Pondering “Email Conservation” After Hitting Gmail’s Storage Limit

Back in April, I became one of the rare people to run out of Gmail space. Due to a glitch with Google, I was also unable to purchase more space for several weeks. As a result, I became hyperaware of how much email space gets eaten up each day routinely. Newsletters, product offers, Facebook and Twitter notifications, that person you don’t know who emails you a 7MB file. It adds up. And Gmail’s supposedly “endless” space might not be keeping pace.

None of this is a crisis for the vast majority of people out there. You rarely hear people talking about running out of Gmail space. Those like myself who rely on email so much for business work as to run out of space probably wouldn’t think twice about buying more. I certainly would have done so, if I could have, at the time.

Still, I feel like all this crud going into our email boxes is wasteful. That in the era of cheap disk space and fast bandwidth, we don’t think twice about what we send, what we receive. But all that stuff is consuming disk space, server space, energy. Is there a case for email conservation?

Maybe. People far more knowledgeable than I might perhaps weigh in, and I’d love to hear from them. To kick things off, I’ll serve as a case study. Here’s how I’ve grappled with trying to stay under my Gmail quota over the past few weeks.

Out Of Space!

It was on April 30 of this year that my Gmail account started sending out this message to people who emailed me:

The email account that you tried to reach is over quota.

It surprised me. In the back of my mind, I remembered Google saying something like you’d never run out of space in Gmail. The percentage of my quota used, shown at the bottom of any page in Gmail, had been stuck on 97% for as long as I could remember. I kind of thought that was part of the gimmick — that somehow, Google kept upping the quota in each individual account to always keep it above water. Not so. Despite the promises on the Gmail home page, I needed to delete mail in order to have space for more.

The Gmail Infinity Space Promise

When Gmail launched on April 1, 2004 (yes, it was on an April Fool’s Day), the suggestions of unlimited storage were there at the beginning. From the press release:

Unlike other free webmail services, Gmail is built on the idea that users should never have to file or delete a message, or struggle to find an email they’ve sent or received….

Storage: Google believes people should be able to hold onto their mail forever. That’s why Gmail comes with 1,000 megabytes (1 gigabyte) of free storage – more than 100 times what most other free webmail services offer.

A year later, Google rolled out the “Infinity+1″ storage promise, giving everyone an extra 1GB of space (taking the total to 2GB at the time) and promising to keep increasing this.

By October 2007, Google increased the amount of free storage space it was providing, writing on the Gmail blog:

In April 2005, we started increasing Gmail storage as part of our “Infinity+1″ storage plan. At that time, we realized we’d never reach infinity, but we promised to keep giving Gmail users more space as we were able. That said, a few of you are using Gmail so much that you’re running out of space, so to make good on our promise, today we’re announcing we are speeding up our counter and giving out more free storage.

And, just in case you are like my friend Miriam, whose sister sends minute to minute photo updates of her kids in RAW format, then we still have a paid storage program where you can get your fix, and we’re giving you more space than before for the same price.

By the way, businesses, schools and organizations using Google Apps to get Gmail on their own custom addresses (like Google does for our @google.com accounts) will get a storage boost in the coming days, too. Standard and Education Edition storage (now at 2GB) will begin matching Gmail’s counter, and Premier Edition users get a whopping 25 GB (up from 10 GB).

As you can see, at that point, Google had also offered paid storage options. I thought that was great, because some people might need more than even the huge amount Google was providing for free. But “Infinity+1″ implies that buying space shouldn’t be needed. And if you go to the Gmail home page today, you’ll see this message:

Lots of space
Over 7369.392583 megabytes (and counting) of free storage so you’ll never need to delete another message.

The number is constantly counting up (more on this in a bit). The claim is pretty straight-forward. You’ll never need to delete anything. And yet, that’s exactly what I needed to do. Certainly some others have to do the same. So that claim ought to go.

How Much Do They Give You? Not Much!

It’s also easy to assume, with that number constantly ticking up on the Gmail home page, that tons of extra space is constantly being allocated to your account. In reality, it’s about 1MB every three days (Google Operating System said 0.33MB per day back in 2007, and that still seems to be the case). Those in Gmail are constantly being increased. Those using Gmail through Google Apps get a boost to match Gmail whenever there’s a 10MB gap between the two services, it seems. Here’s a chart illustrating this, the maximum space offered by both versions of Gmail over the past few weeks:

Gmail & Google Apps Storage Over Time

For some people, that may seem like plenty. But as I was forced to stay under my quota, I discovered the daily increase in space wasn’t that much. Moreover, while I may have hit my quota this year because of how long I’ve had a Gmail account, it’s possible that if space isn’t increased more than now, many more might hit theirs in years to come.

