Handling Multiple Email Addresses with Gmail and iOS

When I started adopting Getting Things Done and Inbox Zero, I decided to consolidate my numerous email accounts. For a few, this meant wrapping them up or forwarding them along, never to think of the account again. For others, like my personal and work email, as well as various customer service and sales email accounts that I monitor, it meant that I needed to find a way to receive everything in one inbox, while sending my replies back from the proper account.

One Email Account To Rule Them All

Now Gmail makes this easy, I have all of my messages from various accounts forward to one unified account and then I set a “Send mail as:” address for each of my accounts (you can do this by going to the Accounts tab in Settings). All of my messages come in to a single inbox, but the replies seem as if they come from the original account with no extra work on my end (after the initial setup, that is). I was even able to set up a filter that automatically labels the emails (for example all of the various customer emails share a “Customer Service” label), while I rarely use this, it occasionally comes in handy.

Overcoming iOS

When I was on my home or work computer, everything worked perfectly, however iOS was a challenge. Since Apple does not allow for domain masking or have a comparable feature to “Send mail as:” in Gmail, I found that I was using my iPhone and iPad as more of a triage device for knocking out spam or sending messages than a place to power through my email and respond to messages when I had time. It was a limitation that eventually led me on the arduous journey of Googling my problem. A bit of Google-Fu later and I landed on James Smith’s post on “making multiple ‘From’ email addresses on iOS my bitch without adding extra accounts” (his title, not mine) which combines the “Send Mail As:” functionality in Gmail with Nick Cernis’ very thorough walk through on handling multiple email addresses in iOS without adding multiple email accounts. Once I added Nick’s trick to my “Send Mail As:” aliases, the same email magic in had on my Mac was available on both my iPhone and iPad.

While iOS is still not the email powerhouse I’d like it to be (FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY APPLE, LET ME USE TEXTEXPANDER ALREADY), I can now comfortably bang out many of my email replies without worrying or wondering if I responded from the correct account.

It’s Not For Everyone…

For many, having all of their email messages coming through one account will mean overload. For me, it means one place I need to check and nowhere that I overlook. It means a single email inbox to process rather than several. It also means that I only need to search one place when looking for a specific message. This setup occasionally causes me to send newly composed messages from my default account, but I see this as a small price to pay for the overall convenience.

While its certainly not for everyone, this approach has helped me to think less about my email accounts and more about my email messages. It gives me less places to worry about and less places to look for things. And now, with the help of Nick and James, it ensures that when I hit the reply button, my message comes from the right place, no matter which device I use.

Related Side Note: If you were previously using this trick or just use the imap.gmail.com method to get your mail and have been having problems connecting since upgrading to iOS6, you’re not alone. All you need to do to fix this is to completely remove and re-add the account. I was worried there for a second today that I wouldn’t be able to use this trick anymore… thankfully, it’s just a bug that comes when you upgrade to the latest iOS.

  • Ed

    The trouble with Gmail’s “Send mail as:”, at least for me, is that some systems still show the alias and original send address (my work Lotus Notes station for example). I’ve never been able to work out how to get around this…

    • http://michaelschechter.me/ MSchechter

      I haven’t heard about this… I hope the issue is limited to Lotus Notes.

    • http://twitter.com/smithjw James Smith

      I’ve found that the way that set it up, outlined in the linked article above, solves this issues. I don’t have access to Lotus Notes so can’t test with it, but everything else seems to only show the address/alias that it was sent from and not the master account.

  • Pingback: Solving Multiple Email, GMail and iOS Problem | Sam Harrelson

  • The Mindful Bit

    One other caveat when using IMAP mail configuration instead of the native Gmail functionality on iOS:

    You lose the ability to Archive rather than Delete when using the swipe in list view or the icon in the bottom toolbar.

    This could be a bigger deal for some than others (you’ve still got the ability to archive using the normal folder function) but it’s important to keep in mind.

    Thanks for the great article.

    • http://michaelschechter.me/ MSchechter

      Very fair callout. It hasn’t proven to be devastating to me. As you said, you can just move the messages in bulk into the archive folder.

    • http://twitter.com/smithjw James Smith

      You can solve this by navigating to your email setting on iOS, then Advanced, and select where deleted messages go. In my case, the All Mail folder. :)

  • Nichole Talbot

    …I still don’t get e-mail…

  • gschloff55

    I just want my incoming email to go under the proper label as it comes in. I don’t want email from all my accounts going into one inbox, this is making me crazy.