September 15, 2009, 9:00 AM — by James Gaskin -- Do you like Gmail, but also like Outlook 2003 or 2007? Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook helps users who love their Microsoft Outlook e-mail client keep using that client when they switch to Google's Gmail service from a Microsoft Exchange e-mail server. Entire companies can switch completely or just a few users can switch. This gives the users their same familiar front end connecting to a new back end that relies on Google rather than Exchange servers.
Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook may be a plug-in with a simple two-click setup and migration utility, but there are still some tricks to learn. Chris Vander Mey, Senior Product Manager at Google, offers these insider tips:
- Migrating calendars and contacts happens quickly, and you can use those features almost immediately after you start the migration. Synching e-mails takes time, depending on how overstuffed the client Outlook folders are, and how large the PST file. The client software can be rolled out automatically to clients via SMS or other service, but a person must start the process and provide account details.
- Google doesn't delete the PST file, but can control it for the user. Set a max PST file size of 1, 2, 4 gigabytes, or unlimited, and Google software will control PST growth. Mey suggests using 1GB for speed and 4GB only if you have a fast machine. When the PST file size limits are reached, Google deletes the oldest messages after verifying they've been synced on Gmail. This software comes from Google, not Microsoft.
- While Outlook 2007 with Windows Instant Search is much better than before, "Google" has become slang for "Search" and they win. Since many users continue to rely on e-mail as their Repository of All Knowledge, Google sync gives a second option for storage and searching.
- Switching from folders to labels for e-mail takes some getting used to. Remember that a message can only be in one folder, but can have multiple labels. Outlook folders are converted to labels in Gmail. The maximum number of folder path characters that can be recreated with labels is 200. Folder structures that drill down like oil wells will need to be reworked before synchronizing.
- Folders and labels stay synched. Create a folder, a label appears, and vice versa. Items created offline are synched when connected, so laptop lovers can keep working in the airplane and sync later.
- Deleted e-mails go into the deleted folder in Outlook, but into the archive folder in Gmail. Google creates an Archived folder you can drag Outlook messages into and the message on Gmail will move automatically.
- The most common mistake users make during the synching process is populating Google contacts and calendar events before synching. When synched, e-mails are de-duplicated, but not contact and calendar events.
- Gmail supports attachments of up to 25MB, much larger than most. Outlook users will get the benefits of the larger attachment size, depending on their Exchange server settings. Plan ahead and move big attachments via Gmail.
Most requested upgrade for Google Sync? Task synchronization. Now that Gmail's Task List has moved from Google Labs to general use, that may be the next new feature. Google says the Gmail Task List is used more often than the one in Calendar.
Note: Google Apps Premiere customers can use Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook at any time as part of their Premiere package.