The Fight To Stay Tight

Let me share a bit more about my situation, then I’ll go more into my observation about how much email junk may be “wasting” space for everyone.

I’m fairly unique in having had a Gmail account since the day it launched. I used that account as a backup to my regular email account, sending a copy of anything I received to it. Last year, I merged all that mail into a Gmail account that runs using my own domain name as part of the Google Apps program. When I was done, I’d pretty much stuffed my main Gmail / Google Apps account full. That’s the account that ran out of space this year.

My immediate thought was to upgrade and add more storage. However, I couldn’t. When I tried, I got a “We are unable to process your request” message from Google. This continued for about two or three weeks, a bug for a small number of users, to my understanding, that Google eventually solved.

I had no choice to conserve space. My first reaction was to sort my mail by size, so that I could find any email with big PowerPoint files or other large attachments. However, Gmail has no sort by size feature. It’s an oversight that’s long due to end. Yes, the Mail Goggles feature to keep you from drunk emailing is funny. But a sort by size feature has been standard in my Outlook email program for as long as I can remember and Pegasus Mail before that. Gmail lacks this? Want to lobby for it? Join this thread at Google Groups.

How about searching for files with attachments, specifically anything with PPT (PowerPoint) files. Sure, I did that. Unfortunately, it still didn’t sort them by size. It was a painful, time consuming process to try and free space up this way.

Another reaction was to search for any email not in English. Unless you want to converse with me in really, really bad German, English is all I speak. Virtually anything in my inbox not in English is spam that’s gotten through the filters in some way. I don’t need it. I blogged about wanting a feature like this back in 2006. It still doesn’t exist.

Among other things, I searched for any Twitter notifications that I’d received. I had thousands of these. Wiping these out saved much more space than I was expecting. That got me thinking about all the other “useless” mail I’ve got stored from over the years, things I really don’t need to save. How much do they consume?

The Useless Mail

While I can pay for more space and probably will soon, I’ve kept to a free account over the past few weeks so that I could study the situation more. Every few days, I’ve looked at my mail to understand how much has come in, what I could free up and figure if I’m staying ahead of the space I’ve been given or falling behind.

For example, let’s take today. When I logged in, my account had used 7,240 MB of space used, out of a total 7,365 MB allowed — 98% of it. That means since I last went in, I’d picked up 74MB in new email.

74MB! In that same period, Gmail had given me 4MB of new space — just 5% of what I’d gained. So much for infinity plus one.

OK, I’m just unusual, right? Maybe, but maybe not so much. To clear space, here’s what I did:

  • Killed about 300 Twitter & FriendFeed notifications (message about people following me or taking my feed). That freed 4MB of space.
  • Cleared 2,250 spam messages, freeing up 45MB of space.
  • Deleted 100 email reports from Google Analytics for five different web sites I watch going back to mid-July, freeing 8MB of space.

Doing these things still left me using 20MB of space more than I was on Sept. 9, a net loss versus the 4MB of space Google had given me in that same time period.

Every few days, I’ve gone through this type of routine, sometimes aggressively. Here are a few more stats to illustrate some of the “dumb” or “useless” email, as I call it, that has taken up space:

  • Facebook/Twitter/FriendFeed/LinkedIn Notifications: Virtually none of these are useful a few days after they’re received. Searching for common words would often find hundred of these messages over the years the first time I’d look. Even after clearing them out, I’d find plenty more new ones had been received. Very roughly, 100 of these can equal about 1MB of space.
  • WordPress Backups: I watch over two blogs on WordPress and each week get emailed a backup. Handy! But two weeks worth of these for me equaled 7MB of space. Once a new one comes in, I really don’t need the old one — much less one from weeks ago. They just eat space, but because I have (or thought I had) so much space, I didn’t think much about receiving them.
  • Google Analytics Reports: Getting regular reports by email are awesome, but as noted above, they take up space. Since I have access to Google Analytics itself, I really don’t need these in the long term.
  • Business Newsletters: Killing 150 “Inside Apple” newsletters since 2005 saved 4MB of space. Wiping out 200 Amazon Store newsletters saved 10MB of space. Build-A-Bear has sent me 110 offer emails since 2007. Major League Baseball has sent me 80 in the same period. I had 100 notifications that my credit card statement was ready from my credit card company going back to 2006. 30 message from Tickets Now back to March of this year. I could go on, and some of these counts are low (because the initial count Gmail returns for a search often rises as you go to the second page). The bottom line is virtually none of this email is useful to me in the long-term, yet it takes up more space than you’d imagine.
  • Inbox Busters: A PR person sent me a pitch with a 1MB attachment, worth 3 days of “new” space from Gmail. No warning, and not relevant to what I cover. The same person sent me a 0.5MB logo attachment a few weeks before. Someone sent me a bug report with a 7MB screenshot attached. 7MB! Someone I don’t know, who somehow put me on some email list I’m not interested in, which sent me a 4.5MB image. Someone pitching to speak at a conference sent me a 7MB presentation with their email. Wipe out all “dumb” email you want — things like these dwarf those savings.

