Automate Your Life Part 1: Consolidate and Synchronize Email, Contacts and Address Books

If you’re like me and you have multiple email addresses, calendars and contact lists, you’re probably looking for a way to consolidate and synchronize your data across multiple device. In the past, I used to configure multiple accounts in email clients such as Outlook or Apple Mail but this type of setup either forced me to rely on a dedicated ‘email machine’ or have me manually setup these accounts on different computers whether it be office, home or laptop. Gmail is a fantastic email client and I have recently come across some features that allow me to pipe multiple email addresses into one account, chose what email address I send a message from, and ‘label’ or categorize messages as they are received.

Types of email accounts:

  • POP3 – Old school, if you have a POP3 account setup on multiple computers and read a message on one, that same message will not show up as being read on the other computers. The same goes for sent and deleted items. There is no synergy between email clients in a POP3 setup.
  • IMAP – Solves many of the problems of POP3. Messages read on one computer show as being read on all computers. Sent / Deleted items are displayed on all email clients.
  • Exchange / ActiveSync – Includes all of the features of IMAP with the added bonus of being able to synchronize your contacts and calendar to your mobile device.

Gmail offers all three of these services, however, for my purposes Exchange with ActiveSync best serves my needs for mobile connectivity and IMAP for my desktop client. These will be the one that I discuss.

Some of the advantages of using gmail are:

  • Priority Inbox – gmail identifies which emails are important to you be analyzing messages that you have reply to most frequently.
  • Starred items – Anything messages that you need to get back to or follow up on can be starred quickly and put in a dedicated section.
  • Labels – By using filters you can label emails as the are delivered to your inbox for ‘on the fly’ organization.

I have registered my domain name, to work with google apps. Many hosting services all for this kind of configuration through ‘one click’ installs or you can set this up directly with google at You can also use the free gmail service in the same way shown below.


  1. If you haven’t already done so, sign up for a gmail account. Try to avoid underscores and numbers. A popular format is
  2. Once logged into gmail, click on the settings tab to start adding the email addresses that you’d like to send and receive from.
    1. Click on the settings link (top right hand side of your screen)
    2. Click on ‘Accounts’
    3. Click ‘Add another email address that you own’

Leave the option to ‘Send through..’ gmail, they don’t lie, it is easier to set up!

You’ll be asked to verify that you do in fact own the account that you would like to send from. You’ll receive a verification code to enter.

Once this is setup, you have the option to set which account you would like to send from by default. One area of note is that the recipient will receive message from on behalf of This is done to get around spam filters.

Now that we have taken care of how to send email we need to set up the accounts from which we receive email. There are two ways to accomplish this. My preferred method is to log in to the account in question and to forward all email from that account to your gmail account. For instance, I forward all of my MobileMe email directly to my gmail account. I can give out that address to say Facebook users and have those messages stored both in MobileMe and gmail. I have a filter setup in gmail to label all messages coming from MobileMe with a Facebook label. Forwarding is the better option because messages are received in real time.

The other option is to have gmail check for mail using POP3. Unfortunately you can’t set how often gmail checks for new mail so you might be waiting a while. You can manually force gmail to check for new messages but this goes against our ‘automate everything’ lifestyle. You may not have any other option but to use POP3 if you don’t have web access to your other email accounts. In this case, the information that you’ll need is the following:

  • Incoming mail server (ex.
  • username
  • password
  • port (usually 110)

Let me get back to my preferred method.
As you can see, I have set up the email accounts that I would like to send from, Concordia being the default. In the section below that, ‘Get mail from other accounts’ is where you would enter the POP3 information of other accounts you own. You’ll notice that mine is empty, opting to forward email from the original accounts to gmail.

Next step is to add a filter:
In the ‘To:’ field, add the email address that you would like to filter on. This means that we will apply a label to every message that is received from this address. Next, choose label and create a new one. If you already have messages received from this account check off the box allowing you to apply the filter to existing messages. Et voila, you’re done. Labels are different from folders in that you will still see all messages in your inbox but if you would like to only view messages sent to your concordia address, for example, you would click the corresponding label. You can also apply multiple labels to single messages.

Now that you have a fully operational email aggragator available anywhere in the world with an Internet connection, you may want to setup your smart phone or desktop / laptop email client to receive these email messages.

Note: Labels, priority inbox and starred items are not transferred to email clients. Also, you can only send email from your gmail account on your iPhone, I have not tried on Android yet. On the iPhone you are not given the option to send from a different address. If someone has found a way around this, I would be very interested to hear what work around they used.

Here are the settings you’ll need to configure Gmail Exchange with ActiveSync on your smart phone, this will allow you to pull all of your contacts and calendar events and synchronize between your mobile devices.

For your desktop / laptop email client you will need to use the IMAP settings, this will ensure that your sent, deleted and read items remain consistent across all devices, mobile and other.

  • Email address: You can use whichever email you’d like to send from for this setting. Unlike  the iPhone.
  • Incoming Mail Server:
  • Outgoing Mail Server:
  • Use SSL port 993

This will take care of keeping your email synchronized between all of your accounts and devices. If you would like to sync your calendar and contacts here’s how to do it on a Mac. I have yet to set this up in Windows.

You must ‘subscribe’ to your gmail calendar using CalDAV in order to synchronize it between your devices.

  • Open iCal and go to preferences
  • Under the accounts tab, click on the + sign to add a new calendar subscription
  • Replace ‘YOUREMAIL@DOMAIN.COM’ with the email address that you use to log in to Calendar. Make sure to include the ‘’ portion (which is for Gmail users) in this section. DO NOT substitute your username for ‘user’ at the end of the URL.

One item that really burns my goat is that if someone sends you an iCal invitation by email and you accept, you don’t have the option of assigning that event to your subscribed calendar. If anyone has found a way around this please let me know.

Address Book:
Address book configuration is much more simple as Apple has added a synchronization option in the preferences of the address book.

You now have  a fully synchronized, online productivity package and the greatest thing about it is that it’s all free. You are one step closer to a fully automated organized lifestyle. As with most tech related topics, there are a tone of ways to accomplish one thing. Let me know what works for you in the comments.

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