Thursday, June 17

How to set up Exchange synchronization with Gmail

For many of us, we prefer the tools in Gmail to the tools in a client like Outlook.  I love the organization tools in Gmail and the fact that I can pull up my full email environment anywhere.  A a linux user, Microsoft's web interface doesn't work nearly as well as it does in IE, a fact which I am more than prepared to live with given the fact that I like the way Gmail automatically and more intelligently threads conversations and much better search functionality.

Before starting this process, it would be helpful to get the POP3 and SMTP hosts, ports, and any special login information from your Exchange administrator.

First, set up the ability to pull your exchange mail into your Gmail account.  You can do this from the Settings > Accounts page in Gmail.

  1. Click on "Add a mail account you own"
  2. Enter fill out the form. You may need help from your exchange admin for the values you'll need.
    1. If you are going to get your Gmail and Exchange mail in the same place, accept the option to automatically label incoming mail from that account.
    2. Where possible, it is a good idea to use SSL when retrieving mail
    3. Leaving a copy of the message on the Exchange server is a good backup in case your gmail account isn't working properly or you want to go back to using Exchange/Outlook at some point in the future.  You need to make sure you follow your company's record retention schedule and you don't allow your inbox to go over it's limit.
  3.  Next you will be asked if you want to send mail from this address.  Answer yes and click on "Next Step"
  4. Follow the prompts.  When it comes to the selection for "Send mail through your SMTP server", select "Send through 's SMTP server".  You may need to get the following information from your Exchange admin: 
    1. SMTP Server: Port:
    2. Username:
    3. Password:
  5. Click "Add Account"
At this point you will get an email to your Exchange account verifying that you have the rights to send through this account.  Follow the directions in the email and you will be able to send mail via your Gmail account and the recipients of your mail won't know the difference.

If you are already an Exchange user and like to use features like rules and search folders, you can very easily replicate that functionality in Gmail.  Gmail calls rules "Filters".  You can create new filters either by clicking "Create a filter" in the minuscule print next to the search box.  Your other option is to select messages like the ones you want to create a filter for, go to the "More Actions" drop down, and select "Filter messages like these".  Unlike Outlook, you won't get as nice of a wizard to walk you through the steps, but it's still fairly easy.  Gmail uses Operators or special keywords you can use in your searches to increase the accuracy of your searches.  These are helpful in both filters and Quick Links, Google's answer for search folders. 

Quick Links are a "Labs" feature or something that Google is actively developing.  There are many useful Labs features that will make it easier for you to make the switch from Exchange to Gmail.  Basically, Quick Links allow you to turn any search you do in mail into a Search folder or something you can access again with one click.  Once you enable the Quick Links gadget, return to your inbox and, if you need a search that only returns unread mail in your inbox, search for: "label:unread in:inbox".  If that search returns what you're looking for, click "Add Quick Link" and you will always be able to return to this query without the need to retype it.

Other labs features that are useful in this setup are:
  • Canned Responses - You can use these to send out frequently used messages as well as create auto-responders that work off filters.
  • "Don't forget Bob" - If you often send mails to the same groups of people, Google this extension will automatically remind you if you suddenly leave one person in the group out.
  • Google Calendar Gadget - Adds a more PIM/Outlook type feel by giving you a view of your calendar agenda side by side with your mail.
  • Mail Goggles - We've all sent an email we wish we could have back.  Whether we typed it up while we are tired, angry, or otherwise incapacitated, having a clear head while communicating with others is a good thing unless you like collecting unemployment.  Goggles makes sure you are operating with a clear head when you send mail.
  • Refresh POP accounts - Google doesn't offer a schedule to recheck your pop accounts so your inbox may not always be right in sync with your Exchange email.  This extension causes the refresh link to also check your pop accounts.
  • Undo Send - Somewhat like "Mail Goggles" but a little less demanding.  If you tend to hit the Send button a little too aggressively, this is a good extension for you.  It essentially holds onto your mail for a few seconds before actually sending it, allowing you to cancel the send if you notice something wrong.  This is the extension you wish you had for your mouth when you say something, realize your mistake mid sentence, and wish you could pull it all back.
  • "Got the wrong Bob?" - Makes sure you're sending mail to the right person when names are similar. The algorithm is based off your groups of often mailed people so it will most likely work better the more you use it.

Hopefully you'll find these suggestions useful in making the transition from Outlook to Gmail.

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