Using Gmail as my primary email client

Lately I’ve been using a lot of different computers, at home, at work, and at relatives’ houses. In the past, I’ve used mutt for email, because it’s simple, small, and does everything I want in an email client (PGP integration, can run on the server, and so on). However, most of the computers I’ve been using lately are Windows boxes, and while I could carry a copy of Knoppix with me everywhere I go, I don’t think that would be appreciated very much. I could run mutt in a screen session on my main server, but since I use PGP to sign all my messages, I don’t want to keep my private key on a remote server. Other than that small hitch, though, running mutt in a remote screen session is practically the perfect solution.

For the last three months, I’ve been using Portable Thunderbird, which is a copy of thunderbird with Enigmail that runs from a USB stick (thanks to Mike for getting me to try it). This works well, for the most part, and all I need to do to have my email and PGP available all the time is carry my USB stick. However, even that has become a little too difficult to work with: with mutt, I was limited to *nix boxes, but with this solution I’m limited to Windows boxes, and to be honest, I don’t want any limitations.

This problem was brought to a head for me when I forgot my USB drive on Monday, and was effectively unable to check my mail for the day. Those of you who live and die by email will understand that I was in an ugly predicament: What do I do? I was able to read my mail, of course (my server still has mutt on it), but I wasn’t comfortable sending mail because my PGP key was on my USB drive.

I thought about Bloglines, and how convenient it is that it’s web-based. I’ve been using Bloglines religiously for a long time now, and it has changed the way I use the web, and that’s when I realized that maybe I should consider using a web-based mail client. I’ve had a Gmail account for a long time, and have played wih it a little, but not enough to get really comfortable with it.

So what I’m wondering is: How many (if any) of you have been using Gmail for day-to-day mail? Does it work for you? If I use Gmail, then I’ll have to abandon my practice of PGP-signing my mail, but I wonder if that’s even worth it.

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6 comments so far

  1. Carlos on

    Hey Darren, I’ve been using Gmail as my main address for quite some time now. It works just fine for me. Once you’ve got the proper filters set up, it’s a very good system for email.

  2. Ken on

    Darryl,

    I’ve been using Gmail for many months now, though I rarely use the web interface. I POP my stuff off and read it in Mail.app (OS X). However, I think the interface is fairly brilliant, and the spam filtering is really great. Once a day I do use the Gmail interface to purge my spam folder. I also SMTP my outgoing mail through Gmail, so I’m still able to search my mail history in their interface (though Mail.app’s search is generally sufficient for me). I stopped signing my messages a long while back (as I’m sure you noticed). While I thought that was cool and all, I think I only ever really did it because I was trying to imitate you (I think you’re generally much smarter than me, so I often try to do whatever you’re doing). All in all, I think it’s a very good way to do email. I was able to keep up with my email on my vacation by using a web browser. Very nice, if nerdy.

    ky

  3. Darren on

    @Ken:

    My main interest in using Gmail is the web interface, since I’ve gotten sick of carrying my client around with me. From what I’ve seen the spam filtering is acceptable, but I don’t really get all that much spam anyway (I’m fairly careful about where my email addresses end up).

    I stopped signing my messages a long while back (as I’m sure you noticed). While I thought that was cool and all, I think I only ever really did it because I was trying to imitate you (I think you’re generally much smarter than me, so I often try to do whatever you’re doing).

    There’s no need to make fun of me…

  4. Darren on

    @Carlos:

    Once you’ve got the proper filters set up, it’s a very good system for email.

    Filters are one of the features that I thought I’d use in Thunderbird, but I never did, really. I made a lot of use of labels, but found them limiting since you can only have five of them (who thought that was a good idea?). In the past, I’ve always used procmail to sort my mail, which is a lot more flexible than Gmail’s filters, but I’ll adapt. The biggest limitation with the filters appears to be that you can’t use regexes in them.

  5. Darren's Notebook on

    My Gmail experiment

    Not too long ago, I decided to experiment with using Gmail as my main mail client. It went fairly well; Gmail is definitely usable, and reliable. However, I found that I had many of the same problems that I had the previous few months, when I was usin…

  6. […] under: web, gmail, mutt — Darren @ 8:27 pm Not too long ago, I decided to experiment with using Gmail as my main mail client. It went fairly well; Gmail is definitely usable, and reliable. However, I found that I had many of […]


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