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Using Subdomains to Make Google Hosted Apps Convenient

Google has a great standard Apps setup so that anyone with a domain can use Gmail’s interface to send & receive e-mail as well as setup Google Docs & Calendar for your domain. You can also use Google Sites, but if you’re hosting & building the site yourself, then this isn’t nearly as useful.

While you have to go through a whole process to setup Gmail interface for your domain’s e-mail (it’s not that bad, I promise), the apps are actually hosted at http://mail.google.com/a/yourdomain.com/ http://docs.google.com/a/yourdomain.com/ & http://www.google.com/calendar/hosted/yourdomain.com/ respectively.

It’s not hard to bookmark those in your browser, but it may be a handful of typing to remember if you’re trying to access it quickly from something other than your primary computer.

My suggest—use redirected subdomains.

In brief, set up three subdomains for your domain: email.yourdomain.com, docs.yourdomain.com, and cal.yourdomain.com (or calendar.yourdomain.com). I don’t suggest using mail.yourdomain.com because some hosts restrict the use of this subdomain and won’t let you forward it.

Then redirect each of the subdomains to the Google app URL. Most hosts will let you setup an automatic redirect when or after you create the subdomain. However if your host doesn’t do that, simply create a file called index.php and put it in the subdomain’s directory. Put the following code in it, substituting the appropriate link to your domain and app.

<?php
header( 'Location: http://mail.google.com/a/yourdomain.com/' ) ;
?>

Make sure there are no spaces after the code and there is no index.html file in the directory. That should redirect straight to the right page.

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