In This Issue:

In this month's edition of the FileCenter Newsletter, read about:

FileCenter & Web Mail »

Solution #1: Third Party Tools »

Solution #2: Thunderbird/Outlook »

FileCenter & Web Mail

This month we take on an issue that users raise over and over: how to integrate FileCenter with web mail services like Gmail, specifically for sending files with FileCenter's Email button. We'll talk in terms of Gmail since it is far and away the most popular web mail service, but the same principles also apply to many of the others.

First, let's understand the problem. When you send a file from FileCenter, FileCenter actually hands the file off to Windows. Stripping away the technical jargon, here's how the exchange plays out:

FileCenter: Hey Windows, I need to email a file. Here it is.

Windows: Ok. I'll take it from here.

Windows (talking to itself): Let's see ... what program is supposed to handle email? Looks like it's Outlook. I'll launch Outlook then pass the request over to them ...

Windows (to Outlook): I have a file here that needs to be emailed.

Outlook: Ok. I just created a new message window with your file attached.

The Key Elements

For this exchange to work, there are a couple of elements have to be in place:

First, your email program has to be installed on your computer so that Windows can launch it and hand it a file.

Second, your email program has to register itself with Windows. In other words, it has to tell Windows it wants to handle all email requests.

Why Gmail Doesn't Work

Web mail programs like Gmail fail these criteria. They aren't installed on your computer. To the contrary, they run in a web browser. In other words, they're just web pages. As a result, they can't register themselves with Windows, and Windows can't auto-launch them, much less hand off files to them.

There is a Way

We've explained the problem. Happily, there are solutions. The first involves installing a helper program that can handle all of the interactions with Windows, then pass them along to Gmail. The second involves accessing Gmail via a regular email client, like Outlook or Thunderbird.

Solution #1: Third Party Tools

The simplest solution is to get a helper program. These are little utilities that run on your computer. They handle all interactions with Windows, then pass them along to Gmail. So when you click the Email button in FileCenter, it will pop open to GMail. Actually, these utilities go even further than that. They can notify you when you have new mail, pop up alarms from your Google Calendar, and just about anything else you'd expect a desktop email/calendar program to do.

The two main competitors in this arena are Affixa and Gmail Notifier Pro. They're both commercial apps, but dirt cheap.

Solution #2: Thunderbird/Outlook

The second method is to use a regular email program, like Outlook or Thunderbird, to interface with Gmail. This gives you the best of both worlds: you have an email program installed on your computer, which means FileCenter can now email files, but you also have your web mail.

We actually give Thunderbird the nod here. It's got a very, very tight integration with Gmail. And it's free. The instructions below are for Thunderbird. If you prefer Outlook, do a Google search for "outlook gmail imap setup".

The Secret Sauce: IMAP

The key to making this work is something called IMAP. IMAP makes it so Thunderbird simply acts as a window into your Gmail. It doesn't pull messages out of Gmail, like email programs used to do. Instead, it simply mirrors your Gmail. All of your messages and folders are visible in both places. Any change you make in Thunderbird is instantly reflected in Gmail and vice versa.

To turn on IMAP, do this in Gmail: Go to the button with a cog icon (upper right-hand side) and select Settings. Next select Forwarding and POP/IMAP at the top of the settings screen. Under IMAP Access, select Enable IMAP. Click Save Changes at the bottom.

Set Up Thunderbird

Now to set up Thunderbird. First download it here: http://www.mozilla.org/en-US/thunderbird/

Run the installation and accept the defaults.

Thunderbird should open when you're done. If it doesn't, go ahead and launch it.

When Thunderbird opens, it will ask if you want to import any settings or mail folders. Select Don't Import Anything then Next.

Next it will ask if you want a new email address. Click Skip This and Use My Existing Email.

Now for the account setup. You'll see a screen where you can enter your name, email address, and password. Put in your full Gmail address (e.g. bob@gmail.com) and Gmail password. Then click Continue. Thunderbird should find your Gmail server settings automatically and select IMAP (remote folders) as the access method. Click Done.

Now you'll be in the main interface and you'll see your Gmail account on the left. Click on Inbox. Thunderbird will fill up with all of your Gmail folders and messages.

Advantages to Using Thunderbird

There are a couple of good reasons to use Thunderbird with Gmail besides the obvious one (the ability to send files from FileCenter). The first is message threading. In Gmail, messages are always threaded (or grouped together). Sometimes you don't want them threaded. Thunderbird gives you the option of seeing them threaded or as individual messages.

Another benefit is identities. You can set up multiple return email addresses, and choose which one you want to use for any given email.

Another one is signatures. You can set up nicely formatted signatures for your email messages. And if you have multiple identities, each can have its own signature.

The last benefit is add-ons. There are hundreds of feature enhancements available for Thunderbird. Look for them under the Tools menu > Add-ons.

There are a couple of add-ons you might want to install from the start. Go to the Tools menu > Add-ons and search for Google Calendar Tab. This add-on gives you a tab that shows your Google calendar. Another one to search for is Google Contacts to automatically bring your Gmail contact list into Thunderbird.

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