In this week's Tech 911 - the column where we offer reasonable answers and explanations for of your deepest, darkest tech confusions - a Lifehacker reader wonders why she can't access some of Gmail's best features with a third-party email client (and a non-Gmail address).
I'll let Lifehacker reader Andrea explain more:
"I am having an AirMail problem and the support staff is stumped. I've scoured the Internet and no one has a problem like mine. I use AirMail on both my Mac and my iPhone. None of the features for keeping emails from certain people or companies in my inbox work. This includes, spam, block, mute and unsubscribe.
I am aware that AirMail does not block spam, which is fine. My email provider does that. I just want to block regular senders who are real organisations and are not actively scamming, but don't response to "unsubscribe" requests and are annoying. Mostly, political emails.
At work, I use Gmail as my webmail, and it blocks those just fine. Could it be something with my email setup? My email provider mostly handles businesses, but I pay them 5$/month to keep my same email from 1995."
I found this one a little confusing at first, but then I re-read your letter and the answer became fairly clear. Your email service (bitstream.net, now iphouse.com, and recently acquired by gogreencloud.com) doesn't seem to play nicely with Airmail's conventions for marking emails as spam, blocking people from emailing you, muting conversations, et cetera.
Just to make sure, I chatted briefly with a support person from Airmail yesterday, and here's what they had to say:
"Airmail does not have a dedicated spam filter of its own, therefore marking as spam relies on the server of the email account that you use. If the server learns that a certain email sender has a message marked as spam already in the spam folder, then it will work else, it will not. So, it totally depends on the server and Airmail does not filter spam as of now."
That's not exactly the specific answer I was hoping to get from them, but the last line is illuminating. And if you look at the linked support articles above for the block and mute features, all of their examples involve a dummy Gmail address.
That, in addition to this older Reddit comment about Airmail, makes me feel as if these features rely on the email provider you're using. Since your primary email address comes from a more obscure email provider and not, say, Gmail, Airmail's "mute" and "block" actions probably don't translate to anything on your email provider's end. In other words, you get the basics of email via Airmail, but that's about it.
What can you do? I doubt you're going to want to switch the provider you've had for the past 20 years. Digital nostalgia is powerful, I know. What you can try doing — and I'm just taking a stab at this, because this is getting complex — is setting up a new Gmail address and using Gmail's "Check mail from other accounts" option to import messages from your actual email address.
Screenshot: David Murphy
You can then set up Gmail to use your email provider's SMTP server to send outgoing mail as if it was coming from your primary address. And once you've done that, you should then be able to configure Airmail with the account credentials for your dummy Gmail address.
Screenshot: David Murphy
You'll then retain all of Gmail's features (like muting, blocking, et cetera), but you'll still be able to receive and send email from your primary email address, not your dummy Gmail account. I hope. It's possible that you might have to configure Airmail to use your provider's SMTP server as well, not Gmail's, but I can't confirm this as I don't have Airmail — I'm cheap, what can I say.
Let me know if this doesn't work, or if you need a little more help, and I'll be happy to walk you through the steps offline.