Moving from Outlook (Exchange) to eM Client (Google)

For the last 14 years I’ve used Microsoft Outlook to manage my life. Last week, with some trepidation I moved to Google (Gmail, calendar, and contacts) and something else for tasks (I’ve not quite settled on it, although Todoist is currently a very strong contender). I thought it may be useful for others in a similar situation to document my experience.

Over the years I have used Microsoft Outlook 2000, 2003, 2007, and most recently 2010. I have synchronised it with various Psion handheld computers, with Windows Mobile, and I’ve used it for the last four years with a hosted instance of Microsoft Exchange 2010 from the excellent, UK-based Simply Mail Solutions.

ActiveSync kept sinking

I moved to Exchange in 2010 mainly because I was having issues synchronising my Windows Mobile phone via ActiveSync with two PCs: home and work (below). Synchronisation didn’t always work successfully and I had no end of problems: duplicated, missing or deleted content. Enough was enough, so I looked at the options.

Workflow for using ActiveSync with two instances of Outlook
Workflow for using ActiveSync with two instances of Outlook. I found this caused all sorts of problems when using the phone as the ‘golden copy’.

Move to Exchange

At that point, in 2010, I considered moving to Gmail but Windows Mobile 6 didn’t support Google data particularly well and I had no real need to share my data with anyone else but myself. My main concern was synchronising data between devices not between people.

So I research the options and in the end I moved to an Exchange 2010 account rented from Simply Mail Solutions. It cost me around £70 per year, plus my domain name. But I felt that cost was worth the expense when set against lost time and frustration due to synchronisation failures.

Synchronisation with Exchange Server 2010
Synchronisation with Exchange Server 2010

With this model everything was synchronising with the Exchange server in the cloud. It was fast, it was efficient, and I never once had an issue with duplicated or missing content. I could add a task on my phone during my walk to work and when I got to the office it was already there on my PC. It felt like magic.

When I moved away from Windows Phone a few years ago and bought a Google Nexus 4 it had support for Exchange under its “Corporate” account settings. So, again, there was no need to move. If it ain’t broke…

Why move to Google, then?

What has changed recently though is that now I do need to share my data with (my wife) Jane. To add another user to Exchange was going to be expensive and unnecessarily complex, particularly when you factor in which domain names we use and that Jane was already using Google mail. The logical conclusion was for me to move to Google.

eM Client for mail, calendar and contacts

One of my hesitations about moving lock, stock and barrel to Google was that I’m not particularly fond of the standard Gmail or Google Contacts interface; Google Calendar is okay; Google Tasks is terrible.

As I said, I’ve used Outlook for a long time. It’s become very familiar and some of the workflow processes have depended on features exclusive to Outlook. I would need to find something else, as Outlook’s support for Google doesn’t extend much beyond IMAP support for Gmail. If you want to synchronise your Google Calendar with Outlook you can forget it: it’s a clunky business at best, and impossible at worst.

Calendar view in eM Client, showing different colours for shared calendars
Calendar view in eM Client, showing different colours for shared calendars

Someone I follow on Twitter mentioned eM Client which claims to be the best email client for Windows. I gave it a go, trialled it alongside Outlook for just a week and decided that although it lacks a few features that I really like about Outlook this was perfect for my needs. I will write a more complete review of eM Client in a later post.

Something else for tasks

Like Outlook I like that everything is together: email, calendar and contacts. I decided not to use the tasks as support for Google Tasks isn’t great even on Android.

For a week I trialled Wunderlist, which is one of Lifehacker‘s favourite to do apps. I’d tried it before but after a week I still wasn’t convinced: I wanted to use their Windows 7 client but it simply wouldn’t synchronise with the Android app, plus the Android widget was clunky. So I gave up.

Todoist—simple and clean-looking task application
Todoist—simple and clean-looking task application

That’s when I stumbled on Todoist, which I really like. The Android app is clean and simple, the Windows app just works, it synchronises really quickly, and the widget is perfect for my needs—it does what I need, and works the way that I want it to.

I expect that I will stick with Todoist for the near future.

How to move from Outlook to Google

Moving from Exchange to Google was fairly straight forward: mildly complex but not complicated. Here’s what I did:

  1. Synchronise Outlook calendar and contacts data with Google using demo version of Sync2. It allowed me to copy all my data from Exchange to Google Calendar and Contacts with no restrictions.
  2. Add Gmail account to Outlook as an IMAP email account, then copy (or move) emails from Exchange/Outlook account to Gmail.
  3. With everything moved over and essentially backed-up to Google, change MX records in my domain name DNS. Basically, this tells all email to go to my web hosting company (Heart Internet) rather than my Exchange server (hosted by Simply Mail Solutions). The DNS took about 4-6 hours to update.
  4. Create a forward for my email address so that it all gets passed on to Gmail. I did this within my Heart Internet control panel.
  5. Install eM Client and add my Google account. All my data, email, calendar, and contacts is then synchronised with eM Client.

