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Email Experiment

My long standing dislike of emails (well, email software) is well known as I moan about it here and here. Well this came to a head this week again when I decided to slim down my hard drive due to boot camping again.

Part of this involved running JDiskReport to see what was taking up space. As part of this, I ended up moving my iPad to back up to iCloud and will then eventually remove all the apps from being kept on my machine (as that’s a fairly hefty 7GB – which adds up when you only have 320 to play with and you want at least 60 of that for Windows!) Anyhow, the point is I ended up finding at least 4GB of emails on my hard drive from the various programs I’ve used in the past. Even though I checked “do not download messages to the hard drive”, Postbox and Mail were saving messages. I just want an iOS Mail.app style client where the messages aren’t downloaded (and if they are, they’re not kept on the device – at least as far as I’m aware they aren’t).

Anyhow, due to email being a big PITA, I’ve decided to trial webmail only. I’ve liked webmail in the past when Google Mail was actually useable – now with it’s VIP rubbish and then it’s horrendous change in style made it unusable, amongst a few other considerations (back when I tried it, there was no mailto: integration for browsers etc) meant I firmly stuck with an email client. Back then it was Thunderbird but I moved when I changed to the Mac – using Mail.app and then Sparrow and then finally Postbox.

All of them weren’t great and so now I’ve spent a week with the webmail (and iOS) and I’m not missing it to much.

Web Mail Service

I decided to investigate the different webmail options open to me before making a choice. The Wikipedia page on web based email was extremely helpful (link) and I narrowed my solution down to Zoho, based on a number of factors, one of which was that I could change my domain name. I ended up getting a domain name, solely for email to go with it. Anyhow, signup to Zoho was free, easy and painless.

Migration

Unlike when I switched to iCloud for email, I didn’t migrate my email – I don’t recall there actually being a tool to do so (sure, there’s some workarounds) but there was no simple way of doing it. Zoho offered to migrate the emails using a simple service in the settings. This worked perfectly, though I did need to move over the Sent Items into the Sent folder, thanks to some inconsistencies in folder naming between the two services. Once that had done, I didn’t have any issues.

It was all done via IMAP access by filling out the form below and proceeds without any further action by the user.

Mail Evaluation

By setting up forwarding from my iCloud account and POP collection from my Gmail account, I’ve been able to re-evaluate all the mails I’ve been getting and have slowly been either:

  1. Moving them to my new email
  2. Unsubscribing from the mailing list
  3. Consigning them to junk folders where the emails either refuse to honour my unsubscribe or don’t offer an unsubscribe option

It’s amazing how much stuff I’d actually signed up for and tended to auto pilot drop it straight into the bin!

Hotkeys

Zoho, like Gmail, supports the use of hotkeys which means that you can easily use the webpage with hotkeys, something I find essential. The benefit of the web based email is that the settings are set once and then apply where ever and when ever you access the website. This has to be one area where I feel that Zoho could improve – the accuracy of the hotkeys is a bit hit and miss – sometime the hotkeys work but other times I find myself having to click to remove or archive the email as the hotkey doesn’t seem to be working. This is a pain, especially as my browser is on the supported list (Firefox 16).

Overall

To date, I’ve not really had many issues in the move to webmail. In fact, it’s helped somewhat by the fact it’s easier to check my email from any computer (such as work) and having App tabs in Chrome and Firefox – though for some reason the app tab on Firefox on the Mac causes some issues (I’ve noticed some playback errors in iTunes when the App tab is in the background at random intervals – I think these coincide with the page refreshing).

Another upside is the excellent Markdown Here plugin I mentioned in a previous post. This means I can easily write emails in Markdown and then have it sent in normal format. Now, to find the same sort of think for Outlook for work!

So for the foreseeable future, it looks like I’ll be using a webmail solution for my email and Zoho seems to excel where Gmail falls down (adverts, email tracking and user interface – what happened Google?!). It’s not without its downsides but I feel these are fairly minimal in the long run.

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