I want to be able to check email from multiple devices—I have a home computer, a work computer, and a smart phone, and need the email kept in sync on all those devices. If I delete an email on my phone, I’d love it if it was also deleted on my computers. Even more importantly, if I read an email on my computer, it should appear as read on all the other devices. This really isn’t working for me. Any suggestions?
This is a common problem, and one that we’ve all battled over the years. With the proliferation of mobile devices (Ken uses two computers, a phone, and an iPad daily, and checks email on them all), things just get more and more complicated. Assuming that you’re using a public email provider (like Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo, or Outlook.com), you’re in luck, but getting this configured correctly might take a little effort—the solution is different for each email provider, and for each different email client. If you’re just reading email in a browser, none of these issues apply—you get synchronized email for free. But if you’re using an email client, like Outlook or Mac Mail, then you do need to set up the configuration correctly.
A little background first (and there are some abbreviations coming—watch out!): All the current Web-based email providers support two distinct protocols for retrieving email. The older protocol, POP3, is simpler, but doesn’t support retrieving email on multiple devices well—it wasn’t devised to handle complex synchronizing between multiple clients. The more modern protocol, IMAP, is meant exactly for the kind of synchronicity you desire.
If things aren’t working the way you’d like, most likely, you’ve set up your email clients to use POP3 to retrieve email. To solve the problem, you’ll need to revise your email client’s settings so you are using IMAP. Each Web mail provider supplies Help content to make it easy for you to set things up correctly, depending on the email client. For example, Google provides the following page for Gmail users: http://goo.gl/lKpgfa. Yahoo provides this page: http://goo.gl/xMsnfP. If you’re using Outlook, you’ll find this page very helpful, as it provides information about most major Web-based email providers: http://www.howto-outlook.com/howto/accountsettings.htm. We didn’t cover all the options here, so your best bet is to search the Web for “<Your Email Host> IMAP settings <Your email client>”, as in: “Gmail IMAP Settings Mac Mail”. You’ll easily find the information you need to configure your mail client for IMAP.
Although POP3 still works, we heartily recommend using IMAP for all email clients and all Web mail providers. The flexibility and synchronization features definitely make it worth the time it takes to change existing configurations.