The nervous bit was waiting for the DNS to update, as you need to set the MX (mail) records correctly otherwise it doesn’t work. But as soon as my [email protected] emails started trickling into my Gmail account I knew that everything was fine.

What now?

So far I’ve been using this set up for a couple of weeks and I’m really appreciating having only one place to check email; I’m loving that Jane and I can see each other’s calendars so easily.

I think this is going to work. I wish I’d discovered eM Client and Todoist before now.

The sentences approach to email

E-mail takes too long to respond to, resulting in continuous inbox overflow for those who receive a lot of it.
E-mail takes too long to respond to, resulting in continuous inbox overflow for those who receive a lot of it.

I often wonder how much time I’ve spent writing and responding to emails over the years. Perhaps five.sentenc.es may have a solution to reducing the amount of time spent in my inbox.

I got my very first email address in 1997 when I started my MTh in Ministry at the University of Edinburgh. It was [email protected]. Other than my fellow students, most of whom I saw on a day-to-day basis at New College, I only knew about four or five other people who had email back then.

Over the last few years I’ve made a concerted effort to reduce how much email I receive. I’ve unsubscribed from all but the essential email newsletters (and even then I could reduce things further, or move those to a different email account) and I now have a folder called “Action” in Outlook/Exchange where I store the emails that I need to reply to.

I quite like this ‘… sentences’ approach to writing emails, however. It offers four options:

According to these sites, the problem is that “email takes too long to respond to, resulting in continuous inbox overflow for those who receive a lot of it.”

Their solution: “treat all email responses like SMS text messages, using a set number of letters per response. Since it’s too hard to count letters, we count sentences instead.”

It’s certainly an interesting solution. I’m sure there are some situations where it won’t work, where you simply need to write more, where telephone or face-to-face conversations are not convenient (which may be a better forums for lengthier discussions).

I’m going to give this a go for the next month or so and see how I get on. Choose your weapon: two, three, four or five sentences.

Post Express Delivery email is malware spam!

I received this email this afternoon:

Post Express Delivery. Package is available for pickup. NR 67433

Hello.

Post notification No.17134

The company could not deliver your package to your address. Your package has been returned to the Post Express office. The reason of the return is “Incorrect delivery address of the package”

Please attention!

Attached to the letter mailing label contains the details of the package delivery. Please print out the invoice copy attached and collect the package at our office

Thank you for attention.
Post Express Service.

Now, I am waiting for a parcel to be delivered. It should contain a wall clock for the bathroom as we had a nice one with a bird on it that is now on the wall in Reuben and Joshua’s bedroom. So, I have to be honest and say that I was tempted to open it.

But then I read the email again and these were the things that concerned me:

  1. “Hello.” Not “Hello Gareth”, just “Hello”.
  2. Who are “Post Express”? Never heard of them.
  3. The reason of the return is “Incorrect delivery address of the package”, but seemingly they managed to guess my correct email address, despite my delivery address being freely available in the BT Phone Book but my email address not…?!
  4. “Please attention!” — that certainly grabbed my attention. Not the most professional use of the English language I’ve ever received.
  5. “Attach to…” — oh, look! an attachment. A zip attachment, which if I were to open I’m pretty certain Symantec Norton AntiVirus 2011 would inform me contains a virus, or trojan, or other such malware software.

I just deleted the email.

I the lonely girl

This is, without a doubt, one of the best emails that I’ve ever received.  Even if it is spam.

Hello!!

I looked your structure, and you have very strongly interested me, I want to know you closer, and probably we become friends or more.

I the lonely girl, I search for the man and I think, that you very much approach me also I want, that you would write to me on mine address of e-mail: [email protected]

I shall be very glad to see your letter when, I shall receive your letter, I shall answer your message and I shall send you very good and beautiful photos, I think, that it very much to like you.

I shall tell to you a lot of interesting about me, I think, that very much to like you my stories about me, and I shall speak you only the truth, I not when do not deceive people.

I do not want you to ask, that you would answer me because I have no men and I very strongly miss on man’s caress and I search worthy for the man for me and it seems to me, that you worthy for me, and I want you to know closer.

I shall look forward to hearing from you, and you should not forget, that I every day shall look forward to hearing from you.

Yours and for ever Irina.