both of these statements are incorrect. The comments about the lack of a threaded view in Mail.app are dead-on through.

no tagging (labels are treated as folders).

Ehh, folders and tags are pretty much just syntactic sugar around metadata. Here is an article on how to make Mail.app play better with gmail. Honestly I find smart folders to be more powerful than tagging, as it shifts the categorization work to the computer.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:26 AM on November 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


Oh, here is an addon for tagging in Mail.app.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:28 AM on November 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


You can set up your gmail account in Mail.app via either POP or IMAP; if you access via IMAP, your tags will come through as folders; if you use POP, you don't get any of that. One benefit to Mail.app is that it has a better filtering mechanism (IMO).

But you also aren't burning any bridges—you can still use the web interface any time you want.

Another option you might want to investigate is the (paid) Mailplane, which is basically a browser customized for gmail.

For whatever it's worth, I use gmail (or rather, Google apps for my domain) and access it via POP in mail.app and via IMAP on my iPhone, which sounds kind of weird, but it works for me. I've got completely different filtering on the two, which suits my needs.
posted by adamrice at 7:51 AM on November 4, 2009


Both of these statements are incorrect.
Can you elaborate? I'm confused about what bits are wrong.
posted by fightorflight at 7:56 AM on November 4, 2009


Can you elaborate? I'm confused about what bits are wrong.

Spotlight can both search on keywords, and because it uses an index rather than a brute-force search, it is generally about as fast as Google, which requires both a round-trip request-response and a near-complete page redraw in javascript.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:59 AM on November 4, 2009


Neither of them are incorrect, then. The comment doesn't say that Spotlight can't search on keywords, it was pointing out that Gmail can, which bjrubble didn't know. (Mail search still isn't equivalent to GMail's, though: You can't do booleans, so no "OR" searches, and you can't narrow it by date without making a smart mailbox)

As for "generally about as fast", well, now I know something I didn't about my own experience, but I do still think that with this 7gb set of mail, the Gmail search is vastly faster than Mail's. YMMV, of course, but that's why the sentence has "my" in it.
posted by fightorflight at 8:09 AM on November 4, 2009


Neither of them are incorrect, then. The comment doesn't say that Spotlight can't search on keywords, it was pointing out that Gmail can, which bjrubble didn't know. (Mail search still isn't equivalent to GMail's, though: You can't do booleans, so no "OR" searches, and you can't narrow it by date without making a smart mailbox)

"Keywords" is your elaboration of "no speedy deep search." Date searches are supported natively in Mail.app (and I'm even using Leopard right now). Boolean searches can be done via Spotlight, including a spotlight front end like Data Lore or HoudaSpot.

I've not read credible reports of slow response times with Spotlight since it's early days. I manage gigabytes of data and get response times much faster than I can read, even on a well-aged G4 MacBook.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:30 AM on November 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


I've not read credible reports of slow response times with Spotlight since it's early days. I manage gigabytes of data and get response times much faster than I can read, even on a well-aged G4 MacBook.

Thanks, this is good to know. I've trashed my Mail folder and rebuilding and reindexing to see if it's as fast it can be. I do still think the interface is a bit clunky -- it's a pity you can't just type into the search box, but have to go via Spotlight for one kind of search and smart folders for another, but if it's Fast Enough that's definitely a big start.
posted by fightorflight at 9:04 AM on November 4, 2009


I'm astonished there hasn't been more support for Mailplane. Sure, you have to pay for it, but you get all the goodness of Gmail, with (almost) all the integration of Mail. I started using it when it was in beta, and I don't think I can ever go back to a traditional desktop client.

Set up your iPhone for IMAP (or better yet, Exchange so you can get push) and everything syncs perfectly.
posted by dantekgeek at 7:45 PM on November 4, 2009


This is why I use Thunderbird 3 betas for my mail instead of Mail.app. Tb works really, really well with Gmail. I don't have to fight with it to make it work as I expect. Tb 2 is NOT great on a Mac, but the 3beta4 version is really spectacular. The tabbed search feature easily crushes any "deep search" I've seen on Gmail on the web. If you haven't tried it out, it's awesome - I was shocked the first time I saw how well it worked and how many options it brought up; it was the first time I understood why tabs would be a good idea in an email program.

The only place Mail bests Tb in my opinion is the OS integration - other apps can get Tb to open a new message composition window, but they cannot yet automatically attach a file to that message. It's a pain but for me it isn't a dealbreaker. Tb does integrate with Spotlight, it happily caches mail locally, it uses standard flat mbox files to store mail for cross-program compatibility, and you don't have to switch mail clients every time you switch platforms.

I mean, come on - I can't get Mail to understand that my university IMAP server doesn't support folders that contain messages and subfolders, it's one or the other. This has caused problems for other Mac users in my lab. There is simply no way to tell the program how to handle these options. In Tb it's a checkbox.
posted by caution live frogs at 9:26 AM on November 6, 2009


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