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Simplified Guide to Importing All Your Archive Email Into Gmail

This is now so simple, it shouldn’t even require any guidance… but first things first.

Why would you want to import all your old email to Gmail? Because it gives you an All-In-One, searchable archive. I know there is real demand for this: my blog visitor log tells me, since my old post on the subject, How to Import All Your Archive Email Into Gmail still receives a good 5-600 readers every single day. That means:

  • people do want to migrate to web-based software (Gmail)
  • they don’t want to lose their historical “baggage”
  • so far it has been rather complicated

Now that Gmail supports the IMAP protocol, everything’s changed. My most-popular-ever post is all of a sudden obsolete. Forget all the “Gmail-loader” tools on the Net, most of them did not work anyway, forget even my multi-step process… I’ll show you all you have to do now. I’ve tested these steps with Outlook, but they should work with Thunderbird or whatever your favorite desktop email software is.

  • Enable IMAP in your Gmail account
  • Setup the Gmail account in your client software, based on these instructions
  • This will create a folder structure matching your Gmail labels
  • Open your old archive.pst files, if any
  • Drag-and drop all your old email into the Inbox folder in your new IMAP account.
    • You can do this across accounts, or even archive files.
    • If you don’t want to “move” old email out of the archives, use “copy” instead.
    • Instead of Inbox, you can drop old email into any other Folder (create new ones if you like), to match the Gmail labels
  • Drag-and drop all your old “Sent mail” into the “Sent Mail” folder in your new IMAP account.
  • Wait patiently – with thousands of emails (my archive goes back to 1996) your upload bandwidth may be the bottleneck.

Voila! Your email is now up in Gmail, all labeled, searchable, with original sender info and dates intact (this was a problem with previous methods).

Happy Gmail-ing smile_regular

Related posts: Official Google Blog, Google Blogoscoped, Google Operating System, Official Gmail Blog, Between the Lines, Andy Beal’s Marketing Pilgrim, Search Engine Land, CNET News.com, Engadget Mobile, Compiler, TechBlog, Tom Raftery’s Social Media, TechCrunch, jkOnTheRun, Googlified, blognation and GottaBeMobile.com

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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

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