Gmail: One Inbox to Rule Them All

Gmail: One Inbox to Rule Them All Yes, I know I used the same line in our GTD in Evernote post — but this article has nothing to do with GTD and everything to do with not having to login to 10 different email accounts every day. And I like Lord of the Rings… A lot. In any case, if you want to make your life a bit easier, and still keep all of your other accounts intact for logging in to their various attached services, Gmail can be set up to automatically check your email accounts from across the web; importing and organising the messages as best suits your personal needs. Here's a step by step guide to do just that.


If you simply want to switch all of your email accounts and have Gmail as your only provider, you can import mail and contacts from Yahoo!, Hotmail, AOL, or other webmail or POP3 accounts quite easily. More information on this here.


Getting Started

1. Go to "Settings" in your Gmail account (This is found on the upper right of your Gmail page)

2. Click on the "Accounts and Import tab"

3. Go down to "Check mail using POP3" (Skip the oh-so-easy "Import Mail and Contacts" at the top unless you are wanting to switch over completely to Gmail and leave it that way. See Note above.)

You can import your contacts separately by using the import button and dialogue in the Contacts area of Gmail. Contacts is on the left of your Gmail page, under your labels, and the Import button is in the upper right of the Contacts page, beside Export and Print.


Adding Another Email Account to Gmail

1. Click "Add POP3 email account"

2. Enter the email address you want to integrate in the "Email Address" field of the resulting pop up

and click "Next Step"

3. Enter your Username and Password (for the account you are adding) in the fields provided

4. In the "POP Server" field, Gmail will attempt to add the default information for major webmail accounts like Hotmail, AOL, and Yahoo! — if you want to connect to another POP3 provider (such as your own domain's email account) replace the default with your server's email information (contact your webmaster if needed)

5. Enter your server's Port information if it is different from the default

6. If you wish to have a duplicate of the email for reference, select "Leave a copy of retrieved message on the server"

7. Click "Add Account"

If you select "Leave a copy of retrieved message on the server", you will need to log in to the originating email account periodically to clear space before your account reaches its server-imposed limits. It is also a good idea to log into Hotmail/Live accounts at least once per month to avoid your account being closed by Microsoft.


Organizing Your Imported Emails

1. Select "Label incoming messages" and either leave the default or create a custom label so you always know where the email has come from and can access all emails from that account with one click

2. Click "Add Account"

You can use the coloured box to the left of your Labels (in the sidebar of your main Gmail window) to assign a specific colour to your label to make it easier to spot emails from your integrated account. For further customization options, visit the "Labels" tab in Settings.


Sending Email (from Gmail) as if You Were Using Your Newly Integrated Account

1. The next page in the "Add Account" dialogue will say "Your mail account has been added." and ask you if you want to be able to send email as if from the newly imported address — select "Yes" and click "Next Step"

2. Enter your name, as you would like it to appear to others when you send email from this account (you can also select a different reply-to address, but this is not recommended for consistency in communication) — click "Next Step"

3. On the next screen you can decide how to send mail from this account: Your options are to send through Gmail (which can leave a "via" message in some mail clients like Outlook, depending on the user's settings), or to send through your server's SMTP settings. I suggest using "Send through Gmail" as it is infinitely easier to set up and will allow for saving server bandwidth, if you are limited or pay for that service (the only reason to not do this is if you are concerned about Gmail's privacy policies or do not want users to ever know that your company uses Gmail over your own email servers).

4. Click Next Step

To Use Your Server's SMTP Settings:

  • Enter your server's SMTP information (contact your webmaster if needed) as well as your outgoing email's username and password (these are likely the same as your incoming, though some servers will have a separate login for outgoing email as a security measure). Select "Always use a secure connection (SSL) when sending mail" and then click Add Account.
  • Click "Send Verification" (do not close pop up!)
  • Check your original email account or wait for the message to be imported to Gmail
  • Open the Gmail Confirmation email when it arrives and copy the Verification Code
  • Paste the Verification code in the Gmail popup field and click "Verify"
  • The account will appear in your "Check mail using POP3" area of your "Accounts and Import" tab in Gmail settings (it will check every hour, approximately, but you can go here and click "check mail now" if you are waiting for something — you can also view history and how many mails were fetched)

