I get a few people every now and then who ask me how I’ve set up Gmail to manage all of my accounts.
It took me a day or two to get everything migrated and organized, and it does have a couple of drawbacks, but I do love it.
- Google has all your stuff – this is questionable on both ethical and practical levels. To address the practical aspect – I do back it up to my computer via Thunderbird when I remember, but I should do it every day. [ETA - I now backup automatically by having all of my computers running Google Gears.]
- Sometimes the main account address will sneak through in the header depending on what email client the receiver uses. It makes me wish I had set this all up through my elliecollier account rather than the account with the funny name I set up to amuse my brother. But at this point I don’t feel like investing the effort to make the switch.
- One (web-based!) ring account to rule them all
- Google’s search functionality
- All the Gmail goodies – including mobile Gmail that works on my phone, grouping conversations, etc.
How I did it:
Under settings->accounts I set up all the accounts I wanted to monitor, including the “send mail as” options.
For my work email I used About’s How to Import Mail from Mozilla Thunderbird in Gmail to get all my old email into Gmail. There might be better options out now.
Then I ran gobs of filters to get labels on as much as possible. Some of the filters I just used to get initial labels on, others I’ve kept permanently. I also use tons of labels. In my personal account I have a label for each person I email regularly. In my work account I have labels for teams, projects, list servs, etc.
I also use Better Gmail, which gives me the multiple signatures for the various emails as well as the Folders4Gmail feature. I use this to chunk out some of the accounts – my personal email, my work email, and my personal blog email. Look through that Better Gmail link for all the goodies there are if you’re not familiar with it.
Work email skips the main inbox and goes right to the ACC tab. This is so I can check my email from my phone away from work and not be inundated with work email. While I’m at work, I live in the ACC section.
I also have my work email as the default “from” address. It means that sometimes friends accidentally get emails from my work address, but stops me from accidentally sending work emails from my personal address.
As for items getting lost once they’re off the front page, I rarely have a second page to my inbox. I try to keep it as empty as possible. If I can answer an email relatively quickly I do. If it doesn’t require any action from me, I label it and remove the acc label so it’s out of my ACC inbox. I skim list serv items and delete or archive them. If I’m overwhelmed with list items I go into the list’s label, select all the unread ones and remove the acc label so they’re out of my ACC inbox. Then I can go back to them when I have time. Once I have the quick stuff dealt with I tend to work top down through my email tackling the bigger projects.
I think that covers the basics. Let me know if you have any questions and I’ll update this post with more info.
ETA – Migrate All Your Old Gmail to a New Gmail Address from LifeHacker