How To Merge All Of Your Inboxes Into One

Who is this for? Anyone looking for step-by-step directions for merging all of your email inboxes into a single Gmail account.

As promised, I’m going to walk you through the initial setup and tools I use to manage a single inbox.

The Service

A Google Apps for Business account serves as the backbone of my email setup. This costs $50 for a single email address. The account offers 30GB of storage, the search cannot be beat and—if you’re a fan of their interface—the keyboard shortcuts are fantastic. It also makes it easy to setup and maintain a one inbox approach.

The Setup

Step 1. Select a primary email address. First things first, choose an email address you plan on having for a very long time. Don’t worry if you need to make a change down the road, though. It takes some effort, but if you ever find that you need to move from one primary account to another, you can always use a service like Backupify’s Migrator for Google Apps to move your data from one Google Apps account to another.

Step 2. Start forwarding alternate email accounts. You should begin forwarding messages into this primary account. This process will vary by email provider. If you’re using an alternate Gmail account, you can do this by clicking on the gear icon in Gmail, clicking on Settings and then clicking on the Forwarding and Pop/IMAP tab. Click on Add a forwarding address and add your primary email account.

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You will need to confirm that you own this address by email. Once you receive this verification, click on the link to confirm that you own the account. Now you will be able to set Forward a copy of incoming mail to your primary inbox. You should also decide what you would like to do with the emails in this account. I would suggest archiving messages rather than deleting them in case you ever decide to go back to separate email accounts.

Step 3. Setup your additional Send Mail As addresses. Next you need to setup proper reply-to email addresses for every account you own (these are also known as domain aliases). This ensures that, when using Gmail, a message will respond from the correct account (or whatever account you specify). Go into the settings panel in your primary Gmail account. You can do this by going to your inbox, clicking on the gear and then selecting Settings. Once you’re in the settings go to Accounts to make sure that When replying to a message: is set to Reply from the same address the message was sent to and then select Add another email address you own.

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Enter your address and leave Treat as an alias checked. You can Specify a different “reply-to” address if needed, otherwise an email will reply from the email address it was sent from when using the Gmail interface.

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You will be asked to verify each email address. If you’ve already setup the forwarding, these messages should arrive in your primary inbox.

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Enter the verification code and you’re good to go.

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Step 4. Add some labels (optional). While not necessary, I’ve found that the strategic use of labels can be helpful, especially since I have several email accounts. All work related emails (which accounts for over half of my email addresses) get the same label. This allows me to filter out all work only messages. I don’t use this all that often, but it’s a valuable tool on the days where I cannot even consider checking personal messages when processing my inbox. To do this, go back to the Settings menu, select Filters and click Create a new filter.

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Include the email addresses you would like to apply a label to in the To field. You can do this for a single email address or create a filter for multiple addresses by placing OR between each email address (i.e. Work@Email.com OR OtherWork@Email.com OR YetAnotherWork@Email.com).

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Once you’ve added your email addresses click on Create filter with this search. Last but not least, click on Apply the label and select your label (or create a new one). Once you create the filter, all messages received from this account (or accounts) will automatically include the correct label when it arrives in your inbox.

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The Apps

Not all applications honor these domain aliases (including the built in mail applications on OS X and iOS), so be sure to confirm that your email application of choice honors these settings. My preferred apps are Mailplane on the Mac and Mailbox on iOS.

Mailplane essentially wraps the Gmail web interface into its own application, so there are no additional settings required.

Mailbox just added Gmail domain aliases in a recent update. Click on settings, select your email account and choose Gmail Aliases. From there you’ll have to add each address manually. You only have to do this once as your aliases will sync across the Mailbox app on various devices. Be sure to test that all of your domain aliases are working properly. For some reason, I had to completely close the application and reopen it to get things working. Excluding this one hiccup, I haven’t had a single issue since.

The Day-To-Day Use

Once this is all set, there will be no more checking multiple inboxes and no more worrying if you replied from the correct address. You’ll want to be careful when creating new messages as most email applications default to your primary account, but all of your responses are handled perfectly. The setup takes some time and effort, but it makes juggling far too many email accounts far easier.

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