Google Mail – Recent Mode
July 26, 2007
There is a little-documented way of accessing Google’s email service using the POP protocol (both for Gmail and Google Hosted Apps). It’s called recent mode. To use it, append recent: to your login ID.
Normally, Google breaks the POP3 protocol. When you access email the regular way, “leave message on server” is ignored (this is the option that can be set in almost all pop3 email client, e.g. Outlook)…
I spent hours trying to get “leave message on server” to work on my boss’ Treo (Versamail). I thought there was a bug in the email client. Then I realize this is the “default” behavior for Google mail. After one client accesses it via POP, the same message will no longer be downloaded via any other POP access (even if from another client). This has 2 side affects:
First, the good side affect, your email is archived on the web interface. Which is great, since you can use it as an archive and search thousands of emails quickly. There is also a degree of synchronization between your sent folders on your local client: email send via the web is downloaded to your local client, and email send via the local client is saved on the web.
Second, the bad side affect (as I found out the hard way), you cannot access your email via another client (e.g. mobile phone) without screwing up your primary client. In another words, once your mobile phone accessed the email, your Outlook on your desktop will not download that again.
Here is where recent mode comes in:
Recent mode basically restores the POP3 protocol. If you use recent mode, you are accessing your email just like any other POP3 account. If you tell it to leave on the server, it will; if you don’t, the message will be move to the trash folder. The only caveat is that you can only access email that is from the last 30 days. Meaning, you have to check your mail at least once a month.
Finally, since in recent mode, you are downloading all emails in the last 30 days, you will end up downloading your send mail as well. Meaning, if you send a email via Outlook, when you download it, that same email will come through again.
Here are 2 examples of how you can set things up:
Example 1: Setup Outlook (assuming this is your primary client) in recent mode and turn on “leave message on the server” in Outlook. Set up your mobile phone (assuming this is your secondary client) the “normal” way. Both your phone and your Outlook will always get all messages.
Example 2: Setup Outlook in recent mode, but don’t turn on “leave message on the server.” Setup your mobile phone the normal way. So, when you are away from your desk, your mobile phone will download any mail that you get while you are away (and only those). When you return, Outlook will download those emails again. However, every time you download via your Outlook, those messages will be move to trash on the Google server. Many people were in for a big surprise when they first turn on recent mode, all their email in the last 30 days were gone from the Web interface (they got move to the trash folder). This is the normal behavior of a POP3 account. Make sure you select “leave message on server,” if you don’t want to lose your archived mail from the last 30 days (follow example 1). To maintain a online archive, you have to create another account and auto-forward every email there.
**I would advice against using recent mode on your mobile device. Since, when you first turn it on, it will download all emails within the last 30 days. Which for some people it is in the hundreds (if not thousands).
So, basically recent mode makes your Google mail work just like any other POP3 account that you get from your ISP or web host.