OS X Mavericks Mail and Gmail

Mail and gmail[Update, November 7, 2013: Apple has released an update for Mail that sounds like it fixes a lot of problems. Open the App Store and click the Updates button to get it.]

In the last 24 hours I’ve heard from several friends complaining about problems with the Mail application under OS X Mavericks not playing well with Gmail. Joe Kissell wrote an extensive article about the problems at TidBITS (Mail in Mavericks Changes the Gmail Equation) and also detailed at Macworld why he’s dropping Gmail entirely (Why (and how) I’m saying goodbye to Gmail). If you’re having issues, those are required reading right now.

The problem is that Gmail isn’t a standard IMAP client; IMAP is the protocol that enables your computer or other device to synchronize messages (and whether they’re read or unread) with the mail server. It’s surprising that Apple either didn’t pick up on these issues while Mavericks was in testing or chose not to do anything about it (yet?).

I didn’t get hit by this problem because I have an unusual email arrangement. A few years ago after an email provider of mine went offline for several days, I set my email up like this:

  1. Email to necoffee.com (my domain) first goes to Gmail as a catch-all archive and backup. It also provides a first line of spam filtering. Gmail is free.
  2. Gmail automatically forwards everything that isn’t spam to my account at Fastmail.fm. Fastmail is a paid service, but I’m paying only about $40 per year, so it’s no great hardship. I also get another layer of spam filtering. (I get a lot of spam.)
  3. The Mail application on my Mac connects to Fastmail on a regular basis and updates its status: new messages, which ones are read or not, etc. My iPhone and iPad also connect to Fastmail, so no matter where I am I’m seeing the most up-to-date version of my messages.
  4. I also have Mail set up with rules that perform certain actions, like automatically filing some messages and highlighting messages from important people (like my editors). I also use SpamSieve as an additional layer of spam filtering.

I have to occasionally scan my spam mailboxes to make sure something important didn’t get caught in the net, but for the most part this arrangement works well. Since Gmail has a giant amount of storage available, I treat it as a big backup for searching for messages that didn’t get through.

I can’t say that this arrangement is helpful for everyone, but it’s worked well for me.

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