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How to Get All Your Mail Accounts into Gmail, With No POP3 Delay


Several months ago, we wrote about how to use Gmail to check your various email accounts from across the web, so that you have one single inbox to check.  That post contained handy tips on how to get other mail into Gmail, how to organize it, and how to send messages from within Gmail as if you were using the external account.  To get other mail into Gmail, that procedure used POP3 to periodically pull mail from those accounts.

One flaw in Gmail is that you can't specify how frequently your account will pull down that mail.  Gmail determines this frequency based on how often it discovers mail in those accounts when it checks.  Lifehacker recently had a tip on how to increase that frequency.  But what if you want to eliminate the delay entirely?

If you have the right kind of account, then eliminating the delay is easy.  The trick is to not use POP3 at all from within your main Gmail account.  Instead, forward mail from your old account into your main Gmail account.  All of the other tricks for using your Gmail account as your main account will still work.  Here are a few tricks to keep in mind.

Version of Gmail logo from velorowdy.


Option 1: Get All Mail From the Secondary Account

If you simply want to get all mail from the external account, check that account for a global forwarding option.  If your secondary account is also a Gmail account, that can be found under Forwarding and POP/IMAP.



Option 2: Use Filters to Get Only the Important Stuff (and to Keep Your Secondary Account Clean)

Maybe you don't want everything forwarded from your secondary account.  For example, I get various newsletters sent to my secondary Gmail account that I don't want clogging my main inbox.  Instead of using the global forwarding setting on the second account, I use a filter.  (Again, your secondary account must support filters and forwarding, like Gmail does).  This filter also keeps my secondary inbox clean, by deleting a message after it is forwarded.

To use a filter to forward almost everything, put an asterisk (*) in the "From" box in the filter settings, and then carve out the undesirable senders by putting those domain in the "doesn't have" box.  On the next screen, check "Skip the Inbox," "Mark as read", "Forward it to:" (followed by your main email address), and "Delete it."  Screenshots of my filter are below.

gmail filter 1

gmail filter 2



Highlight and Organize Your Imported Emails

We touched upon this in our prior post on using Gmail as your only inbox.  We suggested that you use Gmail's label features to label incoming mail.  I set up custom labels, based on the "To" line in the message, along with a filter for each account.  This way, you will always know, at a glance, to which account the message was originally sent.  To make this even more effective and obvious, try adding a color to the label.


Send Mail As If You Were Using the Secondary Account

Another one of our prior tips that still holds true with this method concerns how to send mail from your main account, but make it look like you are sending it from the secondary account.  Check out the prior post for detailed instructions on how to add the new account to accomplish this (check out "To Use Your Server's SMTP settings" to make it truly transparent to your mail recipients).


Once you follow these tips, email will forward, almost instantly, from your secondary account to your main account.  If you try to reply to or forward a message, Gmail will automatically send it using the address to which the message was originally sent.

Do you have any more tips for making Gmail more effective as your main email hub?