What To Do?

Like I said, this isn’t a crisis for most people. I also know I’m an usual case. But I think things will get worse for more people over time, largely because we just don’t think much about what we email.

In the bad old days of dial-up, you’d never send someone a 1MB file out of the blue. Just shoving it down the pipes would take forever. Now we don’t think twice. We certainly don’t think that this file is eating up 3 days worth of Gmail quota.

Email messages themselves have increased in size, as HTML email has become more common. All those business emails can add up.

Notifications that are so handy can get out of control. They’re like hundreds of little cuts to your quota. They serve no use in the long term, but they sure consume space collectively.

I know I can just pay to get more email on Google. Yahoo says it has unlimited email, announced in 2007, so I could move over there, if I really wanted to be cheap.

But it’s not about being cheap. It’s just more amazement, I guess, at how when you open things up with seemingly no limits, suddenly conservation gets lost. Maybe there’s no reason for email conservation. Perhaps storage will keep getting cheaper, and none of this will matter especially versus the time it takes to conserve. But it still nags at me. I’m just that way, I guess.

Gmail Suggestions

Meanwhile for Google, some suggestions:

Don’t say you’ll never need to delete on the Gmail home page, since that’s clearly not true. Modify it, advertise it accurately.

Sort By Size. It’s overdue. Offer it now.

Filter By Language. Why are we still waiting for this?

Consider an option that might understand all those “dumb” emails that we get, those special offers from stores, those Twitter notifications, pingback notifications and so on. Maybe sense when we have a lot of these from one particular source and ask us if we want to delete them.

Related, if we unsubscribe using your new auto-unsubscribe feature, perhaps search for related emails when we do this and ask if we want them deleted. And let us unsubscribe without having to use the spam button to do this. That makes no sense at all.

Finally, don’t get me wrong. I love Gmail. It’s a great service, and I’m very happy with it. It’s just through an accident of being unable to upgrade, I got a close-up view of how much storage all those emails I get consume.


Comments

  1. says

    Needless to say, the problem isn’t unique to Gmail, or even to email programs in general. Companies have not paid that much attention to providing good ways to delete stuff, because that isn’t as sexy as adding new features. Probably the best way to manage the deluge (other than going to the original services and opting out of notifications) is to deleting mail as soon as possible after it comes in, saving you the worry of having to delete it later.

  2. says

    I use a dedicated gmail account for backups only. I make daily backups but then once a month I archive the 1st and the 15th and delete the rest, cuts down on the space needed.

  3. says

    I’ve always tried to delete stuff in gmail that I’m unlikely to ever need.
    Like, I’ll archive stuff from my friends, interesting links that I’m sent and so on, but have always deleted facebook/twitter/amazon/etc updates as soon as I’ve dealt with them. Similarly, newsletters, even the good ones like Search Engine Land, are really only useful until I’ve read them. If there are particularly good articles that I need to reference in the future, I’ll bookmark them specifically.

    Maybe it’s my OCD forcing me to delete what’s not useful, but I never really understood why I would want to archive a lot of the stuff I receive.

  4. says

    I wanted to feel for you on this, I really did, but as soon as you started talking about what you started cleaning up, I just couldn’t.

    What you describe sounds like hording. Do you really need those Twitter notifications? How about the bank notifications? I would think the normal procedure would be to delete them, like most other people do (just as they recycle/toss these same items when they get a hardcopy).

    You’re right about the Gmail recommendations, of course, but apply some filters and clean out those labels once in a while :D

    ~James

  5. says

    A valuable tip for those frustrating moments near 99% disk usage: your Gmail Trash *does* count toward your allocation! (As does Spam… but you might expect that.) If you can safely [Empty Trash], do so. It may take several minutes, but you’ll gain many MB — as a page reload will reveal. Short of that, search in:trash for something common and dispensable, and delete all. [Hmmm... let's hope this is only local, and NOT news, but as I write this at 2009-09-13 21:45, my Gmail accounts first acted flaky, and now return "Firefox has detected that the server is redirecting the request for this address in a way that will never complete." That's sub-optimal!]

