BackUp Gmail does what you’d expect: it backs up your Gmail account to your desktop computer. It’s a simple Menu Bar app that works in the background. It’s only $2 in the Mac App Store, but does have a few problems.
Now, if this was some random app I’d grabbed off some random guy off the internet, this would be the moment where I’d say: you can’t trust this software, you have no idea where it came from, or what it’s doing with your Gmail credentials. Run. Away.
But, the circumstances here are different. This is an app from Apple’s own Mac App Store, where, Apple assures us, steps are taken to check each app and make sure it only does what it claims to do, and nothing more.
This is the curated Mac App Store at work. There is no way I’d even test an app that asked for my Gmail password, unless I had reassurance from someone I trust that it would behave itself. Since this app has made it to the Mac App Store, my conclusion is that it’s been tested by Apple’s army of iTestBots, and that it’s trustworthy.
The preferences panel is where everything is set up. It’s fairly simple, but setting things up is fiddly and not always behaves as expected. Adding your Gmail account details means clicking an oddly-labelled “Check availability” button, which might make you think you’re signing up for something new.
Things could do with a bit of polish all round. For example, once started, there’s no sign that anything’s happening at all – no progress bar of any sort. If you click the Menu Bar icon again you’ll see a message that the “Backup is in progress”, but that’s it. There’s no pause function. If you want to pause the backup, quit the app. When you restart it, you’ll have to restart the backup manually.
I found one unfortunate bug: on two separate occasions, using the app caused Finder to freeze up completely. Fixing it was a simple case of clicking “Relaunch” in the Force Quit menu, but still, it was annoying.
So what does it do with your mails? It stores them in a folder of your choosing, using the .eml format also used by Apple’s Mail application.
That means your archived messages are searchable from the Spotlight menu, and you can drag them into a folder inside Mail if you wish.
To make it work, you’ll need to have IMAP enabled in your Gmail settings. Don’t expect lightening-fast backups; the application has to respect the wider network, as well as Google’s servers, so it doesn’t bombard them with demands for messages. Simply by watching the download folder as it filled up, I’d say messages are saved at a rate of one or two per second. So if you have an account with many thousands of messages (like the one I tested the app with), you might want to leave the backup running overnight. Leave your Mac somewhere ventilated, because I noticed mine getting very hot after the app had been running for a while.
At the moment, BackUp Gmail can only deal with a single account, but the developers are working on an update that handles multiple accounts.
Of course, it’s not terribly hard to set up your own Gmail backup system using your Mac’s Mail application. BackUp Gmail just makes it all click-and-forget simple.
However you choose to do it, make sure you do make a backup. There have been too many horror stories of people being unexpectedly shut out of their Gmail accounts for you to be complacent about it. And what’s more, who knows how long we can depend on Google being around to handle all our stuff for us? Look to the long term. If your emails are important to you, make the effort to save copies of them in a format you can maintain and read for many years to come.
Pro: Setup-and-forget ease of use
Con: A few rough edges and bugs, no progress indicator, only backs up one account at the moment