Sometime in 2006 I started using Gmail.  I had been an ardent Outlook user until that point for two reasons: I knew the product and all the mail was kept in one PST file that could be easily moved around without worrying about losing everything.  The benefits of easy access anywhere, anytime swayed me to Gmail but I still liked the folder storage of Outlook: it was how I was used to storing and finding my emails.

Since I owned my domain and managed everything myself I set my email up to automatically forward all emails to my Gmail account and kept my POP mail account going with Outlook.  After a while I found Gmail did an excellent job of spam detection and switched my setup to retrieving my email from Gmail via their POP server.  When Gmail made labels drag and drop I was able to organize my email in a structure so similar to Outlook’s folders I was ready to rely solely on Gmail.  My email setup changed again when I decided not to install Office on my main machine so I had one PC running Outlook and everywhere else I accessed Gmail from a browser.

Why keep Outlook running at all?  I wanted access to all my old emails from 1998-2006, pre Gmail.  There’s been a lot of noise about Google Apps letting you import old email but I didn’t want to go that route.  Every time I came back to it over the years it seemed like Google was not going to let me bring my old emails into Gmail.  Google searches said the date structure would be stripped from copied emails so I left it alone.

Last week I decided to try to manually copy my emails over.  I added Gmail as an IMAP provider in Outlook 2003 after enabling IMAP in Gmail.  I dragged one message from 1998 over from my Outlook personal folder over to an IMAP folder at Gmail, then logged into Gmail from a browser.  The email was there and all it’s settings were preserved including sent date and time.  The only issue was that by dragging the email it was moving it instead of copying it.  I then copied an entire folder’s contents from my Outlook personal folder to an IMAP Gmail folder and checked it via a browser: again everything was as it should be.  The process seemed to take a long time but I was copying hundreds of emails at a time.

The only issue I encountered was checking the folders on my iPhone: it’s showing the copied emails as the latest 200 messages, even though they’re all prior to 2006.  I’m playing around with it but no resolution yet; it’s a minor issue and something I can live with for now.

After twelve years I’m free from Outlook and every other email program.  Since my email now exists in the cloud I’m looking at Gmail backup utilities…