  6. says

    Can you use an email client like Outlook and connect to Gmail through IMAP? Then sort attachments by size in Outlook. I know that works with non-Gmail accounts.

  7. says

    Jason, I’ve got about 150,000 email messages in all. When I’ve used IMAP to access Gmail through Outlook, it tends to kill Outlook. So I’ve stuck with POP, which loses the interactivity, of course.

    James, no, I don’t need those notifications. That’s the point of what I’m saying. I, you, lots of people get all this stuff as a matter of routine. But deleting them is hardly a matter of routine. There’s no easy way to do it. You have to manually search for each type of message. If you’re really into it, you’d make a filter so you could do a regular search. But that’s all time consuming.

    I only know I’ve got all this stuff because in my situation, I started looking specifically at types of email that could easily be tossed out. I’d like to see Gmail make that easier. Perhaps these types of notices could somehow (don’t ask me how) have expiration dates attached to them.

    Adam, I’ve done the attachment search. Same problem I mentioned above, however — you don’t get those sorted by size. So you waste time looking through each of those hoping to hit a goldmine that can be killed.

    Graywolf, ah, dedicated address for those backups. Now you’re talking!

  8. says

    I do all of my emailing through GMail on Chrome with keyboard shortcuts turned on (reply: r, delete: #, spam: !, go to inbox: g i, scroll up: j, scroll down: k).

    But when I need to clear out files, I fire up Apple Mail in Mac OS X, and use IMAP to sync my GMail folder. i can then a) Sort by name, date, and size, and b) do a “select all / delete” which covers truely all of those messages in one go, not just the 100 you can see at once in the GMail web interface.

    Apple Mail also have a pretty fast search function, but yeah I mostly use it for those more difficult navigations that GMail doesn’t support (sorting and selecting more than 100 items).

  9. says

    Very detailed and useful post Danny. You should send Google a consulting bill for this as apparently none of the powers that be considered these user issues.

    For now, I’d like to add one thing. I’m noticing a portion of my OUTBOUND Gmail is not actually landing in Inboxes. I’ve even had hard bounce backs saying the gmail.com domain was spam. Forwarding that got Google’s attention…but more than a month after asking for communication of a plan to rectify this situation to ensure delivery I have not received communication of a time line to get to 99.999999% delivery assurance.

  10. Gilbert Espiridion says

    I made sure on day one that I activated auto-forwarding of all my e-mails to a backup account on my Google Apps/Gmail account. In that way, I can always delete any email once I’ve hit the limit; much like Graywolf’s solution.

    There is however a second workaround.

    After freeing up manageable space on your account, use the ‘forward and delete’ option. This time to your backup account. You will then be monitoring your e-mails from the backup account using the ‘send mail as’ feature where, as you reply to people from your backup account, you would still appear as if you were sending them from your default.

  11. Michael Lynch says

    So you run out of space and your expecting Google to provide you more. Lets look at this carefully now. Google is a network, you are using their network for storage, emails, and docs.

    The thing is Google is not going to put forward a system that will allow more storage to you without access. Google can’t put a SAN on their system because it uses Fiber Channel (unless they use FCoE) and two they are not going to spend $500,000 to give you more space.

    I’m sorry for what happened to you but I will side with Google here. They can’t cater to every single person. If you run out of space and save everything, its your responsibility to delete old emails, and storage. Otherwise you would be better running your storage array to where you can do what ever you feel like and you won’t have to cater to Google.

  12. says

    Michael, you miss the point. I said several times that I could buy more space. And that I would have, if the Google system had allowed me to when I initially ran out of space. And that the only reason I haven’t since they fixed the bug that prevented that was because I was fascinated in how much email sucks up space that we don’t realize, and I wanted to look at that in more depth.

    It’s not about sides. Hope that makes it clear. However, Google might want to provide some better tools to help people reduced their inboxes more easily, especially with a sort by size. Potentially, it would allow Google to keep its own storage costs down.

  13. says

    I’ve had this same problem like two years ago! And I also tried to upgrade, and got the same silly error! Something is wrong with Google. Why wouldn’t they just invest some little more time to improve Google Checkout, and then people would happily pay for the service!

    At that time, Gmail all of a sudden gave boost to storage space and I got off the hook. In my case, there are friends who send nothing but just for fun emails, full of large attachments. So I can do search for that friend emails with attachments gladly. I’m 85% right now my self.

