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.

Update on my RSS setup after 2 months

photo credit:  Wiertz Sébastien

photo credit: Wiertz Sébastien

After Google Reader was discontinued, I wrote an article describing what my RSS setup was detailing the services and apps I had chosen to replace it.

In summary, what I did was use Feed Wrangler as the sync service and their own apps for iPhone and iPad to read my feeds. As soon as Reeder for iPhone added support, I switched back and all was good. Except for one little problem that I mentioned in the article. With Google Reader, I had an IFTTT recipe that sent me an email with every starred item. Turns out, I really, really missed having that.

I tried a few workarounds using Feed Wrangler, but nothing worked as well as my previous set up.

In a moment of frustration, I went searching IFTTT to see what I could use and found that Feedly has really good integration with IFTTT and is also supported by Reeder for iPhone. I recreated my old recipe, imported my feed list, logged in with Reeder, and found it all worked smoothly.

I now have pretty much my old setup back. I still need Reeder for iPad and Mac to add support for Feedly.

Still, I don't have much faith in the long term viability of this setup given that Feedly is free. At some point they'll need to start making money somehow and I have a feeling it'll most likely be by either pushing advertising to me or selling my data. Think about it. Imagine the kind of intel they have about us just by tracking our RSS behaviour. Between what we subscribe to, what we actually read, what we share, and what we mark as favourite, they have a pretty detailed idea about us. Neither of these ways of monetising sound good to me.

That is precisely why I went with Feed Wrangler in the first place. And I still think it's the best service. If only Feed Wrangler worked with IFTTT (yes, I get the irony that IFTTT is free as well). That would be awesome. I'd switch back in a second.

Google shutting down Google Reader (and other bits) ➦

Google just announced they're shutting down Google Reader, the RSS service that so many of us use. I can't say I'm surprised, but I'm surely not happy about it. I still use RSS more than anything else to get my news via the excellent Reeder for iPhone and Reeder for iPad.

Maybe in the long run this will be a good thing. Silvio Rizzi (developer of Reeder) is probably (hopefully) thinking about an alternative, as well as most developers of RSS apps. This will foster innovation. I expect great things to come.

Unfortunately, right now I can't think of a good alternative.

Different people get different search results

The topic of SEO came up in a conversation recently, as it tends to do when a bunch of people that work in digital marketing (or anything Internet related, really) get together. As expected, everybody has a different idea and everyone thinks they know what they’re talking about.1

Amongst the crowd were several people that work at agencies and a few that work on client side. A couple of them were in marketing. It’s remarkable how different the views of each group are.

Most of those that worked at client side understood the importance of being found when a customer is searching for your products or services. After all, that’s one of the key objectives of marketing. Searching Google, Bing or Yahoo just happens to be what most people today do to find what they’re after.

One of them had gotten SEO shops to come in and pitch for business. She remembered them saying SEO was both “an art and a science” and that they could guarantee first page results in Google. Most said the exact same thing.

The problem is that she never really understood or felt comfortable with the pitch. In fact, everyone that worked client side said they just didn’t get it and were often embarrassed to admit to it in a work environment.

I appreciate their feeling. Search is geeky and way too boring for most people.

I told them my view was that trying to trick the search engines was foolish. They change their algorithms often to avoid this, and different people get different results anyway.

It’s part of what Eli Pariser calls the Filter Bubble2. Basically, search engines track your behaviour online and create a profile of you. They know what you’ve searched for3 in the past and what links you’ve clicked on, and they use that to personalise your results in the future. When searching in Google, the results you see will be tailored to you and will likely be different than what someone else gets.

Check out Eli Pariser’s TED talk on the subject. You’ll be amazed. And possibly horrified.4

When it comes to SEO, I believe your customers should be your first priority. Start by understanding what they’re after and providing that content on your site. Write the stuff your customers would want and you’re most of the way there. After all, as Matt Legend Gemmell said, “Good SEO is a by-product of not being a dick on the internet.”


  1. I don’t pretend to be an expert, but I also don’t bullshit clients. ↩

  2. I highly recommend this book if you’re interested in this. Check out Eli Pariser’s TED talk for a taste. ↩

  3. Log in to your Google account, then go to https://www.google.com/history ↩

  4. It’s not just search engines that are tracking your every move online. Advertisers do it also and some are very sophisticated. ↩