The ultimate Mac mail service

Dan Warne
11 December, 2007
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People who read this column will know that I love Gmail as much as some people love their fully-restored 1966 Mustang. Before, I loved it because the premium version offered me 10GB of mail storage that I could access from anywhere and search instantly.

Now I love it so much more. In the last few days, Google has bumped up the storage capacity on the premium mailboxes to 25GB, which really does provide practically unlimited mail storage — that would keep me going for yen years, at least — while the ever-increasing-in-size free mailboxes are up to 4GB.

But, as the guy on the ad says, that’s not all. Google has added IMAP support.

It’s likely that quite a few Mac users are familiar with IMAP, since it’s the mail protocol used by Apple’s pricey .Mac service, but in case you’re not, here’s the potted version: with IMAP, your mail stays on the server, and it is effectively synced with your computer. If you mark a message as read on your Mac, it’s marked as read on your server. If you delete a message on your Mac, it’s deleted on the server.
The great thing about an IMAP mailbox is that you can access it from multiple locations (a home Mac, a work PC, etc) and the mailbox will always be perfectly in sync — you’ll never have mail that you’ve already read at work showing up as unread at home.

IMAP becomes supremely useful on mobile phones. You see, e-mail on mobile phones is all well and good, except for the fact that you receive all your mail twice — once on your mobile, and again on your Mac. You end up having to read things twice, or do an awful lot of skim reading or “mark as read” which can mean you forget to reply to important e-mails.

On the other hand, with a mobile phone that supports IMAP, such as Apple’s iPhone, you will have your full mailbox available to you — potentially thousands of e-mails, including all your sent mail — and if you delete or read a message on the phone, the changes will be reflected in your Gmail account, and on all the Macs and PCs that access the mailbox. Now that is what I call productivity on the go.

If only Apple would build a Gmail search box into its iPhone mail client which would make a call to Google’s powerful, instant search capability on your 25GB mailbox. If Australia ends up getting a 3G iPhone 2.0 when it is released next year, hopefully Apple will spot and implement this opportunity. Although it is in bed with Yahoo as its partner for “push” e-mail to the iPhone, it has shown that it’s willing to flirt with Google as well, if its iPhone maps application is anything to go by. Google says it is working with Apple on making Gmail’s configuration easier on the iPhone (as the iPhone was designed around only being able to access Gmail mailboxes using the older POP3 method).

Mac user Derek Punsalan has written an excellent piece on how to best configure your Mac and iPhone to sync perfectly with Gmail

Firefox 3 more Mac-like.

Many Mac users have moved away from Apple Safari in favour of the open-source Firefox client. Firefox is generally compatible with almost all web sites, while Safari, although a touch faster, still struggles with some “web 2.0” style sites that make heavy use of Javascript for interactive pages.

The good news for Firefox users — or those who have been put off in the past by its rather generic look and feel – is that the new version of Firefox is going to integrate much better with the Mac GUI.
Firefox 3.0, which the Mozilla Foundation hopes to release by the end of the year (though it is looking more like early 2008) has already been previewed and looks much closer to the Leopard “unified”
visual theme.

“For OS X we are following the new unified style that is used consistently throughout all applications on Leopard. Firefox will look the same on 10.4 as it does on 10.5, similar to iTunes, and iLife 08. We are also looking into a variety of other little touches to visually integrate on the Mac, like the correct appearance of source lists (we call them sidebars), a cover flow-esque styling in the add-ons manager, and transparent panel styling (sometimes called HUD window styling) for the places drop down and the new identity button in the location bar,” wrote one Firefox developer Alex Faaborg.

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