Using Gmail As Your Universal Inbox

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Hey, there!

If you haven’t heard me wax poetic about Gmail and what an advantage it is for VO talent and actors in general, we need to get more bagels and coffee together.

And one of the best options in Gmail is one that, if you have more than one email address, will make your email life far more streamlined than you might ever imagine.

Especially if your email is handled by a cable company (cox, comcast, roadrunner etc) or an ancient service (Hotmail, Juno, AOL, Prodigy, etc).

You could be missing a lot of valuable information and not even know it.

Over the years, I’ve created more than a few email addresses, going all the way back to [email protected].

Yep, that was me you were CBing with back then.

AOL, Yahoo, and Gmail, as well as email addresses that are managed by my website domains, like [email protected], all are active and still receiving messages.

And I used to use Microsoft products to manage multiple inboxes and check each one on a round robin basis. Then, Gmail came into my life, the clouds parted, the sun shone and the string section started a sweet song.

What did that?

I started to use Gmail to gather mail from all of my other accounts. And I did one thing to each account before I set Gmail to do that: I turned off the spam filtering on those other accounts, so that all accounts would be filtered by Gmail’s state-of-the-art spam traps.

To create this bit of email nirvana, here’s what you do:

  1. Click on the gear icon in the upper right hand corner of your Gmail main page. Choose Settings.
  2. Then, click on Accounts and Import on the Settings menu bar.
  3. Scroll down the page until you find the section labeled Check mail from other accounts (using POP3):
  4. Click on Add a mail account.
  5. Enter the login information for each account, and give Gmail time to go out and get your mail from those other accounts. (They’ll check every half-hour or so.)

That’s it! All messages from those old accounts will now end up in your Gmail inbox, alongside any Gmail messages you receive.

You can also use the Gmailify option with certain ISPs. Check your settings area to see if the ISP you’re trying to

I also strongly suggest that you set up a Filter in Gmail that checks the TO: address and applies a Label to messages received from each old account, so you can still see them separately if you want to. I do both, so I can go to my individual folders and see what mail’s coming in. It’s simple to do:

  1. Wait until you get a piece of mail in your Gmail inbox from one of your old accounts, open the message, then click on the More button in the icon menu bar above the email message content.
  2. Choose Filter messages like these from that drop-down More menu.
  3. In the To box of the form, type in the email address of your old account. This will tell the filter to only act on email addressed to that account. Also, remove anything in any of the other text boxes on that form.
  4. Click on the Create filter with this search link in the lower right hand corner of the form. This will take you to the second and final screen of the process.
  5. Check Skip the Inbox (Archive it) if you just want the mail from your old account to end up in its folder, or leave that unchecked if you also want messages to appear in your inbox. I suggest you have it checked, as you’ll be able to tell if there is any new mail for you very easily.
  6. Check Apply the label: and choose New label… for your old account. This will be the name of the folder that your messages from this account end up in. I made my labels in the format of “[user] on [service]”, so davidlawrence on aol, lawrence on aol, david on davids etc.
  7. Choose to either check Never send it to Spam or, better yet, if you want to use Gmail’s super-awesome spam filters (I do), leave it unchecked. Then go over to your old account’s service and turn off the spam filter there.
  8. Check Also apply filter to matching conversations.
  9. Click on Create filter. The mail messages from your old account will all be waiting for you in that folder, from now on. And when you do have new mail from that old account, the unread messages will cause the folder label to be displayed in bold letters (in the list of folders on the left hand side of your Gmail dashboard), signaling that…you’ve got mail.

And you can reply from your new Gmail account to those mails. Eventually, people will start to write to you at your Gmail address rather than the old one (or not, and it won’t matter.)

Simply gorgeous. And if you don’t have a Gmail account yet, well, we need to get more bagels and coffee together.

Hope this helps.



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  1. You can also set it up so that you can send a reply from whichever email you want without ever leaving your gmail.

    Go to:
    Settings > Accounts (4th tab from the left) > Send mail as (2nd bold heading)

    Then you can add your other emails as “aliases” and even choose a default reply email!

      1. ‘Iffy’ because Gmail sometimes includes the address youre literally sending from as well as the one you want to send from? Yah – to avoid that you have to have your settings just so but once you do, its an great feature. (Getting to ‘just so’ though – cld be a headache for some).

        Thanks again for great advice!

  2. Thank you for that suggestion, I was actually looking for a solution similar to that. But my email server only uses “imap” and gmail does not seam to offer a setting for “imap” accounts. But an alternative for me was to set my server’s email forwarding options to gmail and voila…

    Why didn’t I think of it before?

  3. I have several email addresses that I use for distinct purposes and that segregation is intended to help me manage my time better. For much of your audience, what you have laid out here is probably a great approach to email management. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Hey David, thanks for this! I only have gmail at this point so it’s a non-issue but here’s my question. Is there an easy way to control the emails and auto delete in a same way? When I used to use Hotmail, there was a great feature that asked a question like “delete after 3 days”? Or “only keep one of this type of email at a time” – stuff like that. You could click yes and it would automatically control those types of emails. I know I can set filters in Gmail but I find it quite confusing…how do you (do you) control your inboxes? Maybe that’s another post! Thanks!

  5. I just tried this with my (free) Yahoo Mail, and I get an error that Yahoo only allows POP access for Yahoo Mail Plus (read: paid) subscribers. Would you know a workaround for this?