Mail in Mavericks with Gmail

Apple Mail in Mavericks with Google Gmail

The launch of Mac OS X 10.9 "Mavericks" brought with it significant changes to the way Apple Mail integrates with Google's Gmail service. Unfortunately, these changes were unexpected and initially not documented anywhere, so it took a lot of people by surprise, including myself.

The most comprehensive account of the situation I've read is by Joe Kissell over at TidBits. It's a good read if you manage your email through Apple Mail in Mavericks with Gmail.

I won't go into the details, as most of what you need to know is in Joe's article (there's good info in the comments as well). However, I will go through my personal case and maybe it'll help some of you in a similar situation.

First things first. I have a Google Apps for Business account that I got back when it was free for a certain number of users. At some point, Google removed this option and today you can only get the premium version, but they did grandfather those of us who'd signed up before the change.

I've been using this account for years with a personal domain and have set up email accounts for several family members that are not technically savvy. Just thinking about changing anything that might affect them seems like more trouble than it's worth. At least for now, I'd rather leave it as is.

Personally, I manage all my email with Apple Mail in the Mac and the built in apps in iOS. Prior to Mavericks, making Gmail work with Mail required you to go into Gmail settings and prevent the "All Mail" label from showing up in IMAP.

Mavericks changed that and it now tries to interpret Google's weird way of integrating with IMAP. When I first installed Mavericks and went to my emails it all seemed normal. Until I deleted a few emails from my inbox. Every time I opened Mail again those deleted emails reappeared. It was frustrating.

I spent some time testing different things until eventually I re-enabled All Mail, effectively reversing the pre-Mavericks "fix".

As I expected, Mail started to download thousands of emails. Normally, I would've stopped it and tried something else, but it was late at night and I decided to just leave it overnight and check what had happened in the morning.

By the morning Mail had finished doing its thing and everything seemed to work well again. I've been running it like this for 2 weeks and it's stable and everything syncs as expected.

So that solved my particular problem. But a few caveats though:

  1. I only use that specific account for light personal email. There are only 6,546 emails in All Mail.
  2. I rarely save attachments in emails. I download what I want to keep and file it away and delete the email. I'm using less than 800MB out of the 16GB in the account.
  3. I have never used Gmail labels or any other Gmail specific feature.
  4. I don't use folders in Apple Mail with the Gmail account.
  5. I never use Gmail from the web interface. It's always through Apple Mail on both Mac and iOS.

This means I'm perfectly happy keeping a copy of every single email in my Mac and the labels/folders issues don't affect me. If you're a heavy Gmail user this might not be an option for you. Enabling the All Mail label in IMAP means that Apple Mail (and any other normal IMAP email client) will download everything locally.

But if you use Gmail similar to me, try turning on All Mail (The Mac Observer has a quick how-to), letting it do it's thing until it finishes, and test if it meets your expectations. I'm happy with the way it works now.