I am in the process of switching all of my services from Yahoo to Google. I thought I’d share the experience and the things I’ve learned in case someone else is considering it.
I currently use the following services from Yahoo:
- Email- this would really be the main use. There are a lot of features I use in email:
- I have my local ISP host email forwarded into my main Yahoo email
- My main Yahoo email is the one I give out to family and friends
- Yahoo Plus – paid service ($19.99/yr) that allows me to add other emails, forward emails, have aliases, etc.
- New news – Yahoo just sent out an email stating that they no longer support the linking of email accounts.
- Junk and public email address that I give out online and use for message boards and such
- Filters – I filter junk, and business stuff into folders
- Folders – This is how I store and archive old emails to clean out my inbox and make it easier to find emails
- Search – I love that I can search my 13,000 emails. Yes, 13,000!!! I really need to clean this mess out.
- Aliases – I like this feature because it makes it easier to filter
- Groups – I have 3 groups that I use. They serve different purposes, but the biggest thing I use them for is the calendars. Calendars can be shared and everyone with Yahoo can view the group calendars on their personal calendars.
- Family Group – I use this group for my daughter’s scheduling and sharing documents and pictures. My daughter or her dad can access and change the calendar. Her dad and boss can view it. This is where we put her work schedule requests, and share information about travel plans.
- Soccer – My daughter’s soccer team uses a Yahoo Group for email communications. You send an email to the group and everyone in the group gets it. It’s also nice to have the soccer games and practices show up in my calendar.
- Neighborhood association – My neighborhood association uses Yahoo Groups to send out newsletters and the meetings show up in my calendar.
- Calendar – I LOVE that the group calendars show up in my calendar (labeled for the different groups). I want to keep things like my doctor appointments, bill reminders, etc on my personal calendar. I also love the text message reminders.
- iPhone integration – Yahoo does NOT play well with iPhone. The mail works pretty well. But to view my calendar, I have to do it in the Safari browser.
I sort of did this to myself. A few days ago, I couldn’t sign in to my calendar in my iPhone browser. I resigned into my phone email to make sure it wasn’t a password issue. It wasn’t. After different testing, I decided that the problem could only have been that I was signed in at another location. I signed out of my computer and tested again. I couldn’t log in. I even shut down my computer. I Googled “yahoo calendar iphone” and got an article on the new Yahoo Calendar. http://help.yahoo.com/l/us/yahoo/calendar/yahoocalendar/sync/sync-06.html There was a big warning that if you switched and synced your iPhone, you wouldn’t be able to go back. Scary. So, I read and researched. This new Yahoo Beta looked awesome. It was color coded and could have different “layers” like the Google calendar. I was impressed. Now all my groups could be color coded. You can import calendars from other people, and even calendars from people with Google calendars. It would sync with iPhone in the air – no cable required. So I made the switch. BIG MISTAKE. Yahoo Groups does not work with this. You can add a friend’s Google Calendar to your calendar, but you can’t add your own group calendar. Stupid Yahoo! I emailed customer service. 3 days later, I haven’t gotten anything but automated responses.
There have been small annoyances over the years that I’ve had to work around. First off, you can’t do certain things without paying Yahoo $19.99 a year. I sucked it up and paid them. It was worth it. Yahoo would constantly be down for a significant amount of time. Around weekly, I would have to wait up to an hour to access my mail or calendar. And now I can’t access my group calendars in my personal calendar. This was the last straw.
New straw – Yahoo just sent out an email stating that they no longer support “receiving emails to your Extra Email Address with other yahoo domains”.
Starting the Switch
Before I committed to the switch, I needed to figure out the capabilities and limitations of Google. The best way to do this was to go in and screw around.
