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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Some friends of mine in the MIS world were discussing home computing issues this past week, and one that we all encountered was how best to access old emails from previous accounts. The traditional thing is to archive old email within the confines of a desktop client, whether that is Outlook, Express, Eudora, or something else.

Several years ago, on April Fool's Day if I recall correctly, Google changed all of that by introducing GMail. GMail gave the user gigabytes of storage, and coupled that with their well-developed search feature. At the time, GMail was web only, and had no real facility for interfacing with the desktop. Since then, Google has given the end user both POP3 and more recently an IMAP implementation (albeit somewhat quirky).

Of course, many users have stuck with their old ISP email, which ties them to a single provider unless they archive it. Once archived, email is often handled within the email client, which is most likely a proprietary format.

So the discussion topic that evolved from all of this was - how can the end user move old email from PSTs, Eudora archives, etc. into GMail? Gmail already has the feature of importing existing POP3 mail from active accounts, but we're talking about archive files here.

Lots of tools exist to accomplish just such a thing, but require a new app to be installed (which is platform dependent, naturally), or require translation of the archive file into another format.

But the solution we liked best was simply to use the tools we already have. If you combine your existing email client, its archive files, and a separate mapping to GMail as IMAP, the process is pretty straightforward.

  • Open up the archive file.
  • Copy the emails that you want to move to GMail.
  • Paste into the appropriate folder in GMail.
Sounds easy enough, and I wonder why I never gave this much thought in the past. Now, I have an archive of about 6 GB of mail dating back to 2004, all searchable, all labeled, and all accessible from any browser on any major operating system, not to mention the space freed up on the network.

My only hope is that Google keeps expanding the size of their mailboxes. Otherwise, I will have to create alternate usernames for storage.

UPDATE: Someone asked me about offline access. In this case, I would either use GeeMail, an Adobe AIR client that runs on Linux, Mac and Windows, or enable Google Gears for offline Gmail access.


.: posted by Dave 9:08 PM

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