    Not as bad as you, since I did one thing few years ago. I asked friend to stop sending me 14 emails in a row full of attachments. He didn’t care. So I created a special filter just for him that will auto-forward all his emails to another email, delete current ones, unless he has “word” in his subject. I told him that, and guess what? He never cared :P

  14. says

    I tend to use IMAP, to access gmail – using the latest beta of thunderbird 3 it does seem to be able to cope with opening the All Mail folder on g-mail with a fairly long delay the first time it opens the folder. which in my case weighs in at around 91112 messages – I’m only using 18% of my 7369 MB.

    Doing this, it’s easy to add a size column.

    It also has another feature which I use a lot, where it’s possible to Detach attachments from e-mails keeping the original e-mail and remembering where it was saved to on disk; again helping to keep the mailbox size down.

  15. Lee says

    I keep a lot of my email, it’s my filing system for my life. To keep some kind of control, I handle all email that I know I will not need to keep, (like the twitter notifications, announcements, spam, etc) once by deleteing it from my Inbox as soon as I read it. Then once a month I go to my “deleted” folder and sort by date and delete anything more than 1 month old. If I didn’t have to retrieve it in that month, I’m pretty safe in getting rid of it forever.

  16. Hari says

    I archive all of my IMAP mail every six months and remove it from the server. The archives are organized by year, so it’s easy to search in Thunderbird. I never leave more than six months worth of email on the IMAP server, and I have multiple backups of my email archives.

  17. says

    Hari, I download via POP, so I have an archive of all my mail, as well. But I don’t want to delete it off the Gmail server, much of it that is, because Gmail makes it easy to search when needed.

    Lee, I delete junk regularly when I download. But with Gmail, what I delete on my local computer isn’t reflected as a deletion on the server. IMAP would help, though as you seem to do, you’d still have to maintain a special folder just for deletions.

  18. says

    This may be obvious, obscure, or misremembering my last IMAP installation: Peripheral to Tom Atkinson’s earlier note, a fully implemented IMAP solution *should* offer the capacity to echo your *local* deletion decisions outward onto the Gmail server, IIRC. That is, if you send a Particularly Dangerous Command, all messages you’ve manually deleted, locally, *also* should disappear from your GMail account. If you think of Gmail as a backup for your local mistakes… Use This Power Wisely! ;-)

  19. Nitin says

    I’ve already hit the Threshold 2 times on my GMail.

    I now use Hotmail a.k.a Live Mail! and have close to 23GB of space currently in use

  20. says

    I am very close to max limit on my Gmail account, and plan to pay to upgrade storage (assuming it’ll let me). Just a couple of responses to some of the comments raised above:

    1. Why keep seemingly unimportant email like twitter notifications, etc? Because its too expensive to delete them. Unless you don’t value your time at all, it almost certainly costs you more to delete them than leave them there. Besides I’ve repeatedly seen peope delete ‘unimportant’ email that they desperately were trying to find later.

    2. GMAIL management features are awful…lack of search by size is ridiculous as is lack of ability to see ‘non-threaded’ view given how gmail frequently decides to associate completely unrelated emails into one conversation.

  21. says

    Sing it brother. Brian, I almost got into the non-threaded issue. Want to kill email with a big attachment. If it’s part of a conversation, then you’ve got to go into the conversation, find the right email, then delete the download. Not to mention there are times you just don’t want a threaded view.

  22. says

    It’s funny, but all of those “dumb” emails as you call them – I delete all them pretty much right away, if not sooner. I’m only using 7% of my gmail quota (I’ve only been a gmail user for a couple of years) but for some reason I’m paranoid that I’ll run out of space, so I delete every random “notification” that I get after I read it – after all, I’ve been notified at that point! I also go through my “bills/receipts” folder every year or so and weed out anything that’s over a year old and therefore irrelevant. I do, however also use the multiple email account thing. It’s quite useful!

  23. James says

    I, like you, am amazed at the way that trash can pile up when people think they have unlimited space. That problem, however, is obviously not common to everyone. I’ve been using Gmail since its very early days, and am now using 4% of my allotted space. My university email addresses were also set to forward to this address. (I’ve also been using a separate account as a “spam” account to use when I sign up on websites and such: it’s still at 40MB, or 0%.)