I already had an old gmail account from when gmail was in Beta. I never use it, but I wanted to lock in my preferred username when I got the invite. Also, as I’ve learned about some cool services available through Google, I made an account using my ISP email address. So I essentially had to google accounts. I decided that I would start using that great username gmail account. And the best way to start was to try to import my yahoo email into my gmail account and see how it worked. I got that process started and then realized that my other account had some services that I couldn’t move. Most important in this was Google Talk. So I created an email address for that Google account. Then I stopped the sync with my old gmail and tried to start it with my new email. It didn’t work. I tried all sorts of things. I also realized that I couldn’t export or an any way access the calendars in my groups. That meant that my soccer group would have to be moved to Google. I had to start one and screw around with that. You can’t do a calendar in Google groups. I currently have an additional website for the soccer group. The entire process was going to be a mess. Oh and did I mention that in 2 days, not even half my emails have gone into Google? And changing preferences and settings in Google sometimes takes 24 hours to take effect. But, between not being able to access group calendars without going to each group page, and having hundreds of unread emails in my inbox moved and not copied, the switch was decided and needed to go full steam ahead.
I can’t really do any organizing with my old emails yet. It’s looking like it’s going to take a week for everything to get moved over. In retrospect, I should have cleaned out my Yahoo account before importing my mail and contacts. But, there are some other things I can do:
How I Designed My New Email Structure
I had to decide what my ideal system would be.
Google Mail – Part of that is understanding what Google Mail is.
- Search: Google Mail is first and foremost a searchable mail system. You can do a search by date range, by sender, etc.
- Conversations: Also, Google mail can show you conversations. If you go back and forth with someone about a topic, you can see all the emails in that topic in a list, like a chat conversation.
- A side note on conversations: When several friends/family send you the same chain email / spam email, they get lumped in as the same conversation. Then you only have to delete one. HOW AWESOME IS THAT?!?
- Labels: You can label emails with categories.
- Filters: You can filter emails. You can even filter incoming emails to skip the inbox and go directly to a category. This is shown by the category list in your mail page. If you get a new email, it will be listed to the left.
- Stars: You can flag email with Stars – you can even get a widget that will give you different icons instead of stars in Labs.
- Forwarding: Google lets you forward emails at no charge – not like Yahoo. So you can make multiple gmail accounts and forward them all into one main account.
- Chat: The Google Chat system shows up right in your mail page. And chats with someone in your contacts or labels will be searchable
- Labs: Google is great for always being in development. Google Labs is where they test Beta products. And beta Google is better than the first release by Microsoft. Don’t even get me started. I like the one that lets you insert inline images in emails.
- Buzz – I think this is some social feature. I haven’t looked at it yet.
Knowing all of this, I knew I wanted to have two email accounts in Google. One personal and one public. I want to use the public one for all the generic stuff you have to do online to sign up for things. I then wanted to be able to filter the emails and have be forwarded into my personal account. There, I wanted them filtered into specific labels.
Example: I sign up for an Amazon account with the email address firstname.lastname@example.org. Any emails from Amazon will automatically be archived in my public account and forwarded to my personal account. In the personal account, this email is labeled “publicSHOP” and archived. In my personal account, it never shows up in my spam or inbox, but my label in the left column shows: “publicSHOP (1)”.
This process was not nearly as simple as you might think. It took hours of work and a ton of frustration on my part. There are a lot of posts in Google Help about this that haven’t been resolved. I did get this to work like I wanted, and I suggest you see my [cref google-email-filters-tutorial] Post for information on that.
I also created another email address for my daughter’s soccer team so that I would have an account for team emails, calendars, groups, and a site.
4 Days Later
I finally gave up waiting on Google to move everything over. I deleted things that had been moved from my folders. I’m going through now and sorting my emails in Yahoo.
Recommendation for Email
- CLEAN – If you’re doing the switch, I recommend that you first go into your old email and CLEAN IT UP. Get rid of everything you don’t want to keep. Organize what you do. Any items that are in folders will have labels in Google with the same names when you move them. If you want to see the contents of your Sent folder later, I recommend that you copy them all to a “YahooSent” folder. The Google Fetch will copy your inbox and all of your folders. It won’t copy your drafts, sent messages, or junk mail.
- Backup – Download your messages to archive them before moving… just in case. Be paranoid that way.
- Tell Google to Fetch– Sign in to your Gmail account and go to Settings > Accounts and Import. I recommend that you Import Mail and Contacts. Just get through the current time. Don’t have it continue for the next 30 days. You decide if you want to label it. Once it is complete, set up “Check Mail using POP3”. That will continue to get mail from Yahoo permanently.
