Recent Mode in Google Apps

Recently faced a dilemma when some of our corporate email was shifted to the Google Standard Edition thereby excluding the need for a local server.

The Google Apps platform is  robust system that offers the same functionality as the internationally popular Gmail platform. As a matter of fact the standard edition is Gmail using your own domain name. So instead of a Gmail  address you can get and 49 more email addresses hosted by Gmail for $10 a year...

It's pretty easy to setup and I figured that's why many small businesses would switch to it.

However, it comes with it's own caveats. One of which is that Google utilises a non standard POP, IMAP and SMTP system that can break the simplest tasks. And that their support sucks so good luck with getting any help. Fortunately the community is massive and a good search can get the right results.

Unfortunately for me I went through 50 odd sites since yesterday and came up zilch on a solution. There's is no single site that could give me a solution to my problem.

My dilemma
If a user has multiple POP clients to access one email account all he has to do is set the "leave messages on the server" option in the clients. Both clients download the same copies of the email.

Now say you have a mobile device, an iPhone, which you use to check your mail on the go and reply minimally only to act on the task. It does not delete any email from the Google server. Your primary POP client is Outlook on your desktop where all the received mail is also downloaded. After downloading it is finally deleted from the Google server. Either one client is used at any point of time.

On Google mail, this is not possible, directly. Once the iPhone checks the mail, it marks it as 'read' and Outlook does not see any new mail and will not download anything. This is'nt normal behavior on a standard POP server. What crap is Google selling, huh?

So as a workaround, Google has a feature called 'Recent Mode" that activates an overload modifier on the POP account. Recent mode fetches the last 30 days of mail, regardless of whether it's been sent to another POP client already. Unfortunately, it also retrieves a copy of all the mail that you sent out i.e. replies, forwards. Standard behavior, Google says. So, eventually when you reply to someone's mail, you will get a copy of that reply in your POP client. This is great. You can archive your mail - again. Since Outlook already stores that for you :P

Solution 1: Outlook can be set to filter our these emails to trash so that they do not bother anyone.

Problem: But what do you to for the iPhone? No filters there.

Solution 2: So instead lets block these mails in the Google web interface. Create a rule that any mail coming from yourself to yourself should be blocked. Cool.

Problem: But what if you want to CC/BCC yourself from your iPhone when replying to someone? These get blocked as well.

So why not use IMAP?
Google's IMAP has it's own set of problems. When you client deletes an email it sends it to its own Deleted Items folder. Google does not see this and requires you to drag the file instead to the its own IMAPed Trash folder. Imagine breaking a habit that you've cultivated for over a decade of email use. Also syncing in IMAP is a major pain in the butt.

After quite a few tries and some inspiration from Gina Trapani at LifeHacker, this is the solution to the problem at hand.

Important: This is to be activated only if you're using 'Recent" mode.

Create a rule in the Google Web Interface with the following details:

Action: Delete It

What this does is deletes any email that is sent from you to anyone else that comes to your inbox (essentially fooling Google to ignore the return replies)

Why is this safe to use?
Logically mails sent by you using a POP client should not appear in Google's Web Sent Mail folder since POP is ignored for Sent items.

There it is. Documented and easy to find... Till Google does something to break this functionality. Good luck and happy POPing.