SolutionBase: Using external mail services with the PalmOne Treo

Mobile users want the ability to go wherever they want while still being able to access network resources such as e-mail. Here's how to get the PalmOne Treo to communicate with e-mail services in your organization.

A Palm Pilot. A cell phone. A Blackberry. If you're one of, or you support one of, today's typical power users, these are three devices that you've probably gotten used to supporting in some fashion. You've probably heard the complaints and researched one of the potential solutions, too--the Treo 600 or 650 from PalmOne. Of course, it's one thing to find a solution. Once found, you need to find ways to make the new technology fit neatly (or at least mostly) into your computing environment in order to achieve the best return and to keep your support staff from going insane.

Of all of the services your users need on the go, email probably ranks at the top of the list. Here's how to configure a Treo to work with external email services.

Author's Note

In this series of articles, I'll go over some ways that you can neatly integrate the Treo 600 into your environment. Each of the articles assumes that you're using Outlook with Exchange (although for this article, any mail system will do) and that you actually have a Treo 600 (or 650, for which these articles should still hold true).

I'll also include some tips on connecting to mail systems other than Exchange. After all, you probably have one or two mail accounts for which you might use POP--not everything is Exchange, after all!

For this article, I'll go over how to get Palm's VersaMail product up and running and downloading mail from a variety of mail systems.

Palm VersaMail

One of the more readily available and straightforward solutions is Palm VersaMail available for purchase and download from the PalmOne Web site. The software costs $29.95 and lets your Treo synchronize directly with any POP3 or IMAP-compliant mail system. VersaMail works over any network connection supported by your handheld or can be synchronized during a HotSync operation.

The VersaMail Palm client can also render basic HTML, making it suitable for use with some Web-based mail systems. You can also configure the application to schedule send and receive operations.

Installing VersaMail

First, you have to get VersaMail. For this article, I downloaded VersaMail from the Web and used that installer to get things up and running. When you download the installer, don't get concerned if you can't find the installation file immediately. It's buried about 8 levels deep in the package.

When you start the installation, you'll get the usual Windows information including the license. Next, the meaty part begins by asking you to select the user for which you want to install the application. The next time that user HotSyncs the handheld with the PC, the VersaMail application is installed, as you can see in Figure A.

Figure A

Select the user for whom the VersaMail client should be installed

When you're done with the installation, a window pops up telling you that you're ready to sync your handheld. To do this, just press the HotSync button and let the Palm software install VersaMail for you.

After the first HotSync operation during which VersaMail is installed, your Treo displays a message indicating that you need to reset the handheld. To do so, just click the Reset button on the message screen.

Creating accounts--POP3

The VersaMail client on your Treo can connect with multiple email providers and download mail for you on a schedule. First, I'll set up a POP3 account on the handheld and set up a schedule to download new mail every hour.

To get started, from the home menu, choose the VersaMail option as shown in Figure B.

Figure B

Tap the VersaMail icon to read mail and set up accounts

Once in VersaMail, press the Menu button and choose Accounts | Account Setup. The Account Setup screen, along with a listing of any accounts you might have set up, appears. Tap the New option to create a new account. A screen similar to the one shown in Figure C comes into view.

Figure C

Choose your settings and name your new account

In Figure C, you can see that I've named my new account 'TR test', with 'Other' for the mail service. I'm also using POP to check this account. If you expand these two items, you get complete lists of the offerings. A list of mail services included in VersaMail is shown in Figure D. The only two protocols available from this screen are POP and IMAP.

Figure D

VersaMail comes preconfigured with mail services from most of the major wireless providers

One option shown in Figure C is the "Synchronize Only Account" checkbox. If you select this, VersaMail will only receive mail for this account when you HotSync the handheld. Keep this deselected if you want the handheld to be able to receive mail from this account at other times.

Tap the Next button to continue.

On the next screen, enter your username and password for the account you're setting up. Personally, I wish this option was after you indicate the servers to use since it's less confusing for new users that way, but it is what it is. As you can see in Figure E, I've provided a username for the account and the Password field reads "Assigned" meaning that I entered a password. During password entry on the Treo, the password field is visible since it's very easy to make a mistake. This masking after the password is initially entered provides a little more security from people looking over your shoulder.

Figure E

Provide a username and password for the new account

The next screen asks you for three pieces of information: the email address associated with this account and for the incoming (POP3) and outgoing (SMTP) mail server names for this account. I've provided a screenshot with this information in Figure F. Tap Next when you're done.