    I agree that Google should have had some way to sort by attachment size from the very beginning, in order to save space overall. But that’s really the only point where I agree with your article. Three simple steps would have solved most of your problems before they began:
    1. When you get spam, mark it as spam. (2 weeks later, it gets automatically deleted)
    2. When you get a several-Megabyte email that has nothing to do with you, hit the “delete” button instead of “archive.” It takes no more time, and saves you weeks’ worth of gmail quota.
    3. Start paying attention to the problem before you hit 100%. That whole time that you were stuck at 97% “for as long as [you] could remember” should have served as a bit of a warning for you. If it had been your hard drive, you would have been more proactive.

  24. says

    James, Gmail does such a good job catching spam that very little gets through. I did an entire survey about it: Stats Say: Sticking With Gmail!. So, I have relatively little that I need to nab — and so much is already caught that I dump it every two or three days, even before I ran out of space.

    Also, I explained earlier but should make it clearer. I use Outlook. Outlook downloads my mail from Gmail. If I delete in Outlook, that archives in Gmail — it doesn’t delete. In order to delete, I’d have to review all my mail first within Gmail and then download. So what you suggest works for the bulk of people who may hit Gmail on the web. But not everyone does this.

    On running out, well, it wasn’t like I was completely ignoring it. It would hover between 97 to 98%. Suddenly in one day, boom — I was over. I suspect I got a lot of large email for some odd reason all at once.

    But I’m not really writing about how oh, poor me, I ran out of space. I keep saying this, but it was a long article explaining issues, and I think some have just skimmed rather than actually have read it.

    I’m pointing out that people get a lot of email, and that email is likely taking up far more space than they think — and Gmail probably isn’t keeping up with the pace. Potentially, all that wasted space is costing someone (probably Google) more than it would if it provided better tools. More likely, server space will keep dropping in price so much that the tools don’t really save anything. Possibly, more people will run out of room in the future. But for now, I was just reflecting on how much space a lot these things we don’t think about take up.

  25. Mike Abbott says

    Two points here, one, email is NOT a filing system and if your email is that important print it out or archive it as a PDF and keep it safe offline. I have over a hundred users on gmail and few if any use more than 1 GB of space unless sending pictures etc. and a few also use outlook with its IMAP connector to mirror their inboxes and manage same. You should be glad you’re not on an Exchange server as the IT staff would be on to you daily and you’d never get any work done waiting for outlook to load and sync that 7+ GB email file. Two, the professional version offers an expanded allotment of space to 25 GB and if you’re using that much space you really need your own email server to hold it as no ISP will cover that kind of resource requirement for free. The service is offered for free because of advertisements paying the cost, you would reconsider if you were paying the cost of the services and storage. Another option is your own RAID 1 array which can be had cheaply and can store 500 GB with safety locally or archiving the email using Outlook and putting it on DVD-RWs which can be searched. I’ve heard all the excuses for keeping ALL email before and in the end it’s poor time/resource management not an over riding need to find anything. No rant intended.

  26. says

    Mike, Gmail is a filing system. Go back and read how they describe it, what they want you to do with it. That’s the very core of how it was designed. Hey, I’m not the want who says you’ll never have to “delete” on the Gmail home page. Google is.

    I do keep my email offline. Pretty sure I’ve said this already above, and in some of the articles I’ve also referenced. I do a POP download and so have local copies of anything I absolutely want for the future. These:

    The Great Gmail Import & My Short Life With Web-Based Mail

    Moving From SpamCop To Gmail & Loving POP Download With Archiving

    Explain the backup and filing system stuff more.

    As for the professional version, did you read the article? I mean, I know I can buy space. I said at the beginning that I wanted to do that. I couldn’t, not for about four weeks because of a bug on Google’s servers. Could. Not. Had. No. Choice. But to conserve my space. And in doing that, I simply got fascinated by how much email can eat up that space.

    I’ve repeated that point several times. This was a look at how much dumb email can consume space because we live in a time when virtually none of us have to think about that. It wasn’t a rant against Google. Wasn’t a suggestion I should get something for free. Wasn’t a suggestion I can’t manage my mail — I can, have and do quite successfully, thanks.

  27. Paul says

    Gmail is SO overrated. For years I had my university email account synced to Thunderbird (and recently switched to Outlook). With IMAP support my messages stay organized, even when I access them though the web interface. If I simply forwarded these messages to Google I would have thousands of (unread) messages sitting in the inbox of my university account. My university does have unlimited email storage from what I can tell (my mailbox tips the scales at over 20gigs), and the messages are also saved to my hardrive which is more or less infinite.

