Email. Love it or hate it, it is needed. Whether personal or business, it can quite literally take over your life!
So, it’s critical to have a good solution, and John Connolly has kindly written about his recommendation to change to Google Apps. If you are considering going this route, then this is essential reading. ( I’ve now gone down this route – Jon).
I was a MobileMe user up until about eighteen months ago. I used it for syncing calendar entries, addresses and email between my iPhone, Desktop and Laptop. Largely, it all worked pretty well, though there were a few things that I thought felt dated. The major issue however, was that every few months something ‘weird’ would happen… Appointments I thought I’d entered disappeared, contact data seemed not to correspond between machines, and other spurious errors occurred. After the initial panic surrounding whether I’d missed meetings came the tortious process of working out which device had the most recent data. This was followed by a process of resetting sync data on devices that were outdated… Something had to change.
On top of this I also had a few niggles that I hoped could be addressed. I needed reliable calendar sharing with my wife where we could each enter social data, vet appointments, family birthdays, fuel deliveries, holidays etc. The same was true for work colleagues, where we needed to share busy periods or meeting schedules. Something also needed to be done about my ever growing email account (going back to the mid 90s), which has become unfeasible to migrate every few years to a new hosting server.
The Apple apps weren’t at fault; Mail, Address Book and iCal all provide simple and elegant interfaces and I was keen to stick with them. The reliability of the service that synced all my devices was the issue and so I set about looking at alternatives. One of the main things I was keen to avoid was a manual or ‘docking & syncing’ process offered by various 3rd parties. What I was after was a seamless ‘push’ of data in a way that those in corporate/Exchange environments are accustomed to. I also wanted to avoid a web based service such as Gmail or Google Calendar as I just don’t enjoy their interfaces.
The solution I arrived at was to use Google as the infrastructure behind the Apple applications.
I now have:
• A Google Apps Account for my personal information (with various other accounts for family members)
• A Google Apps Account for my work information
• iCal, AddressBook, and Mail now sync seamlessly between my desktop and iOS devices. Information entered on any device is then instantly pushed to all other devices.
• A scalable email solution
• The ability to share calendars, invites, and meeting information with family and colleagues from any device.
• My domain names tied to the relevant Google accounts.
• Very little (if any) spam – the Google spam tools seem much better than my previous hosting package.
I’d highly recommended it. I’ve been using the set-up for over a year now and I have no complaints.
A year ago, there was very little documentation on this, however, Google have updated their documentation and it’s very comprehensive, so I’ve just collated links and added my comments.
I’m going to assume you have a Google or GoogleApps account set up and you’ve managed to link your domain names with those accounts. The Google documentation is great. I just updated my MX records for my domain, which means Google handles all my mail. Web hosting is still covered by my original hosting provider.
Setting Up The iOS Devices
If you have multiple calendars in Google Calendar, you need to choose which of your calendars appear on your phone. This is done through Safari on your iOS device.
Setting Up Mail
In addition, Google recommend the following settings:
I use Mail in a very simple way. I have an Inbox, Sentbox,and Trash – that’s all I need. Email for me is a communication tool, not a management tool, so I don’t use tags or contexts or any of the other features that Gmail supports. If it’s in my inbox it’s not dealt with. Dealing with it either means creating an Omnifocus task for it or replying.
Therefore, I turn off all the other folders for viewing in Mail – this is achieved using the IMAP folder subscriptions setting in Google Labs. Therefore, the only imap folders that appear in Mail are Inbox, Sent, All Mail and Bin.
Rather than then having a separate list of subscribed imap folders within Mail (sent, deleted etc), you really want these mapped to Mail’s main folders. This guy has a good explanation of this:
However, in my setup, I map the Mail Trash to my Google Archive. This is because I get so little spam these days that I rarely delete mail. When I need to, I just drag the message to the ‘Bin’ imap folder.
Setting Up Address Book
This is simple, just go into preferences in AddressBook and check ‘Synchronize with Google’ and enter your Account details.
Setting Up iCal
John has extensive experience of setting up specialist technology businesses and taking them from concept through to profitability. After working with a number of web start-ups and running a successful web development agency, he was one of the founders of Element Interactive, a company widely regarded as one of the UK’s leading technical DVD authoring houses.
For the last two years he’s been a director at StarGrange, developing and managing specialist technology projects across a broad range of platforms such as web applications, desktop software, broadcast media, and mobile. The majority of his time at the moment is split between acting as a Producer for mobile projects to large organisations, and as a developer for smaller iOS projects.
He also sits on the boards of a couple of tech start-ups and acts as a non-exec Technical Director for a couple of charities and is a co-founder of Hull Apps.