I had a very simple idea yesterday to get Gmail to work through IMAP and wanted to share it in case it is of use to anyone else.

Warning: This is clearly not rocket science and I’m positive that thousands of people have already thought of this and are already doing it. It just didn’t occur to me until now.

The problem: I like mail applications better than web-based mail. I am especially not fond of the way Google’s threads work. I understand that this format works for some people… it just feels weird to me though. BUT… a Gmail account is great to have because of its free storage, spam filtering, separation from my own domain, and search capabilities. So very conveniently, Google enabled POP access to Gmail accounts several months ago. That’s great, except I don’t like POP either. It’s fine for people who only use one computer, but the second you begin using a multiple machines, it’s a synching nightmare.

Enter IMAP e-mail. With Dreamhost’s IMAP e-mail setup, I can maintain an unlimited number of e-mail accounts with over 20 gigs of storage space and keep it all automatically synched between as many computers as I want. Awesome.

The only problem is that while Gmail supports retrieving of e-mail via POP, they don’t via IMAP. So what can I do if I want to continue using my Gmail address for filling out forms on the web and benefit from its excellent spam/phishing filters? Easy! Set it to automatically forward to a special IMAP account! Since Gmail’s auto-forwarding feature leaves headers for the most part intact, I can now receive fully synched, fully intact copies of all my Gmail messages to any computer I happen to be on. Here’s how:

Set up a new IMAP mailbox with your mail provider. The address could be “abcdefg@yourdomain.com”… doesn’t matter. It’s not public-facing.
Set your incoming mail server to its normal settings.
Set your outgoing mail server to “smtp.gmail.com”, check “Use SSL”, and use port 465.
Go to Gmail’s POP/Forwarding settings panel.
Turn on forwarding and forward to the special address you’ve set up.
Set Gmail to archive your mail after forwarding.
That’s it. You’re done. Gmail over IMAP. That such an obvious solution has escaped me for this long is evidence of possible senility. Excuse me while I go stir my fiber drink.
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