    Not to mention that
    1. You can’t sort by anything but date in Gmail
    2. Filters are a joke – I can’t have a message from “citicard.com”, “discovercard.com”, and “fidelity.com” go into my “Money” folder without creating 3 separate filters (in Outlook or Thunderbird this can be done with one)
    3. No subfolders
    4. It takes about 4 clicks to do anything that’s not automated (mark a message read, put on a label, then archive it)
    5. No reading pane. Navigating between messages is cumbersome. I want to go from message 4 to 14. Hold on, let me go back to the inbox (wait for it to load) then click on my new message. In Outlook, my inbox is already shown, I simply click on on message 14.

    Gmail is probably the single most overrated piece of software (if you can call it that) I have ever used.

  28. Raju Krishnan says

    I am having the same problem, i.e. running out of space. I wanted to delete some mails sent to a particular email id. But it is most difficult to do in gmail.

    For eg. I go to search options type the from and To id’s. instead of getting only the specific mails, I get the entire conversations where this is also one of the mails. So I have no choice but to open each conversation, locate the mail and delete it.

    I also tried to configure my gmail on outlook IMAP. I was surprised when I change the view to include the “To” field, it does not disply the “to” information but just shows a blank field.

    Very frustrating!!

  29. says

    Danny there are several solutions available but none of them are easy enough to represent an advantage for Gmail. First of all, you can create another Gmail account because it is available for free and forward all the incoming mails to this new inbox. Also, you can wait a little big longer until the Gmail storage size is automatically increased by the parent company.

  30. JC says

    Someone (Jason) mentioned you could use an IMAP client and sort by biggest messages. Problem solved? No–because you said Outlook is choking on the number of messages you have.

    Someone else (Hari) mentioned you could use another client (mentioning Thunderbird) which can handle the number of messages you have and then you could sort by size and delete. Problem solved? No–because you said you don’t actually want to delete many of those big messages.

    You said in your post that you want a way to sort via size to help determine what to delete (pleading with Google to add it) and Hari gives you a way to do it and you shrug it off with a response I interpreted as basically “nah…it’s not too useful to me.” Am I misunderstanding your response? Didn’t Hari give you a solution? What did I miss here? Those are real questions, not a rhetorical ones, since I can picture myself “being in your shoes” someday.

  31. says

    Problem solved when I just make time to upgrade my account and pay for more storage. I have three other family accounts that are on the same domain. There’s no need for me to upgrade and pay for them as well. So I just need a quiet moment to move that out.

    The Thunderbird option sounds nice. I’m not shrugging it off. I just have thing working OK at the moment that I don’t need to go through the hassle of downloading a client, doing the setup, etc. If you don’t want to pay for more space, that might be an excellent way to sort by size.

    It would still be better if Google just provided this themselves, of course. It shouldn’t be that hard to do.

    I’ve also spoken with Gmail folks at Google, and suffice to say, I don’t think they viewed this post as whiny or anti-Google. Rather, I’m just noting some improvements I think the should consider. Like I said, I’m happy to pay. I would have paid when the problem first came up — I was simply unable to because of an error on Google’s end. Then it just was fun and interesting to study it more.

  32. says

    I’m running out of space too and this is on a 25 GB Google Apps Premier account. I have a few months before I completely run out of space.

    The horrible thing about this is that I CANNOT purchase additional space. If you’re on Google Apps you can’t just buy additional space like you can on a regular Gmail account.

    Anybody have any ideas what to do in this case? Or any knowledge of whether Google will be upping the limits anytime soon?…

  33. Foobar says

    Go f* yourself out of GMAIL. Who the f* told you to use the fucking gmail. Instead of shouting, and abasing gmail, go and f* your trash.

  34. says

    Foobar, I’ve edited your profanity down for others who don’t want to see it.

    Instead of shouting, perhaps next time you’ll actually read something before commenting. I’ve said repeatedly that I don’t have an issue with Gmail overall. Love the service. Think it’s great. Simply couldn’t upgrade to use more space due to a problem on their end and so pondered ALL the mail we get from ALL sources as a general problem.

  35. Ranjit says

    I hit over-quota about 2 months ago! And then I realised how much of “un-important”, “newsletters”, “notifications”, etc I had piled up over the last few years. It is very easy for me to pay and upgrade; but somehow I am telling myself to enjoy this challenge :) And really get selective about what you keep! Afterall, we don’t wanna keep everything in our house forever… We sure do want to trash stuff or move them out (aka ‘yard sale’)… Almost every 2 days, I hit the limit saying I am OVER 99.xxx%! And I am trying to see how long I can continue like this… I am thinking something different as well – (1) Open a Second gmail account and “Forward” all heavy emails to that account, and delete all forwarded emails from the current account. I bet you, you can see the results just in ONE hour! In 1 hour you will have freed up Almost a gig of space or maybe more… This again takes us back to a feature for “Sort by Size”. I have always wondered if there would ever be a feature where you could select multiple emails and forward them at one go! :) ) Seems too much to ask for, but yeah its not that difficult to write a program that does this. By far Google’s email search is the best and the fastest – This is ONE BIG reason I am hooked up!

