Last week I offered three tips to help make your life on the web easier, more efficient, less stressful, and more trouble-free. They were, in order of importance: (1) get a Mac, (2) get a second email address to use only for browsing web sites that require you to give them a legitimate email address to get something they offer, and (3) use a dedicated email application (or, “program”, for you PC types) to manage your email.
This week we’ll look at doing just that managing your email with an email application rather than a web browser. Now, you’re probably thinking, “Hey, Pete. Why can’t I use both?”
The short answer is: you can. Not being one known for short answers, allow me to elaborate. Let’s say your chintzy Internet Service Provider (ISP) offers only “POP” (Post Office Protocol) email servers. POP is the most common protocol used by email servers - chances are POP is what you’re using today. POP was developed in the days when people wanted/needed to access their email from but one device their computer.
Simply put, when you check your email from a POP server the email messages are downloaded to your computer, then, either immediately deleted from the server or deleted at some time in the future of your choosing. Even if you choose to leave the message on the POP server for awhile (and you have the correct settings in your email program) you won’t download the same message again if you’ve viewed (or deleted) it with your email program. As I said, POP works pretty well if you only use one computer.
Nowadays, many users want to access and manage their mail from their own computer(s) as well as remote computers and smartphones. A better email protocol for the “multiple and mobile” email user is IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol). I’ve been using IMAP since I got my iPhone, and I love it. Here’s how IMAP works, best described by how I use it.
I have a desktop iMac, a MacBook Pro notebook, and an iPhone. I use .Mac mail and GoogleMail, both IMAP accounts. I use Apple’s Mail application on both the iMac and MacBook Pro, and the Mail application on my iPhone (also IMAP-capable). If by some horrific and unlikely chance I am without any of my computers, I can use a web browser on any computer (Mac or PC) to manage my email. With IMAP, all of my email is available on all the above devices all the time.
How do it do that? Let’s trace an incoming email message to find out. The message arrives from the internet at the IMAP server and goes into my mailbox there. Let’s say I open Apple Mail on my iMac. Mail automatically connects (assuming I have an internet connection) to the IMAP server and “downloads” the message into my InBox in Mail. However, it leaves the message on the IMAP server, and even notes whether or not I opened and read it. If I then open Mail on my internet-connected MacBook Pro or iPhone, Mail will automatically connect to the IMAP server and place the email message (opened or unopened) on either device.
Plus, IMAP also shares mailboxes I create in Mail on all my devices. Say I create a mailbox for all my MacMaineiac mail. If I move, or Mail automatically moves via a Rule, a message from my InBox into my MacMaineiac mailbox, the change is reflected automatically on all my Macs.Oh, I almost forgot. All my IMAP mail, including the mailboxes, can be accessed with any web browser as well.
|© 2008 Peter F. Zimowski|