Configuring IMAP for Gmail, Apple Mail.app, and iPhone (and iPod touch) (and probably iPad)

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Update 5, December 2011: This appears to work for Apple Mail 5 under Lion / OSX 10.7 as well.

Update 4: Step 1.1 is no longer necessary, due to updates in gmail.

Update 3: Sounds like iOS4 addresses some of this with an archive/delete toggle for gmail, as pointed out in the comments.

Update 2: I suspect these instructions will work on an iPad as well as iPhones and iPod touches, but they haven’t been verified. If anyone with an iPad can verify, please post. Thanks!

Update: This post is all about how to get messages to actually delete from gmail when you delete them in Maill.app or on your iPhone, rather than having deleted messages saved in the archive, As Google Intended. If you like the idea of saving every message forever in the gmail archives, their setup instructions are 100% correct and you don’t need this post.


This post was spawned by my frustrations with gmail, and my inclinations to save other people the effort of having to figure it out on their own.

Introduction: IMAP, Gmail, and You
IMAP is a mail protocol that allows continuous synchronization between a mail host and one or many clients; this is a Very Good Thing. For more on IMAP and why you should want to use it, see Google’s introduction, and the first part of this post at TechnoLawyer.

Gmail approaches mail differently than most mail hosts/providers. Rather than filing messages into single folders, messages can be tagged with any number of tags. The advantage of tags over folders is that a single message can be filed in multiple places, each one associated with a different tag. The Inbox is treated as another tag by Gmail. An unfortunate side-effect of this is that when most IMAP clients (mail applications) attempt to delete a message, Gmail removes the Inbox tag, but does not delete the message. The message remains in the archive for that account, and can been seen in the All Mail view. The only exceptions to this behavior are messages in Gmail’s Trash or Spam views; these messages do not appear anywhere else. When they are deleted from Trash or Spam they are gone forever. (Here’s a conceptually useful table of Gmail’s default interactions with IMAP client actions)

It is possible to configure Gmail and Apple’s Mail application to appropriately delete messages from Gmail when they are deleted in Mail. These instructions also show how to store all drafts and saved messages on the Gmail server, and how to configure your iPhone for the same behaviors. keep reading…

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Infocamp 2008 Presentation

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This is the slideshow and audio from my Infocamp 2008 presentation on User-Centered Information Design.

The audio synchronization seems to work when played straight through, but not when you manually advance the slides.




Pixel rulers in Visio

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Should you be required to work in Visio, you may well find yourself, as I did, wishing to measure your drawing in pixels. I couldn’t figure out how do do it, though Visio does support such diverse measurements as Ciceros and Didots.

I finally found the definitive answer from Microsoft: For some types of drawings, you may want to change the measurement units to pixels. However, a pixel isn’t a unit of measurement. A pixel is just a dot on a screen and the size of the dot varies for different screens. To simulate pixels, set the measurement units to points.

Needless to say, this is not satisfying. It’s true a pixel is only an on-screen measure, and is clearly only useful for a few, obscure situations, such as when creating interface mockups, wireframes, or prototypes for software, the web, or any other sort of images meant to be viewed on a screen.

Luckily, Visio provides a set of features that allow a fairly simple, two step work-around. Warning: doing this on existing Visio documents may severely distort your existing drawings. I suggest working on duplicate files, not originals. keep reading…

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Generation of Complex Diagrams: How to Make Lasagna Instead of Spaghetti

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Update 2011: Many of the ideas in this thesis have evolved and been carried over into my book Designing Data Visualizations.

My master’s thesis is a system for creating good diagrams. It starts with the basics of perception and cognition, and walks the reader through the process of making appropriate choices for their particular design problem.

[download page: 10MB PDF]

From the abstract:
This thesis presents a system for the generation of complex diagrams. “Complexity” is defined as a measure of distinct data types that are independently visually encoded. Diagrams representing four or more types of data are defined as complex, while diagrams representing three or fewer are simple. Successful generation of complex diagrams is dependent on appropriate design choices. Five fundamental principles are introduced to guide the choices made by the diagram designer. The two contextual fundamental principles are “different goals require different methods,” addressing the needs of the diagram designer, and “audience brings context with them,” addressing the needs and context of the diagram reader. The three perceptual fundamental principles are the “principle of information availability,” which guides the selection and density of the diagram elements, the “principle of semantic distance,” which guides the spatial placement and grouping of the diagram elements, and the “principle of informative changes,” which guides the visual encoding of the diagram elements. A review of the diagram design process, comprising selection, encoding, and placement of the diagram components, is given. For each phase of the design process the influence of the appropriate fundamental principles is discussed, and the fundamental principles are extended into applied guidelines and suggestions.

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