    I also have a question though – When I purchase additional storage, let’s say 10GB, is this storage over and above the 7.3GB that I am using (so the total would be 7.3 + 10 = 17.3 GB)? or is it like just TOTAL 10GB? Anyone has an answer to this? Thanks!

  36. Dave says

    Sorry I’m a bit late to this party, but you might want to check out IMAPSize (Windows only, article about it here). Haven’t tried it yet myself but could be useful. It allows searching the IMAP tree for attachments over a certain size, downloading a local copy, removing attachments but leaving message bodies intact (so you can still search in GMail) and doing full account backups.

    Cheers,

    Dave.

  37. Ranjit says

    Thanks Dave!
    I finally bought 20 GB extra space from Google. The price factor $5/yr for 20 gig seemed attractive as well…

    I did a Thunderbird backup from gmail already, but haven’t been able to get all my mails yet. Somehow it keeps on saying Inbox Full, etc..

  38. Raju Krishnan says

    I have managed to find a work around

    1. Create a new Gmail id
    2. Keep some space free in your old id by deleting unwanted mails.
    3. Forward all incoming messages to the new id using a filter and immediately delete from the new id.
    4. Go to your new mail id and – go to settings-Accounts & Import-Send mail as and configure your old gmail id.
    5. This way any mail going from your new id will continue to be received by the other party in the old id and when you continue to receive mail in the old id which is automatically forwarded to your new id.
    6. For some time it is a problem if you have to refer to some old conversation
    7. To overcome this, I keep my old gmail and my new one opened together using 2 different browsers. (IE and Chrome)

    Hope this was helpful to some of you.

    regards
    raju

  39. Scott says

    Interesting read, however I have to ask just one thing – unlimited space or not, why would you keep spam emails anyway? 2500 of them!

  40. WhatTheGoogle says

    Quote: “Needless to say, the problem isn’t unique to Gmail…”
    Oh really. How ’bout Implement-The-Basics-First, like SORTING by size which has been around as a familiar, usable, known UI element for 15+ years, and how ’bout WILDCARD keyword searching ie. arro*gant* again, something that has been around for 15+ years in familiar, known, useable apps and operating systems. The list goes on (like turning “off” CV – which should never have -exclusively- replaced a traditional UI to begin with). There are all kinds of “fancy” gmail “add-ons” — IMPLEMENT THE BASICS FIRST.

  41. says

    You can use FindBigMail.com to label your big emails into three groups so that you can go through them and delete all the ones you no longer need. You can free up space really quick this way.

    It uses Google’s third party Oauth interface so you do not have to share your password to use it. Don’t forget to empty the trash when you’re done to get the space back immediately.

  42. Google is Evil says

    Some of those tools to find big emails seems sketch, I have way too much personal info to use them. I tried to just buy more space, but Google says they shut down my google checkout account from a misunderstanding long ago (when it first came out, I tried it, didn’t work, now it’s my fault?). Hating Google.

  43. lin says

    I only took yup the gmail account as I was assured I would never run out of space.
    I think this should be taken further as a legal application.
    the suppliers of this service have not lived up to their claims

  44. GrahamB says

    I’m currently spending too many hours assessing my future emailing needs. Yahoo is receiving my considered attention, more so now that I’ve seen their Help page give a process for emptying the Trash bin . . . Just a thought!

  45. Drease says

    Gmail allows importing email from other accounts, and that’s the way I use it. At one point I had close to 20 email adresses from various organizations, all arriving in the one gmail inbox. All nicely labeled automatically etc.

    But imagine yourself leaving one organization… What about those emails?
    I don’t want to just delete all mails with the one label, there could be old attachments that I want to look up some day, but there’s no need to just keep them in my 7GB of Gmail space. ExampleMan should be able to download and backup all (and only) the emails received on ExampleMan@MyOldJob.com; creating the possibility to clear up some space and dedicate his 7GB of Gmail goodness to the mails sent to ExampleMan@MyNewJob.com.

    I know it should be possible using IMAP, but I just can’t seem to find the right explanation (or, it’s a solution for a different OS). If anyone reading this might know how to do this using Windows, please reply.

    Thank you,
    Drease