Google Mail – Recent Mode

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.

9 thoughts on “Google Mail – Recent Mode

  1. What you have outlined above is correct and is very useful to a lot of people if they knew about it.

    I set up the scenario in example 2 that you have described for a friend of mine. The problem I am having is that Gmail is moving the “read mail” into the trash folder. I want to keep all mail obviously as an online backup. You have suggested forwarding to another gmail account as a possible solution here. You also state: [Make sure you select “leave message on server,” if you don’t want to lose your archived mail from the last 30 days.]

    Can you just clarify that you mean to select this option in Outlook(mail client) rather than in Gmail’s settings? It is not totally clear from what you have posted which settings you are referring to but I expect it is the offline mail client settings and not the online webmail settings?

  2. I set up the scenario in example 2 that you have described for a friend of mine. The problem I am having is that Gmail is moving the “read mail” into the trash folder. I want to keep all mail obviously as an online backup. You have suggested forwarding to another gmail account as a possible solution here. You also state: [Make sure you select “leave message on server,” if you don’t want to lose your archived mail from the last 30 days.]

    Basically, if you want to set things up as Example 2 (with “leave message on server” unchecked in outlook) you have to do an auto-forward to another account to maintain an online archive. It is the only way. My suggestion of turning back on “leave message on server” is telling you to revert back to Example 1 (where both client receive all email).

    Can you just clarify that you mean to select this option in Outlook(mail client) rather than in Gmail’s settings? It is not totally clear from what you have posted which settings you are referring to but I expect it is the offline mail client settings and not the online webmail settings?

    “leave message on server” is always done on the client side.

    hope this helps.

  3. I seem to experience a similar problem and wonder if you can help. I have configured a POP download of my gmail to my laptop, and now I would like to set up a POP download to my desktop and it just doesn’t work. I follow step -by- step all the config settings yet, outlook continued to return an error message which said, “The specified server was found, but there was no response from the server. Please verify that the port and SSL information is correct.” I don’t know what’s wrong and wonder if anyone can help….

  4. i have a different problem with gmail and recent mode… when using recent mode my e-mails fail to send from a mail client… the receiving of e-mails on multiple clients works fine with MS Outlook 2007…

  5. Dear All,
    Now im using outlook with recent mode and everything seems to be fine EXCEPT,
    i want to download my OLDER emails than 30 days old but they dont wanna be retrived even when i cancelled the recent mode.
    Please help:)

    • you probably have 2 options here:

      1. use IMAP in outlook, and copy all your mail out.
      2. disable and then re-enable pop access in your gmail settings, make sure to choose “Enable POP for all mail (even mail that’s already been downloaded)”. Make sure you do the initial download without recent mode. Once all you email beyond 30 days has been downloaded, then configure outlook to use recent mode. Hope this make sense.

  6. Hi
    Please someone respond to Kenan’s question.
    I have the same problem:
    Outlook 2007 stops sending mails once recent mode is enabled.
    What is the solution???
    Thanks

    • Kenan and Omid,

      As far as the server is concern recent mode does not effect mail sending; send and receive are 2 operations. Without being at your computer to troubleshoot, I believe you have configured your Outlook to use the same ID/PW for both send and receive. Since recent mode is a function of receiving, the sending side probably doesn’t like it. Under “More Settings” > “Outgoing Server” Tab, you should NOT use “Use same setting as my incoming mail server.” You should enter the normal ID/PW, rather than the recent mode ones. Hope this helps.

  7. I’ve been waiting for Google to come out with a feature that allows multiple mail clients to download the same email from Gmail, but recent mode does not appear to be the solution I was looking for.

    My issue is when I setup my local mail client to recent mode, each time I check mail (send/receive) the mail client retrieves duplicate emails. Normally, after a mail client initially retrieves an email via POP3 subsequent attempts do not create duplicates.

    This is definitely undesirable and I don’t want to set my mail client to remove mail from server after the mail arrives, because I want to keep an archive of the mail and I suspect other mail clients won’t be able to download mail that has been removed, right?

    Any suggestions?

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