Three years ago I switched to Gmail. It is a sensible cloud computing way of handling mail across desktop and laptops, tablets and smartphones.

Gmail gives me a single mail image. By that I mean all incoming mails are equally available on all devices with the same organisational structure. At the same time, if I send mail from a device, Google stores the message in one central online place that’s always accessible from all devices.

I’m using this with ten separate mail accounts — some are hangovers from previous lives, others are identities for various freelance contracts.

Gmail works, is simple and free. What’s not to like about that?

Well, a few things:

  • The price for free mail is advertising and loss of privacy. I’m not against advertising, but Google mines your messages to find suitable things to sell you. While humans may not read my messages, having some of the most powerful computers in the world looking over my shoulder as I write doesn’t fill me with glee.
  • A Gmail address doesn’t look professional. I get around this by using my domain and address through Gmail – this is not hard to set up. Here’s how I did it.
  • It may not be possible to funnel all your mail accounts through a Gmail account. This is particularly true with some company accounts. Moreover, some employers’ usage conditions specifically don’t allow web-based mail.

On top of these point, web-based mail is limited compared with desktop mail clients like Microsoft Outlook 2013. Outlook integrates neatly with other applications including Word and OneNote and the Outlook address book is streets ahead of Google’s second-rate effort. 

It is possible to have Outlook 2013 work with Gmail using IMAP, but I’ve found that excruciatingly slow syncing the 20,000 or so messages in my account.

Footnote: I’ve investigated Microsoft’s (formerly Hotmail) as an alternative to Gmail. is promising, but doesn’t have decent Android or iPad clients at this stage, or am I missing something here?

3 thoughts on “How do you handle mail across multiple devices?

  1. Yep, I use gmail. It’s as simple as dropping a .forward file containing my gmail address in my home directory, and telling gmail to send as that address.

    Some email providers may not allow you to set up forwarding on the site. Hotmail, for example only lets you forward to other Microsoft properties (or did last time I cared). I long ago set up a cron job on that runs Eric Raymond’s “fetchmail” program to download mail from my legacy accounts and forward it to where I want it. That means a delay until the next poll, but I don’t really care about even a day’s delay with those accounts, and I poll more often than that.

    I think gmail now lets you set POP polling up on gmail itself, but I haven’t investigated as my solution is working fine.

    I use the gmail web interface everywhere, including on my phone. That page is always open in the phone’s web browser.

    I also have a single machine that downloads everything from gmail using POP, for archival purposes. I very rarely use that email database directly for things that gmail doesn’t support or is too slow or clumsy. Very rarely.

    If gmail goes away one day, or becomes too expensive or too slow or intolerable for some other reason then I really won’t lose anything other than a little time to set up another system. Meanwhile, it’s very convenient. And my browser window isn’t wide enough to see the ads 😉

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