Did you know that you can use Gmail as a spam filter? Among Gmail’s many wonderful features, one of the most useful is the incredible spam filtering. I’ve not come across any spam filtering solution that’s as efficient as Gmail’s and there are a number of ways you can take advantage of this free service without having to change your current email address!
Gmail has the ability for you to “connect” any existing email address that you have and send and receive email using the Gmail system, but with those addresses. So if I’ve got the address email@example.com then once that address is set up in my Gmail account, I can send and receive email using that address. The recipient will see the message as from firstname.lastname@example.org and not my Gmail address, and when they reply to me it will go back to email@example.com. But Gmail will be spam-filtering it for me on the way.
I am a heavy Gmail user. I have about 15 different addresses that I all run through Gmail. I can send and receive from any of them and using Gmail keeps my mail all together in one place while being able to use the amazing features Gmail provides. My wife, on the other hand, is a one email address kind of lady. She’s had the same address for years, and doesn’t like change. She uses Mail.app on Mac OSX and when I tried to get her to consider using the Gmail web interface, it didn’t fly. So, thanks to Gmail’s coolness I was able to still set her up with a way to use Gmail’s spam filtering but also keep using her email in Mail.app as she always has. In fact, I’m not certain that she even knows that she’s actually sending through Gmail.
Here are step-by-step instructions for having Gmail act as your spam filter for all of your email:
1. Get a Gmail Account
To make all this happen you’ve got to have a Gmail account. At this time I think it’s still an invite based system so you’ll need someone to invite you in. But each Gmail user has at least 100 invites, so this shouldn’t be a problem. In fact, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll send you an invite.
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2. Forward your existing email address to your new Gmail email address.
Gmail does allow you to actually connect directly to a POP email account, but I prefer simply forwarding my mail to my Gmail account. This gives me the benefit of having a backup in the original accounts. If you’re not sure how to do this, check with the host of your existing email account as to how to forward email.
3. Tell Gmail you want to use Gmail to send from the original email address.
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In the Settings section within Gmail, there’s an Accounts tab. In here I can tell Gmail that I want to send mail using email@example.com. I add this account in and Gmail will send an email to that address to verify that you do have access to that account. Once you get that email and click the link, you’re all set up to send and receive email from your old address using Gmail.
4. Keep using your old email program
If you’re like my wife and want to keep using an email program to check and send mail, then all you need to do is change the mail server settings in your mail program to now pull mail from your Gmail account (remember that all of your email is now going to your Gmail account). In the Settings tab in Gmail there’s a section called POP. Enable POP, then click the Configuration Instructions link to see exactly how to set up your particular email program to access your Gmail account.
You’re all done! You don’t have to do step four unless you’re just tied to your email program and want to have local copies of your email. You lose some of the nifty Gmail features that way, but you do get to use the most important one – spam filtering.
So now my wife still sits down at our Mac Mini (but this also works for Windows computers) and she sends and receives email using Mail.app, but she’s got no idea that behind the scenes Gmail is scrubbing her mail clean of spam.
[This article contributed by Bryan McCullough]
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