It is not uncommon to have several email accounts, but checking multiple accounts in different places is tedious. Hence, many people revert to a desktop email client like Thunderbird or Outlook to manage all their mail from one place. In this article, I will tell you why Gmail is better and I will show you how you can easily and efficiently read all your email in a single Gmail account. For an in-depth look at more power-user tips, make sure to check out our Gmail Guide for advanced users.
Let Gmail become your one account to rule them all!
Why Give Up a Desktop Email Client?
For years I was using Thunderbird and it really is a great program that can do a lot of things. However, I found that Gmail can do the same and it can do it much better. Since I switched, I no longer have to worry about backing up or moving my profile, I save a bit of RAM as my browser is running anyway, I save several gigabytes of hard drive space, and no matter where I check my mail, it’s always the same familiar inbox and setup greeting me.
Besides, Gmail has an ingenious search feature, some fun and very useful Google Labs plugins, and with browser extensions you can get even more cool features. In other words, it’s bliss and I would like to share that with you.
Import Email Accounts Into Gmail
Much like a desktop client, Gmail can handle multiple email accounts. Moreover, it makes importing mail from POP3 accounts fairly easy, by automatically filling in the required POP server information for you.
Let’s say you want to import email from an old Hotmail account, what would you need to do?
- Open Google Mail, click the wheel icon in top right and select Settings from the drop-down menu.
- In your Gmail settings, go to the Accounts and Import tab.
- Under the header Check mail using POP3 click Add a POP3 mail account you own.
- Fill in your email address and click Next Step.
- In the next window, add your password, check the boxes that apply, and click Add Account.
If you want to treat the imported account like a separate email account, I recommend to check the option that says Label incoming messages and then create a label for the respective account. In that case I also recommend to Archive incoming messages (Skip the Inbox). In the second part of this article, I will show you how you can create a second inbox for this email account based on its label.
If the account was added successfully, Gmail will ask you whether you want to use the email as an alias to send email through that account. Note that you will have to confirm this with a code sent to the respective email address. You can also skip this step and add the alias anytime later. The option can be found under the Send mail as: header in > Settings > Accounts and Import.
Note that Gmail can only import mail that is in the inbox of your old account. If you want to import mail from folders, you have to gradually move the messages to the inbox of your old account and – if you really need to – label them as they arrive in your Gmail account. With some planning and the right techniques, this can be done in bulk.
Manage Multiple Email Accounts in Gmail
You can solve this task in many different ways. For example, you could ignore the fact that emails come from different accounts and just deal with them as if they were all the same. By using an email alias, it will look as if you responded from your other account to everyone else. On the other hand, consequently responding from your new email account will help you contacts pick up the new email address and eventually switch.
However, you may have email accounts for work or different projects that you want to or have to keep strictly separate. In this case I recommend using a Gmail labs feature called Multiple Inboxes. This is how you can activate it:
- In Google Mail click the wheel icon in the top right and select Settings from the drop-down menu.
- In the settings page, go to the Labs tab.
- Scroll down to the entry that says Multiple Inboxes and click the Enable radio button.
- Scroll to the bottom of the page and click the Save Changes button.
When you now return to your Gmail settings page, you will see a tab called Multiple inboxes.
The screenshot below shows my personal multiple inboxes setup. As you can see, I am using it to always view my starred email (Pane 0), my drafts (Pane 1) two different projects (Pane 2 and 3), and two email accounts I am importing (Pane 4). Each pane shows a maximum of 10 conversations and they are shown below my inbox.
What makes the Multiple Inboxes feature so very useful, is that it works with GMail search operators. You can even combine several, as seen in my demonstration above. An overview of all GMail search operators is available here. If you chose to filter and archive email you are importing as recommended in the first part of this article, you can now enter the label you chose into one of panes. This will create a separate inbox for the imported email account.
Once you have successfully set up your multiple inboxes, it may look something like this:
Now that you have united all your email accounts in one, you may need some help with processing your emails. The following articles should get you started:
- 4 Simple Steps To Achieving & Maintaining Inbox Zero In Gmail
- How to Create a Group Email in Gmail
- 5 Gmail Filters To Help Prioritize & Organize Your Inbox
How do you manage multiple email accounts and a flood of emails? Have you discovered any other useful Gmail features? Please share in the comments!