By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Gmail, heal thyself

Gmail bounced back a lot more quickly than the threatened 24 hours, I’m pleased to report. But I’ve been pondering the possibility of changing the way I use it, and this gives me additional impetus. I know there are some Media Nation readers who love this stuff, so they’ll indulge me, and perhaps provide some advice. The rest of you can skip this.

I made the switch to Gmail a little more than a year ago. For a while, I used it in conjunction with a POP account, but soon I switched to Web-only. Why?

  • My mail was the same wherever I was, even if I was using a different computer — including my archives and my address book, which are also in Gmail.
  • I could download my mail and send outgoing messages hassle-free even in places like public libraries, which often block POP access.
  • Gmail on the Web is just a nice online experience — the labeling, the display, the search features and the like. Aesthetics matter.

Over time, however, I’ve become frustrated. I hope to stick with Gmail in some way, mainly because it does such a good job of filtering spam. But I might change the way I use it. My complaints:

1. It does not integrate well with my non-Gmail account. I use Gmail to access my Northeastern e-mail. Theoretically, I should never have to log on to my Northeastern account. But it hasn’t worked out quite that conveniently.

For a long time, I had NU e-mail forward to Gmail. Mail arrived instantly, and life seemed to be good. But there were minor problems too arcane to mention, so I turned off forwarding and set up Gmail to grab my NU mail directly. There’s a delay that can last from a few minutes to an hour or more — usually not a problem, but occasionally a big problem.

It also seems as though, every so often, Gmail simply refuses to deliver a piece of mail on the NU server. Therefore, every day, I have to log on to my NU account separately to see whether there’s anything I missed. A waste of time, to say the least.

2. Every piece of outgoing mail is somehow stamped with my Gmail address. When I send an e-mail from Gmail using my NU address as my outgoing address, my Gmail address appears somewhere in the header as well. This is not a big deal, but I don’t like it.

3. Gmail’s advertising sometimes sets off spam filters. I have sent messages from Gmail using my NU address that have been marked as spam on the receiving end. In attempting to troubleshoot this, all we could think of was that Google’s ads rang the alarm.

Now, I could go back to using Gmail with POP — or, even better, IMAP. But there are some really nice features I would lose. My Gmail address book cannot easily be exported to Apple’s Address Book. The biggest sacrifice is that I’d no longer be archiving my mail on Google’s servers unless I set things up to make a separate, time-consuming operation out of it. I love the labeling feature and I love the super-fast searching, and I don’t want to give those up.

If there’s anything I’m saying that shows my ignorance, please enlighten me. I’d love to be able to improve my Gmail experience without giving up what I like.

Discover more from Media Nation

Subscribe to get the latest posts to your email.


Gmail woes


The anti-Obama right’s latest obsession


  1. Lissa Harris

    Re: #2: There’s a setting (under Settings/Accounts) that allows you choose your default “from” address. Also, if you want, you can set Gmail to reply from whatever address the sender sent to, instead of always using the same default address.Or you can pick your “from” address on the fly. But that’s kind of a PITA.

  2. Lissa Harris

    Oh, oops. Never mind. I just realized, #2 doesn’t quite mean what I thought it did. Not sure how to fix that one.

  3. Al Toid

    Hello, Dan,There are programs that sync the macs address book with Google’s address book – I use such a program to synch iCal with google calendars, but I haven’t upgraded to handle the address books yet.That should solve the problem of address books, but the labeling and fast searching is why I’m still using gmail rather than using apple mail on my ubiquitous macbook.Before gmail, I used Eudora for the filtering/labeling and it’s quick searching compared to other options on my old windows PC. I know there’s a version for the mac, but I haven’t stress tested it to see if it would meet all your needs. (It definitely handled the outgoing addresses better, though.)Found the download link: luck.-J

  4. Dan Kennedy

    J: I left Eudora behind years ago and would prefer not to go back. You’re right about searching, though: wicked fast. I never understood why Entourage was so slow.

  5. Dan H

    I use IMAP as previously noted and all my mail not only stays on Google’s server, where I can go search it using the web interface if necessary, but is easily sorted into folders via labels and filters there and via Apple Mail rules on the destination devices.Methinks you are recalling POP behavior when you say you would lose archiving. IMAP is lots better.-Dan H

  6. Dan Kennedy

    Dan: Perhaps I should play with it. Thanks.

  7. Jef

    I don’t think the issue of your mails being tagged as spam resolve back to ads. Google doesn’t put ads in the actual message you send, it serves ads to you in the interface. What can happen is that if you are sending an NU mail from Google, it is sending as an alias. In effect, you are actually sending from your gmail address, but it is masquerading as your NU address. Some spam filters don’t like that because it is something that spammers often do. I don’t know any work around for that unfortunately though. But if you go the IMAP through route rather than Gmail, then that would do the trick.

  8. Dan Kennedy

    Jef: Good point. After I shot my mouth off, I did some testing and verified that Gmail does not send ads. No doubt you’re right about the alias — that makes perfect sense. When I get a chance, I’m going to try to experiment a bit with IMAP.

  9. Bellicose Bumpkin

    Not to repeat myself(and others) but IMAP will set you free. A smart email client(like thunderbird) will make the address portion pretty painless. In any event, you can export your contacts from gmail and import them into any email client worth its salt.

  10. Al Toid

    Not sure if this will help meet your needs on the Media Nation mac, but… (always attribute, kids) just mentioned it on Twitter and it hit the flags for what MediaNation was looking for.

  11. Dan Kennedy

    Al: Wow, look at that! Will definitely check that out.Not to sound ungrateful, but I’ve seen nothing that solves one of my problems — the delay in NU mail arriving in my Gmail inbox. Perhaps not a big deal.

  12. Anonymous

    My solution…GMail is set to fetch mail from a second account (similar to NU) using POP. I get that mail with some delay using the GMail interface.Meanwhile, is set to fetch mail from both GMail and my secondary account every 10 minutes when I’m at my Mac.That causes duplicates of the messages in the secondary account to go to Mail. So I use a filter set to: Move mail from Gmail account with secondary account in the To: or CC: field to a “Possible GMail dupes” folder. I empty it about once a week manually, only because I never trust the filter to work 100%.

  13. Jef

    There may be a setting somewhere on how often you check the POP mail. Say it is set to an hour, on the hour. A mail sent at 1:01 won’t arrive until 2:00, while a mail sent at 1:59 will seem to arrive instantly (or within 60 seconds). Without setting up a new account myself, I’m not sure where that setting would live, if it exists. But usually there is some check every x minutes tab.

  14. Ari Herzog

    I’ve been a Yahoo Mail user for the better part of eight years and in recent months, it’s driving me bezerk. Even if I forget about stints of time when every piece of outgoing mail to or gets bounced back, I am absolutely sick of the CAPTCHA screens which are occurring about 90% of the time.I have one GMail account but am not a fan that they use labels and not folders. I’m a visual person and folders help me organize. Maybe someone needs to tell me how GMail is better in this? And do the annoying CAPTCHA verification windows pop up as frequently when sending mail?

  15. Al Toid

    Dan, there’s a reason why I keep checking back to see if you’re getting some solutions that I can use, too. 🙂

  16. Dan Kennedy

    Al: I’m on deadline with a pretty big project right now, so it’s going to have to wait. But I really appreciate your ideas. Perhaps next week sometime.

  17. Al Toid

    No worries. I’ll keep poking around.Good luck with the project.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén