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Life After Outlook: Gmail. But is it Becoming Oopsmail?

Bernard’s title @ ReadWriteWeb, Breaking Free of Outlook perfectly matches my own sentiment: in fact I called the MS Client Outlook-prison repeatedly.

Unlike Bernard, I escaped from prison in stages:

I’ve never looked back, and am definitely more productive than in my desktop-bound life.  I could see first-hand a lot of people move in the same direction: my How to Import All Your Archive Email Into Gmail guide become an all-time classic, probably approaching 100,000 hits by now.  Gmail’s IMAP support changed everything, so I issued a  Simplified Guide to Importing All Your Archive Email Into Gmail.  A while later Google woke up, and started to offer a migration tool to subscribers of the paid Google Apps version. (Oh, and they are being sued by LimitNone, who claims Google basically stole their gMove product).

But the love-affair with Gmail was not without trouble: I first documented some glitches last spring: Gmail, I Love You – Don’t Let Me Down, then real trouble started a month ort so ago.

Formerly rock-solid Gmail has been ill a lot lately.  The “Oops…the system encountered a problem (#500) – Retrying in 1:30” error message has became a daily occurance… in fact several times a day.

I somewhat jokingly called “retry now” Gmail’s Penalty Button, when I noticed every time I hit it the wait counter increased by a minute.

Now I have an update: you don’t need the penalty button, the counter increases by itself.  Every time, “reliably”. Basically as soon as you see the Oops error, you might as well close the browser tab (or browser itself), as it won’t recover on its own.  This annoying  error has become the most frequent “feature” of Gmail, to the extent that it really undermines productivity.

I hope Google will fix it.  They MUST.  It’s the crown jewel of Google Apps. In fact without Gmail and Calendar there wouldn’t be Google Apps at all.

Update:  Oops: apparently there’s a real service by the name of Oopsmail.  Obviously I am not referrring to them in the title. (Although… ? :-) )

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Gmail IMAP and Microsoft’s Desktop Push

You’ll have to appreciate the irony of this TechMeme screenshot:

Microsoft’s Jeff Raiker defended desktop applications, mocking of Google for “backtrack(ing) on what we’ve been saying and to offer things like Gears in order to be able to be offline and or take advantage of global computing power”, reports Infoworld.

As if to support Raiker’s statement, just minutes earlier the hot item on TechMeme was Google’s Gmail offering IMAP. Yes, it’s there, if you don’t see it in your gmail account, log out and come back again.

Unlike POP access, which is basically a dumb download, IMAP synchronizes your mail folders (not just the Inbox) with your online account, and your read/unread status..etc are maintained both in the desktop client and online. In fact IMAP is an easy way to sync several desktop clients on multiple machines. (Note: Gmail does not have folders, but I assume labels would take their place – assume only, since I no longer use desktop email software)

Where’s the irony here? IMAP is clearly beneficial only if you use a desktop email client* with your gmail account, which is exactly Raiker’s point. And a bit of a personal irony: for over a decade I was a faithful Outlook user, mocking my friends who used web-based email (typically Yahoo) for their personal accounts. How could they live with such a dumb, slow service?

Well, times change: Outlook grew fat and slow, it needs a cornucopia of software fighting for CPU and memory: virus scanner, desktop search (Copernic), backup (Mozy), sync with other desktops (Foldershare), and who knows what else, all of which need updates that tend to fail … what a nightmare! I ditched the desktop and have never been more productive! I’m using Gmail natively, on the Web, and am quite happy with it, so IMAP means nothing to me. (Apparently I’m not alone, as evidenced by the 5-600 readers my client to Gmail migration guide written half a year ago is still getting every day). For all other productivity needs I use the Zoho Suite. Incidentally, little birdies are singing that Zoho Writer will soon have offline edit capabilitiessmile_wink.

Seamless online/offline computing, as it should be.

*Update (10/24). This post was my quick first reaction late last night, when the news first hit (in fact before it became official news). As Marc Orchant correctly points out, IMAP may very well be useful even if you don’t use a desktop email client, as it makes it really easy to use the client software on your mobile devices, and still have a sync’d Gmail on the Web.

Update #2, (10/24): Simplified Guide to Importing All Your Archive Email Into Gmail

Related posts: Download Squad, CyberNet, Mashable!, Infoworld, Zoho Blog, TechCrunch, ParisLemon, Moonwatcher, Ars Technica, Good Morning Silicon Valley,