Looks like I am growing out of the initial disappointment with Gmail IMAP. Although the mapping of labels to folders is still uncomfortable, thanks to some useful tips floating around on the web, I have been able to configure my clients much better now.
I did not have a lot of trouble with Thunderbird to begin with. I use the nightly build on Linux, it works fine with Gmail IMAP. After mapping Trash, Drafts, Sent and Spam folders to those on [Gmail], things work great. The only flaw I see is that even after mapping Thunderbird’s Trash folder to [Gmail]/Trash, Thunderbird’s Trash folder stays put. This causes the unwelcome [Imap]/Trash label on the web interface.
Two Trash folders on
Thunderbird on Ubuntu Gutsy
On the Mac, I had expressed my doubts on how Mail.app would handle multiple IMAP accounts. This was because when I configured one Gmail IMAP account, Gmail folders were created at the top level. I was worried that more than one accounts would step on each other’s folders. Thankfully, Mail.app handles multiple accounts just fine. Mapping Mail.app’s Trash, Drafts, Sent and Spam folders to Gmail’s is easy. Select [Gmail]/Trash, for example, and use Mailbox -> Use This Mailbox For -> Trash from the menu-bar. Repeat that for other special folders.
So, there are some rough edges as far as the clients’ implementation of IMAP goes, Gmail labels are rendered pretty much useless – but all the clients are in sync! Not bad at all…
I noticed today that Google has started rolling out support for IMAP on Gmail accounts. This is something I was waiting for since a long time. Gmail’s POP access is too inadequate when it came to accessing Gmail from multiple desktop email clients.
I was lucky enough to have one of my accounts enabled for IMAP. First thing I did was start playing around with it.
My first impression – I hope I grow out if it – is that Google’s mapping of Gmail features to IMAP features is very disappointing. It’s workable, but may be I was expecting something smarter from folks at Google. After using Gmail IMAP for a few hours, I’ve started to think that the POP option suits me better for access with desktop email clients (whooda thunk!). Web Gmail is still my favorite flavor – but it does not make messages available for off-line use (Say what? Gears?).
So what is it that I don’t like about the new IMAP access?
- I like the concepts of labels or tags when it comes to organizing files, email messages, things – as against folders. Tags are much easier to search, manage. If a message belongs in two different categories, you can add two (or more) tags. You don’t have to waste time deciding which folder to file it in. Labels and Folders are two completely orthogonal concepts – they can coexist, but they cannot be mapped. I was hoping that Google kept them that way. As it turns out, Google has tried to map Labels to folders. As one would expect, this causes multiple copies of messages on the desktop.
- It may be just my lack of knowledge about IMAP, but I had thought that information about labels, stars etc. would be carried in custom message headers, so that desktop applications can use the labels as they are on Gmail web. There would just be one big All Mail folder
- From what I have read though, there are a lot of Gmail users who hate (or don’t understand) labels and dearly miss the concept of folders. Rejoice suckers!
- I configured Thunderbird 3.0 (pre-release) and Apple Mail to use IMAP access to Gmail. Things look pretty OK on Thunderbird. Notice this, all Gmail folders are created under an account tree (account name obscured).
Gmail IMAP folders on
Thunderbird on Ubuntu Gutsy
On Apple Mail though, Gmail folders are created at the top level.
Gmail IMAP folders on Apple Mail
If one wants to configure multiple Gmail accounts, I can see it work in Thunderbird with the [Gmail] folders under each account tree. On Apple Mail will the [Gmail] for different accounts stomp on each other? I am not even going to try that before I hear from someone else who has done that without problems.
- This label-folder mapping also causes funky things to happen to Web Gmail when you move messages on the desktop client. Not something I found very impressive.
So there… Like I said, I hope this changes, but for now, I am not a big fan of Gmail IMAP.