Lotus Notes liberation: How to forward everything to Gmail

An editor yesterday said she’d send me a document from her Gmail account, because that would be easier than using her office’s Lotus Notes system. I could only chuckle and say “I know what you’re talking about.”

Yes, I’m afraid that the Post uses Notes as well. I was lucky enough not to spend too much time in that malformed excuse for an e-mail client; for a long time, I had an account on an outside system (that’s where my rob@twp.com address came from) and then had access to a newsroom trial of the Domino server’s IMAP access. But I was still irritated by the continued existence of this bloated groupware system–worse yet, an out-of-date version of a bloated groupware system–so poorly suited to busy reporters who were often out of the office and almost never touched its intra-office collaboration tools.

So after years of writing memos to higher-ups lobbying for a standards-based mail system, I elected to subvert the system from within. I wrote a piece for the newsroom intranet about how to forward all of your Notes mail to an outside account–while still replying from a washpost.com address. Below, as a public service to those of you stuck with Notes at work, is an updated copy of that how-to.

You can take advantage of a lesser-known Notes feature to send a copy of all your mail to any other account, automatically and nearly instantly. Google’s Gmail service is one of the more popular options around for this–it provides some of the best offline-access features of the free Web-mail services–but most of the following directions would work for another Web-mail option or any other mail account.

The first and most complicated step is to tell Notes to send a copy of all of your incoming mail to Gmail. To begin that, click the Tools icon at the left side of the Notes window, click the Rules icon that will appear below it, and then click the “New Rule” button towards the top of the screen.

In the “New Rule” dialog box, click the first menu under the “Create condition” heading, scroll all the way down and select “All Documents,” and click the “Add” button. Select the menu to the right of “AND,” starting with “sender,” and scroll down to select “All Documents” there too. Under the “Specify Actions” heading, choose “send copy to” and enter the destination e-mail address in the “to:” field. Then click the “Add Action” button and click the “OK” button at the bottom of the window to activate this rule. The results should look like what you see in the screen capture here, only with your address included–unless you’d prefer to send all your e-mail to me. (Using a personal domain name instead of a Gmail address, as shown in that screengrab, is fairly easy to do with a special kind of free Gmail account called Google Apps Standard Edition.)

You’ll now have every incoming message copied intact to Gmail, without any weird re-formatting or any other sign that it’s been relayed. But at the same time, messages will continue to arrive in Notes as they did before.

Finally, adding your work return address to the Gmail account will free you from having to tell correspondents to look for messages coming from a new address; follow Google’s instructions to make that adjustment. If you access Gmail through a regular mail program, like Microsoft Outlook, Mozilla Thunderbird or Apple’s Mail, you’ll also need to edit the Gmail account settings in that program.

Bear in mind that recipients using some mail systems may see your Gmail address mentioned after your work address–it can look something like “sent via soandso@gmail.com”–so choose a Gmail username that will look professional and identifiable as you.

(Prefer anybody but Google for your e-mail? At Microsoft’s Hotmail, you can add a custom return address in much the same way as at Gmail. Yahoo Mail offers about the same option–but charges $20 a year for offline access.)

2/4/2015: The continued popularity of a post that I haven’t promoted in years tells me a lot about how many of you can’t stand Notes. But I have to warn you that I haven’t looked at Notes since 2011 and don’t plan on breaking that streak anytime soon, so I can’t provide much in the way of tech support for this post.