- If you would like to see detailed information on doing this, check out Google’s page HERE.
I’ve already expressed my frustration with Yahoo Calendars. Google Calendars has great color-coding, nice views, the ability to turn off one or more calendars from view, and the ability to add and share many, many calendars. You can also embed or link to your calendar in a webpage. For my personal calendar, I was able to export a .csv file and upload it easily. For the Yahoo Group calendars, I had to manually enter everything. I shared them with no problem.
Currently, I am running a site for my daughter’s soccer team at eteamz.com. The great thing about it is that it’s free and it’s easy to change information on the site using a basic UI. I could write a full site for the team, but there’s not a great chance that the next person that takes over the team communications will be a web programmer. The eteamz site was inherited from the last person that did the online info. The site has a calendar, news postings, down-loadable files, etc. What it does not have is a good email system. I could manually enter everyone’s contact information on the site and messages could be sent to the whole team from the site. That is very inconvenient. Also, to access any of the information – like the calendar – you have to go to the site on the web. So I investigated Google Sites to see how it worked.
I currently have a test site for my daughter’s soccer team at https://sites.google.com/site/lafayettehighgirlssoccer/home. I’ve been able to do some interesting things using that tool.
What I learned: Sites are free, easy to use, and have gadgets (widgets) that allow you to do non-standard things. Here are the features I wanted to use:
- Templates – When I first signed up for the site, there was a handy-dandy little soccer team template right at the top. I selected that and the default theme and used the wizard to create the site. This template had features that I wanted already ready for me. It also had links to instructions embedded into it so I didn’t have to much to learn how to update it.
- Announcements – We often have team announcements we like to post. This template had an announcements page that was like a blog, and it displayed the latest announcements in a frame on the front page.
- Calendar – This template had a sample calendar on the front page. It was extremely easy to connect to the team calendars. They display nicely in the page. WARNING: there is a lag time with most things like this with Google. Be willing to wait 24 hours for these things to work.
- Gadgets – When I ran into things I couldn’t do by default, I had to find a gadget to do it. Searching for Gadgets in Google is not as easy as you’d think. It’s much easier to find WordPress Widgets. (If you’re curious, see my [cref blog-plugins-i-recommend] Post or my [cref blog-plugins-tutorial] Post.)
- Tables – In Sites, you create table pages. Specific to this page is a table with the roster. You create columns and can choose not to show them all.
- Photo Gallery – This template had a photo gallery that is just a slideshow from Picasa. This means I’ll be making a Picasa Web account for the team as well.
- WebMaster Page – I created a webmaster page with instructions on how to do everything so that the next webmaster will have no problems.
- Inserts – You can insert images, calendars, documents, maps, spreadsheets, and even YouTube videos.
So, for what I wanted, this worked well. I still need to make it a public site and see how the calendar and group features behave to non-group members.
The biggest reason I want a group is the mass email and response system. For example, I want to send an email out to email@example.com and everyone on the team receives it. I don’t want to have to go to a website and log in. I just want to be able to send an email from my account. Then, I want anyone in the group to be able to respond to me directly or to the whole group. I don’t want to have to log into the system to see the response. That’s the great thing about Google Groups. Another plus is that Google Groups does something that Google Mail does. It groups conversations together. If a topic “Board meeting” is sent out by the Booster Club president, all the responses to that email will be grouped together in a thread. And all the topics and conversations are viewable on the page.
Here’s the best part – This list of topics is set up to be an RSS feed!!! That means I can post that feed on the Google Sites page using a gadget. Specifically, I used the “Google Groups Reader” gadget. WARNING: there is a lag time with most things like this with Google. Be willing to wait 24 hours for these things to work. I spent hours trying to figure out why my RSS feed wasn’t working. I just needed to wait a day.
Member Information: Unfortunately, you can’t customize the data about a user in groups. This really upsets me. Google is great about some things, but does have its limitations as well. I really wanted to make everyone enter in their player name, phone numbers, etc. Bah!