Figure F

Provide your email address and mail server names

When you're done with the email address and server settings screen, your account is set up and can be used. However, you'll notice that the window telling you that you're done has a Next button at the bottom, which is unusual since it also has a Done button. Tap the Next button to set up more options for your new account, as you can see in Figure G.

Figure G

The 'Done' screen has a Next button where you can provide more information

The first post-configuration screen lets you set some incoming mail options. The first option, "Get unread mail ONLY", is quite useful if you have saved all of your mail on the server in the past. If you fail to select this option, your handheld will download every message in your account, which could quickly eat up your memory and your monthly bandwidth allotment from your provider. The second option "Delete messages on the server when they are deleted in VersaMail" is pretty straightforward, so I won't say any more about it. The last option, "Leave mail on server (e.g. to view on a desktop later.)" is also pretty self-evident.

The other three options, port number, SSL and maximum message size, let you specify how your connection works. By default, VersaMail uses the standard port, which is 110, does not use SSL, and imposes a 5K message size limit to avoid overloading the handheld. See Figure H for a sample. You can change any of the settings, if you like.

Figure H

Decide how you want your incoming mail to work

In Figure I, I've provided a sample of the next screen, on which you configure some outgoing mail options, including your Display Name, which recipients of messages will see when you send them mail, a reply to address, if you want replies to go to a different account and a BCC option which lets you send a copy of all sent messages to a different account. I've only configured a display name.

Figure I

Decide how you want sent mail to be handled

On the next screen, you can configure a signature which will show at the bottom of any message you send from the handheld. I have not provided a screenshot for this.

On the final screen, you can indicate that the handheld should use advanced sending options including SSL and enhanced SMTP.

Once you're done setting up an account, from the menu, choose Option | Auto Get Mail to set up a regular schedule to automatically download new mail. You can choose the frequency and the time and date range during which you want the handheld to get your mail. Figure J shows you how.

Figure J

Decide how often you want to get your mail

When you're done, tap the Get Mail button at the bottom of the VersaMail window to download your mail from the accounts you've configured. You'll then see the screen shown in Figure K.

Figure K

VersaMail downloads any new mail it finds

Creating accounts--IMAP

The easiest way to handle Exchange connections with VersaMail is to enable IMAP on your Exchange server and open up the appropriate ports in your firewall to allow traffic from the Internet to use the protocol. Otherwise, in order to sync with an Exchange server, you'll need to use your sync cable, which defeats the purpose a little since you probably want to untether yourself from your desk.

The Treo 600 is somewhat limited in its networking expansion capabilities. The only real Wi-Fi support comes from a third party, in fact. The Treo 650 includes more capabilities, including Bluetooth and a reasonable Wi-Fi card. However, the Treo 650 is not yet (at least, as of this writing) supported on the Verizon Wireless network. Of course, POP on your Exchange server is also an option, as long as you remember to leave the mail on the server.

Since I always have a wireless connection through my wireless provider, I try to use that as the default when possible, as long as the usage charges don't kill me.

To create an IMAP account in VersaMail, start the program and choose Menu | Accounts | Account Setup. Next, tap the New icon. From here, follow the same directions as above, making sure you insert the name or IP address of your IMAP server in the incoming mail server field.

Once the new account is created, tap the Get Mail button to download new message that make their way to your IMAP/Exchange server.

One great thing about IMAP is its ability to work with multiple folders, making it easier for you or your users to manage their mail. Using VersaMail, you can create new IMAP-enabled folders on the fly that are automatically replicated to your IMAP server.

To create a new folder in VersaMail from your Treo, choose the folder list in the upper right hand corner of the screen and select Edit Folders. This opens a window entitled Edit IMAP Folders as seen in Figure L.

Figure L

Tap the New button to create a new IMAP mail folder

To add a new folder, tap New. On the screen show below in Figure M, type in the name of the new folder. If you want to create the folder on the IMAP server when you do your next Get Mail, choose the checkbox "Also create on server".

Figure M

Type the name for your new IMAP folder

The next time you tap Get Mail, also make sure that the checkbox "Sync IMAP folders" in enabled, as seen in Figure N.

Figure N

Make sure to enable this option if you want folders fully synced.

Versatility with VersaMail

VersaMail builds on the functionality included with your Treo by giving you ways other than HotSync to automatically get mail. Better, it works very well with both the Treo 600 and the 650, as long as you have a data plan with your wireless carrier.