Best way to manage multiple Gmail or Google Apps email accounts

Having multiple Gmail or Google Apps email accounts can be hard to manage. So it was kind of exciting when Google announced their multiple sign-in option a couple weeks ago. However, I was quickly disappointed when I realized you can’t be signed into more than a few (I think 3) accounts at once. Besides, it was still annoying to have to switch back and forth between the accounts.

I found a better solution for managing multiple Gmail / Google Apps emails, which has these benefits:

  • A single, unified inbox to view all your emails in one place
  • Separate reply/from addresses for each each email
  • Separate signatures for each email
  • Easiest cross-platform support for multiple computers or mobile devices (in other words you don’t have to set up all your email addresses on each machine)
  • The ability to search all your emails from all your accounts at once

So I have 9 Google Apps emails addresses and 1 main Gmail address. I wanted a way to view all my emails in a single, unified inbox, but still retain all the separate features (like different from addresses, and signatures) for each email.

I was using Thunderbird 3.1 for the past couple months and it got the job done. But it was a pain to set up all 10 emails on each machine separately (especially if each email has different signatures, etc).

I’m not sure if Google made some updates in the past months or what, but everything works beautifully now (because I’m pretty sure I tried this in the past and it didn’t work back then).

Anyway, the solution is to forward all your accounts to a single, primary Gmail or Google Apps account. I chose to use my personal Gmail account and forward my 9 other email addresses I use for business.

So here are the steps:

  1. Sign in to the Gmail account you want to use as the “primary” account.
  2. Open a different browser and sign into one of your other email accounts.
  3. Now, go to the Settings > Forwarding and POP/IMAP tab of the other account, and click on the Add a forwarding address button.
  4. In the popup window that appears, enter the email address of the primary account you want to use. (It will send a verification email, so switch back to yourprimary account and accept it.)
  5. After you’ve verified the forward address, go back to the Settings > Forwarding and POP/IMAP tab of the other account and click the dropdown next to Forward a copy of incoming mail to. Your primary account should appear in the dropdown, so select it. (Also, I prefer to set the other dropdown to “keep Gmail’s copy in the inbox”, but it doesn’t really matter).

Now all the email sent to the other account will show up in your primary account. The next step is “impersonate” each of your other accounts, so that the emails you send out of your primary account still look like they’re coming from each of your other accounts.

  1. Back in your primary account, go to the Settings > Accounts and Import tab. Then, click on Send mail from another address button.
  2. A popup should appear, then enter the the email address of the other account you just forwarded. In the “Name” field, enter the name you want your recipients to see. So if this is a company email, then enter the name of your company, etc. (Also, you can ignore the link that says “Specify a different reply-to address”)
  3. Click Next Step and then it will ask you to verify the email address. So click Send Verification and verify the email.
  4. Finally, back on the Settings > Accounts and Import page, make sure the Reply from the same address the message was sent to option is selected.

Repeat the steps from the previous two sections for each of your other email accounts.

So now, you’ll receive all your emails in your single, primary account. But the beautiful part is that you can send emails from each of your other accounts. In fact, when you reply to messages they will automatically be sent from the email address the message was sent to.

And to set different signatures for each of your accounts, just go to the Settings > General tab and scroll down to the Signature section.

If you want to add some final touches, here’s how you can label your emails to keep things organized.

  1. Up next to the search bar, click Create a filter.
  2. In the To field, enter the email address of one of your other accounts. For more than one email address, use the “OR” operator (e.g. you could enter “ OR” without the quotes).
  3. Click Next Step and select Apply a Label. This part is kind of up to you, but I chose to create a label for each of my different companies/organizations.
  4. Repeat these steps for each label you want to create.

So now you have a single, unified way to access all your email from anywhere. If you use an iPhone, it may be worth to check this out too.

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