5. Emails will appear in your regular Gmail inbox under the label you chose

6. Replies will automatically be sent via the IMPORTED EMAIL ADDRESS, but that can be changed before sending, if you so choose, by clicking "change" beside the "From" field of your outgoing email

7. You can also send new emails from this address by selecting the email address from the "From" dropdown menu in a new email message


The above will provide a relatively painless way to keep all of your emails organized in one place, with about 7 gigs of storage. It also provides a good way to back up important emails and attachments as well as easily search for those hard to find messages. If you are importing several email accounts, make sure that your labels are consistent and easy for you to remember and navigate. Also, keep an eye on your spam folder after you integrate. If emails are ending up in there that shouldn't head into the "Filters" tab in Settings and set up a new filter that states "Never send it to Spam". Good filters can also help with organization as they can be intimately connected to Labels. More information on setting up Filters in Gmail can be found here and here (you can also download and import filters created by others directly to Gmail: a good resource for this is this article from Lifehacker).


How do you use Gmail? How do you feel about using it as your main email hub?

Bobby Travis

Bobby isn't 40-something, but is a strong supporter of the Grown-up Geek kind. He's a loving husband and father first, but is also a freelance writer, productivity nut, operatically trained singer, and (not-so) closet geek. Check out his random thoughts, wackiness, and Instagram pics on Tumblr, Twitter, or Google+-- or just head over to


  1. Great stuff. I wish the free version of Yahoo mail had POP3 access. I use my old Yahoo account for incoming “bacon” email, and it would be nice to have Gmail pull that in. I do have about 3 or 4 accounts coming into Gmail right now.

    I also use Gmail via Goolge Apps. There is a whole process to go through if you have your own domain, where you can point nameservers to Google Apps, which will get rid of the whole “via” stuff, but that might be an article for another day. :)

    • I haven’t been a fan of Google Apps since they cut back the free version’s features and made it nearly impossible to sign up for and maintain (especially with the pointing of nameservers). I also had no idea there even -was- a paid version of Yahoo mail… people pay for email? Really…? O.o

      Merging all of my email accounts into Gmail, was the best thing I ever did for productivity and general email management. Hotmail was an annoyance for a while, but they finally brought back POP3 access, making my single inbox complete. I still log in to Hotmail periodically though, as I tend to use it for my junk account and crank the spam settings. :D

  2. Hey, great article. I set this up for the several email accts I’m using.

    One complaint though. Have you noticed a delay in POP mail delivery? For example. I’ll log into one of my accts that is forwarding mail and it will have unread email waiting to be sent. Then, it won’t get sent to my One Inbox To Rule til maybe an hour later.

    Yes, this is great for training other folks that I don’t reply immediately to emails. However, I wasn’t expecting this kind of delay.

    You notice this at all with your setup?

    • Hi David,

      Yeah, the downfall of POP3 checking is that it checks about once per hour. If you are waiting for something though, you can go into your settings area and to your list of POP3 accounts and click check now.

      Hope that helps!

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  4. How come Gmail doesn’t ask me if I want to be able to send email as if from the newly imported address when the newly added address is another Gmail account (i.e., consolidating multiple gmail accounts into one inbox)?

  5. I’m afraid I was not clear on the nature of my problem. I am wondering if I can send outgoing email through the server for the other account. That way, the full message header would not contain a different email address than the one listed in the “From” field (which can lead to the message getting flagged as spam, right?).

    • From my experience, when you send a message as if you are sending from another account, the from field is the account that you specified. There are some email clients that will say from “ via” — most notably outlook, and yes this can hit spam filters — but, overall, it seems to work fine.

      I don’t have a fix for the ones that don’t work, though, especially when using gmail accounts, as they are all on the gmail servers and you cannot specify the alternate account’s outgoing server.

      Hope that helps!

  6. Any ideas on how to get old email in Outlook into Gmail? Have recently set up POP mail and Gmail is not pulling in any new email but is pulling any new email to hit the old Outlook account. Really trying to back up all the old Outlook/Bellsouth/Pst files in Gmail to have an online copy and all in one place.Using a really old version of Outlook – 2002. Any help appreciated. Have already tried setting up an IMAP account and could never get it to work with GMail and Outlook. Had planned to set it up then just drag my old mail from Outlook into the new IMAP inbox, but kept getting an immediate error message that it timed out.

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