Using Microsoft Outlook With Google Apps

Why You Might Want to Abandon Outlook

Microsoft Outlook is a very good email client and will work fine with Google Apps Gmail; however, Gmail's own web-based client offers some advantages:

  1. Labels for Email: If you have used subfolders with your Outlook Inbox to organize your messages, you can use Gmail's labels feature to accomplish the same purpose—with one big difference: an Outlook email can only be placed within one folder; a Gmail message can have multiple labels attached to it. That provides you with additional flexibility in organizing your emails.
  2. Google Search Technology for Your Messages: The Gmail interface incorporates a search field near the top of the screen. If you are searching for emails containing a particular phrase or word, enter the phrase or word in the search box and click the Search Mail button. You can also search the entire web with the same feature. Just click Search Web instead of Search Mail.
  3. Stacked Conversations: A typical email conversation goes like this: someone sends you a message. You reply. They reply back. You reply to their reply and so on. Gmail displays those kinds of email exchanges as a single conversation.
  4. Tight Integration With Your Google Contacts: Need to review recent emails you have exchanged with one of your Gmail contacts? Click the "View recent conversations" link on the contact's info screen.
  5. Chat With Your Contacts: Gmail has a built-in chat feature that lets you chat with your contacts if they are online and have set their status to available.

Google also has a team of programmers who are working to add additional useful features to Gmail through what Google calls Gmail labs. Here is a page describing some of those labs.

If you like Outlook, feel free to keep using it. We are going to continue to support it along with Google Apps, but I encourage you to at least explore the Gmail interface, if only to experience the creativity and innovation that Google is putting into its user interface.

By Terry Hawthorne

Microsoft Outlook is the Smyth County School Board's standard email, contacts, and scheduling client. It will work as a client for a number of different email systems, including Gmail, the email system used by Google Apps.

Configuring Outlook to Work as a Google Apps Gmail Client

Google has published detailed instructions for configuring both Outlook 2003 and Outlook 2007 to work as a Gmail client. These instructions will work as written, with the following changes:

IMAP vs. POP3

The Microsoft Outlook account you are currently using to access your scsb.org email account is a POP3 account. POP3 means Post Office Protocol Version 3. When Outlook connects to a POP3 account, it takes the mail from a mail server and stores it on your computer's hard drive. The mail is no longer stored on the mail server. Google Apps supports POP3 accounts, but it is more efficient to use IMAP to access your Google mail account. IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol) accounts leave the messages on the mail server. That enables you to access your mailbox from any Internet-connected computer and see the same messages. Messages remain on the Google mail server until you explicitly delete them. You can also access IMAP mailboxes from any Internet-connected device, such as a smartphone or an iPad.

Note: These instructions do not require any special technical knowledge. If you are currently using Outlook, you should be able to make the changes yourself; if you are uncomfortable following these instructions, please ask your school's ITRT (Instructional Technology Resource Teacher) or IT Department technician for assistance.

After you make these changes, email from your Google Apps account will appear in Outlook. It will also remain on the Google mail servers, where you can access it from any Internet-connected device (computers, smartphones, iPads, etc.). The reason your Google mail remains on the Google servers is that the preceding procedures set up your Google account in Outlook as an IMAP account, instead of a POP3 account. See the sidebar for an explanation of the difference between POP3 and IMAP.

Setting Gmail as Outlook's Default Account

After you add your Gmail account to Outlook, you will have two email accounts configured in Outlook, as illustrated below:

  1. A POP3 account that accesses your username@scsb.org account stored on mail2.scsb.org, the School Board's existing email server.
  2. An IMAP account that accesses your username@scsb.org account stored on Google's email servers.

Screenshot of Microsoft Outlook showing POP3 and Google IMAP accounts.

With this setup, you can use Outlook to access all of the email you have received and sent through your mail2.scsb.org POP3 account, as well as all the new email you will receive and send through your Gmail account. If you have used Outlook for calendaring, contacts, and memos, all of that information will remain in place.

The only additional change you will need to make is to set your GMail account as your default Outlook account, sometime before I complete the switch to Gmail on Friday, Oct. 15, 2010. Your default Outlook account is the account that Outlook uses to send outgoing messages. Here is how to make your Gmail account your default Outlook account.

  1. Open Outlook.
  2. Select Tools->E-mail Accounts&hellip
  3. Click the View or change existing e-mail accounts radio button in the Outlook E-mail Accounts dialog box, then click the Next button.
  4. Click your Gmail account (probably named imap.gmail.com) to select it, then click the Set as Default button. (See the E-mail Accounts screenshot below.)
  5. Click Finish to make your Gmail account your default account.

Screenshot of Microsoft Outlook email accounts dialog box.

How to Find Incoming Messages

Once you have two Outlook accounts set up with the same email address—username@scsb.org—how does Outlook determine which Inbox should receive your messages? It depends on which email server receives those messages. Right now, our DNS (Domain Name Service) records list our internal email server (mail2.scsb.org) as the mail exchanger for messages sent to scsb.org. That means that outside mail servers will route all messages addressed to username@scsb.org to mail2.scsb.org. Those messages will show up in your old (POP3) Inbox. On Friday, Oct. 15, I will change our DNS records to point to Google's email servers. Because DNS is a distributed database, that change will take several hours to propagate throughout the Internet, but by Sunday evening, Oct. 17, all mail addressed to username@scsb.org should be routed through Google mail servers and will show up in your new Gmail Inbox. I am going to keep the old mail2.scsb.org mail server running, so we won't lose any messages during the transition.