Gmail makes a rockin’ spam filter

I love the Gmail user experience (in FireFox) but as a complete email solution it’s sorely lacking in one area: mobile access. A little background…

I need one view of my mailbox both online, offline and on my smartphone. That means I can’t have multiple copies of my email laying around on different devices or in different environments. More importantly, it means that I need to have the ability to completely manage my inbox, no matter what the access method. This way, I don’t have to perform any additional management of my inbox when I return to my computer.

I also need offline access to my email. I need to be able to read and respond to email when I’m flying and there’s no way to do that without a net connection. (Although this may change in the future.)

Yes, I could use POP3 to retrieve my email before I get on a plane, but Gmail pushes down every message in a “conversation”, not just new received mail. That’s just a pain in the a**.

On my smartphone (currently a Treo 700p or Motorola Q), Gmail Mobile isn’t an option as it requires a live net connection to the server in order to function, just like Gmail proper.

After using Gmail for about two months, I decided it was time to give it up and go back to IMAP access, but the one thing I didn’t want to give up was Gmail’s excellent spam filtering.

But I don’t have to.

I forward all my email from my hosting provider to Gmail. Gmail removes the bazillion spam messages I get every day, then forwards my purified mail stream to my IMAP account. While it doesn’t catch everything, it works a lot better than my SpamAssassin installation ever did.

How To Use Gmail as a Spam Filter:

Step 1: Forward email to Gmail

Step 2: Forward email from Gmail to an IMAP account

Step 3: Retrieve email as usual, via IMAP. Use a desktop client, webmail client, smartphone or SSH shell.

Step 4 (Optional): Periodically check the Spam folder in your Gmail account to ensure that it didn’t capture any false positives. I check mine a couple of times a day.

UPDATE: I forgot to mention another important benefit of doing this: with almost 3 GB of storage in Gmail (and growing), you automatically have a searchable index of all your mail.

4 thoughts on “Gmail makes a rockin’ spam filter”

  1. In a recent post you said that you used Microsoft Exchange for your work emails. Does this mean you have found a way to forward your emails from Exchange to Gmail?We have just switched over to Microsoft Exchange at the university where I work and would love to be able to do that for my work emails.


  2. Good question.My company uses Exchange, but in this post I was referring to my personal email. (It’s all the same to me, but I keep them in separate mailboxes.) Sorry for the confusion.You can forward mail from Exchange to Gmail, but it will require an administrator to set it up.That said, I’m not sure how this practice might effect things like shared calendars, free/busy status and meeting requests.-jf.


  3. I’ve had the same results with every POP3 client I’ve tried, unfortunately.The problem is not with the client, but the server – in this case, Gmail.BTW – I highly recommend Chatteremail over Snappermail.-jf.


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