volume 39, number 5
Temple UniversityFaculty Herald

You've Got [G]mail!
Aaron Sullivan, Assistant Editor

Notice anything different about your TUmail account lately? If you haven't personally seen changes yet, you will soon. This issue of Faculty Herald takes a brief look at the what-who-where-why-and-how of the on-going email transition from Mirapoint to Gmail and highlights a few of the more useful features offered by the new system.

 

What's going on?

Computer Services has worked hard to keep everyone up-to-date, but in case you're among those who haven't heard, the old Mirapoint email system is going away. It'll be replaced by a new TUmail system powered by Google's Gmail. Student accounts have already been moved over to the new system; faculty and employee accounts are in the process of transition even now.


Who will this affect?


Just about everyone. A few select accounts will transition from Mirapoint to Microsoft Exchange, but most of us are headed toward Gmail. Student accounts were moved to Gmail last Fall and Alumni accounts made the transition earlier this Spring.


When is my email going to change?


If it hasn't happened already, it will soon. The transition team is in the process of moving as many as 1,000 accounts per day to the new system. But don't worry about being out of touch; you'll always have the ability to send and receive new email, even in the middle of the transition, though your old email messages may become unavailable for a few hours as they're moved from the old system to the new one.


Why change email systems?


The old Mirapoint system is, well, old. By today's standards it’s slow, restrictive, and more than a little cumbersome. It's also small, as anyone who has run out of space and been forced to go through the painful process of clearing out old emails can attest. The new Gmail system gives us each more than 7 Gigabytes of email storage; that's about 35 times what the old system offered. TU Gmail also comes with an extensive set of handy tools and features, such as Google's powerful searching capabilities.


Where will all my all my old emails go?

 

Your old emails will follow you to the new system and show up under the "All Mail" section of your TU Gmail account. There are, however, a couple of exceptions related to attachments. Attachments larger than 20 Megabytes and executable attachments (i.e. programs) will not be moved; those files will remain in the old Mirapoint system where you'll be able to access them for 30 days after the transition. Any folders you created in the Mirapoint system will be transferred to the new system and turned into "labels", the Gmail equivalent of folders; more on that below.

If you've been using the TUmail calendar and address book, that data will also be transferred to the new system, though you'll have to import it after you log in for the first time. You'll find a special email from computer services explaining how do that waiting for you after the transition. Finally, if you've set up any aliases (i.e. alternative email addresses) those will still work in Gmail.

There are, however, a few things that won't make the transition. While all your contacts will be moved over, contact groups will have to be recreated in Gmail. Signatures, rules, and forwarding information will also have to be set up again in the new system.


How will this affect the way my email works?

If you're used to checking your email online with TUmail, then you won't have to do anything different; the new system can be accessed using the same URL (http://tumail.temple.edu) or through TUPortal, and your username and password won't change.

If you've been using an email client like Outlook, Thunderbird or Eudora, you'll need to reconfigure it to work with the new system. You'll find a handy email from Computer Services explaining how to do that waiting for you after your account transitions.

Should you need to access your old Mirapoint account, it will remain available for 30 days after the transition. Look for a link on the TUmail login page.

Paradigm Shifts

Gmail is, in general, a pretty user-friendly system and its fairly easy to get the hang of it. However, there are a few things that Gmail does differently from most email systems that are worth pointing out.

The first of these is Archiving. Let's say your old Mirapoint account was filled to over-flowing; you were using all 100% (200 megabytes) of memory allotted to you. When all that mail gets transferred to your new TU Gmail account it will only take up about 3% of the space you have available there. The up-shot is that with so much memory available to you, you don't really have to delete anything anymore. Instead you can "archive" it, which takes it out of your Inbox but keeps it in your "All Mail" repository so that you can search for and find it again should you ever need to. Of course if you're absolutely, positively sure you won't want a particular email ever again, you can still delete it, but be warned: since the new email accounts aren't stored on Temple servers, 30 days after you press the "Delete" button that email will be well and truly gone forever, and no amount of fancy data recovery work by Computer Services will ever be able to bring it back.

Another facet of the new system to get use to is "Labels". In most email systems, you organize your mail into folders. For example, you might have a folder for news from home, a folder for emails containing recipes, and a folder for your investigations in ancient Chinese culture. But what happens when someone from back home sends you an email about an authentic Chinese recipe they just discovered? Which folder does that email go in?

Labels are meant to solve this problem. In Gmail you can create labels for "home," "recipes," and "China" and then, if need be, apply all three labels to the same email. Once you've labeled an email you can archive it (to get it out of your Inbox) and then easily find it again later either by clicking on the appropriate label name or searching for it. If you're used to using "rules" to automatically file certain emails into specific folders, you can do the same in Gmail with "filters" and labels. Of course labels also have their down side; they can't be nested inside other labels the way folders can which makes having more than a couple dozen different labels cumbersome. If you use an email client like Outlook or Eudora to access your email, your folders will still appear as folders rather than labels.

Finally, Gmail introduces "conversations." In the old system, if someone sent you a message, you replied to them, and then they replied to you, you'd have 2 entries in your Inbox: one for the original message and one for their reply. If you kept replying to each other, or if several people were all responding to the same message, you might have ended up with a dozen or more separate entries that were all part of the same email discussion. In Gmail, all of these would be collapsed into a single entry in your Inbox called a conversation which would contain all the different messages and responses in order. A number in parenthesis tells you how many separate emails are contained in a given conversation, and any new messages that you haven't read yet are marked in bold.

Those are some of the major changes to get used to going from Mirapoint to Gmail. The new email system also comes with a number of useful features, a few of which are worth highlighting.


Handy Features:


Every Gmail account also comes with Google Calendar, a user-friendly, online calendar application. Calendars created in Google Calendar are easy to share with other users, which is especially handy now that the entire student body has TU Gmail accounts. So, if you’re teaching, it's easy to make a calendar with all the meeting times, due dates, and deadlines for your class and then share it with all the students. Once they accept it, all the items from your class calendar will show up their Google Calendars, color-coded for your class. If something comes up and you need to change a due date or reschedule a class, just make the change on your calendar and all of theirs will be updated automatically.

TU Gmail also comes with Google Docs, a suite of powerful online programs including a word processor, spreadsheet application, and Power Point-like presentation editor/presenter. Google Docs files are available to you from any computer with internet access and you can share them with other users, making it easy to collaborate on a project. And of course, if you want, you can download the files to edit them off-line or upload existing files to the internet to edit or share them via Google Docs.

 

The new email system also comes with Google Sites, a website editor, and Google Chat, an instant messaging application that includes the ability to video chat.

 

Computer Services has been holding a series of training seminars this month for those new to Gmail. The next two are on May 26. For more information, see some of the sites listed below:

 

To register for a training seminar:

  http://www.temple.edu/cs/training/

 

The TU Gmail Resource Center:

  http://www.temple.edu/cs/email/google/

 

Google's "Getting Started Guide": 

http://mail.google.com/support/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=90877