Using IMAP with Gmail

I use IMAP. It’s lovely. I also use Gmail with IMAP but in a roundabout sort of way because Gmail still has a few showstoppers for proper IMAP use to be fluid. This means I forward my mail automatically out of Gmail and into a folder within my IMAP mailbox at Tuffmail (who know how to run a mail server, well recommended provider). I read my IMAP mail stores using Mulberry – it’s not very pretty but it is very flexible.

So what is wrong with Gmail IMAP natively?
They list a few hurdles here but there are other things that I find problematic:

  • Sorting by anything other than message number can be slow or just drops your IMAP connection
  • Threading seems to fail consistently
  • Searches (in header fields like To/From but not and in the body) don’t match sub-strings only whole words (yes astonishing isn’t it for a search company)
  • Auto Expunge Forever is set by default

The last one is a real killer until you realise it can be switched off in the Gmail settings. With it on, if you delete a message in your client it is automatically expunged so you cannot change your mind and un-delete it, because in IMAP land deleted messages exist in-situ until they are expunged (the equivalent of emptying your desktop trash folder).

At some point I will probably switch to just using IMAP with Gmail and then I don’t have to pay to store the mail with Tuffmail, but I’m not ready for that just yet.


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