Use Gmail IMAP with your desktop e-mail client

Unless a single PC provides your only interaction with Gmail, you'll be happier using an IMAP configuration instead of POP

Working with Gmail can be a lot nicer if you use a desktop e-mail program instead of Gmail's Web-based interface.

A key question that remains is whether to use the POP or IMAP setting to fetch your messages from your Gmail account.

I won't bore you with lengthy descriptions of each. In a nutshell, POP downloads a copy of each e-mail to your PC, leaving the original on Gmail's servers. It's a one-way transaction. IMAP, on the other hand, provides a live, two-way connection between your mail program and Gmail.

Why is that important? Basically, because it effectively keeps all your mail in sync regardless of where you check it--important if you routinely use, say, a second PC or a smartphone.

Let's use the latter as an example. Say you have your Gmail account configured for POP. Using your desktop mail program, you download and read your latest messages, reply to a few, delete others, etc.

A while later, while out and about, you use your phone to check your messages. Every mail that you previously read, replied to, deleted, etc. shows up as new and unread. Why? Because there was no synchronization between your PC and Gmail. Thanks to POP, your phone did exactly what your computer did: downloaded any mail that arrived since the last time you checked and flagged it all as new.

That's why I'm a big fan of IMAP. It keeps all my Gmail in sync wherever I go and on whatever computer or device I use to access it. You can learn more about Gmail IMAP from Google's help pages.

Ready to give it a try? Here's how:

1. Log in to your Gmail account, then click the Settings link at the top.

2. Click the Forwarding and POP/IMAP link, select Enable IMAP, and then click Save Changes.

3. Click the Configuration Instructions link to learn how to set up your e-mail client to access Gmail via IMAP. (You'll need to make a couple small changes if it's already configured for POP.)

Now you're using Gmail like a power user. Congrats!

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Rick Broida

PC World (US online)
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