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Using Gmail in Mavericks

October 28, 2013

OS X Mavericks has brought about a slew of welcome changes, including improved Notifications, better battery life and increased speed. One unwelcome change, however, is how Apple Mail handles Gmail accounts.

Apple Mail and Gmail have had a tenuous relationship in the past, in large part due to Gmail’s non-standard IMAP implementation and Mail’s insistence on treating Gmail as a traditional IMAP service. Beginning with Mavericks, Apple has rethought its approach, undermining past workarounds and introducing new issues.

The Problematic “All Mail” Label

Much of Gmail’s implementation revolves around labels. Because Mail (along with most other email clients) treats Gmail labels as mailboxes, you can easily end up with multiple copies of an email stored locally. The worst offender is the “All Mail” label. As its name implies, “All Mail” stores all the emails you’ve ever sent or received, regardless of what other labels you may have applied to them. Even deleted emails are retained in “All Mail.”

In previous versions of OS X and Mail, many users would simply unsubscribe from “All Mail” by opting to hide it in the Gmail Web interface. In Mavericks, however, hiding or unsubscribing from “All Mail” interferes with the normal process of moving, filing or deleting emails. Move or delete any email from the Inbox, switch to another mailbox, switch back and you’ll be greeted by the email you just moved or deleted.

You would think that reenabling “All Mail” solves the problem, but reenabling introduces entirely new problems. One of Apple’s goals with the Mavericks version of Mail was to eliminate duplicate messages across Gmail’s labels. To achieve this, Mail appends XML snippets to the bottom of each message to indicate what labels that email should be displayed in. In theory, this allows an email to be downloaded once and displayed in as many mailboxes as needed without downloading and storing duplicate copies. In practice, reenabling “All Mail” prompts Mail to re-download ALL your email. Once Mail is done downloading, it will purge duplicates and use the new XML scheme to keep track of where to display emails. However, depending on the number of emails you have, this re-download, analysis and purge can take hours or even days.

Unfortunately, the performance issues don’t stop there. When Mail syncs with Gmail, updating “All Mail” and its XML scheme, notification updates may slow down or stop altogether. Mail may continue to show unread emails long after you’ve read them or moved them to another mailbox. Things will return to normal only after Mail is done synchronizing, a process which may take hours each time.

A Better Gmail Experience

Postbox and Gmail are a match made in heaven. We’ve designed Postbox to seamlessly integrate with Gmail and it’s unique capabilities to provide the best email experience possible.

Gmail Labels

Postbox recognizes and provides enhanced support for Gmail labels without any set up on your part. To label a message, simply type the “L” key, and then select a label name. Alternatively, you can type “L” and then begin typing the label name to auto-complete. Labels appear within the message header, similar to tags, and you can even select a unique label color.

In all fairness, Postbox does duplicate messages across labels, but we believe this is a more robust and reliable implementation, is more compatible across desktops and devices, and avoids many of the pitfalls users are experiencing with the current Mail implementation.

Important Label

Postbox also supports the Gmail “Important” label. “Important” emails are recognized in the Folder Pane, and also within the message list, with a bright yellow icon. Of course, you can turn off the “Important” label by unsubscribing from this folder at any time.

Deletion Behavior

Postbox also gives you more control over Gmail deletion behavior. By default, an email deleted from one folder or label remains in any other folders or labels it was originally in. But you can configure Postbox to delete an email from all associated labels or mailboxes, rather than just the one you are currently viewing.

Alternatives to Using the All Mail Folder

Unlike Mail, Postbox allows you to unsubscribe from the “All Mail” folder without suffering any negative side effects. For that matter, you can also unsubscribe from the “Starred” label or use Gmail’s Web interface to limit the number of emails displayed in “All Mail.” Whatever option you chose, Postbox will readily comply.

If you choose not to use the All Mail label, you the the option to specify a different folder for the Archive function. This provides all the benefits of Archive, without the burden of a large All Mail folder (which contains sent, deleted, etc.). You can even set your Archive folder to reside on a different account.

Gmail Shortcuts

Your Postbox workflow can even be set to mirror Gmail, using the same shortcut keys and creating events in Google Calendar from dates contained within emails.

In summary, we’ve engineered Postbox to maintain the correct balance between standards-compliance and Gmail compatibility. Give it a try and enjoy the best desktop Gmail experience available.

Posted by Postbox