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Integrating Your Existing Mail

Importing Your Mail into Gmail

When starting to use Gmail properly, the most important thing for me was getting all of my existing mail into the Gmail system. Alas, Gmail doesn’t have an import facility. You have to use someone else’s hack to get your current mail into the system. A few applications are available to do this, but none are as good as the one concentrated on in the following section: Gmail Loader.

Gmail Loader

Mark Lyon’s Gmail Loader, which you can find at, does the trick very nicely indeed. It’s available in Windows, OS X, and Linux versions and a source-code version. To quote the author, “The Gmail Loader is a graphical, cross-platform, Python-based utility that supports two box formats (Netscape, Mozilla, Thunderbird, Most Other Clients), Milder (Quail, others), MMDF (Mutt), MH (NMH), and Babyl (Emacs RMAIL). Eventually, I plan to add support for direct sending of IMAP accounts, and am working on a library that can read and export Microsoft Outlook PST files.” (This was in December 2004. That addition may well have happened by now.)

Setting Up Pop Access inside Gmail

Log in to Gmail and click on the Settings link at the top-right of the screen. Once there, click on Forwarding and Pop.

IMAP for Gmail

Gmail’s features, labeling, and stars specifically do not have counterparts in the standard e-mail world. There’s no facility within any e-mail format to apply labels, for example, to your mail. It’s not surprising, therefore, that there is no existing mail application that could understand or use them. As a result, mail exported from Gmail does not take its label with it.

Nor once the mail has been exported can the exported copy affect the original. Furthermore, moving a shipped mail into a different locally stored folder doesn’t change Gmail itself. Both of these facts are, in my view, significant disadvantages to the idea of offline working with Gmail. The first is a complex problem, but the second can be solved by replacing the Pop interface based on another standard: IMAP. Unfortunately, Gmail does not support IMAP at the time of this writing. No matter: The second half of this book looks at building a Gmail-to-IMAP proxy server.

Last word

In this chapter, you have moved your existing mail over to Gmail, integrated Gmail into your desktop, and looked at settings that will allow you to access Gmail from other applications and devices. Altogether, this means that Gmail can now be used as your primary e-mail application. In the next chapter, you look at ways to improve how you use Gmail itself: power tips and the tricks of the advanced user. Once you know those, you can move on to reverse engineering Gmail and use it to power your applications.

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