Tricks and tips for using IMAP mail?
July 12, 2005 6:17 AM   Subscribe

I've just switched to IMAP after (literally) fifteen years of pop mail. What are some tips, warnings, and best practices?

I use Eudora for the Mac at home, Thunderbird on my PC when I travel, and pine when I'm out and about and want a tiny quick way to check email ... I'm having trouble getting my pine and Thunderbird clients to see the folders I set up with Eudora. And I'm not sure how best to structure my folders so that I don't waste space on stuff I don't need, or energy finding what I do!
posted by esperluette to Computers & Internet (6 answers total)
Be sure to back the mail up on the server, as your mail client will update accordingly should your mail be deleted.
posted by The Jesse Helms at 6:44 AM on July 12, 2005

I'm having trouble getting my pine and Thunderbird clients to see the folders I set up with Eudora.

IMAP has the concept of a "folder path", which decides the root of the folder tree that your client displays. Sometimes, depending on the server software, this must be set explicitly in the client configuration. You should ask your ISP what the correct setting is, or you could try setting it to INBOX, which is a common setting; this means all your folders are attached as sub-folders of the inbox folder. (In Thunderbird, that's Tools, Account Settings, Server Settings under your account, then the Advanced button, and in the dialog that comes up, type the path into the "IMAP server directory" box.)

As for tips and warnings, make sure you enable your client's offline support, so that you can read your mail even your connection is down. Thunderbird and Outlook come with offline support built in. In Thunderbird, go into the account settings, Offline & Disk Space entry, an enable the feature. (To configure individual folders, you can right-click on the folder, go to the Offline tab and set whether the folder is to be offline-reachable.) Unfortunately, in my experience Thunderbird only makes offline-reachable copies of mail when it enters your inbox. If you enable the feature after getting mail in your folders, you have to tell it to explicitly download the stuff: folder right-click, Offline tab, click on Download Now.
posted by gentle at 7:43 AM on July 12, 2005

Watch your spam folder (if you have one), because if you don't clean it out regularly, it might cause you to exceed your disk storage quota.

In fact, the disk quota was my biggest problem with IMAP, since it was pretty small relative to modern hard drives. A large photo attachment would take up a not insignificant portion of it, and I had to come up with an archive solution, which was not a good use of time.
posted by smackfu at 8:40 AM on July 12, 2005

Very few anti-virus products support IMAP (you'll still be covered by the resident virus-checker, just not as protected as if you were using POP) so you might want to check your documentation on that...
posted by rjt at 10:04 AM on July 12, 2005

Here's how I've structured my mail flow. First, anything that is from a mailing list does not go straight into my INBOX. If it's of marginal importance (like announcements of local cultural events), I use an e-mail subscription on bloglines which I check when I feel like and am happy to ignore. For important mailing lists (e.g. official notices from my funding agency), I use server-side filtering into a folder in my incoming/ directory. I can then use Pine's incoming-folders capability to check them all instantly. I find it's easier to associate groups of mailing lists together to several folders rather than slavishly adhering to one list per folder.

I have plenty of quota, so I keep the current calendar year's saved mail in a directory on the server called 2005/.

Sent mail in 2005/sent/sent until Pine automatically renames it to 2005/sent/sent-2005-07 at the end of the month. Saved mail from important lists goes into 2005/groups/groupname. Mail relating to pending projects that I know I will have to look at goes into projects/project.

For the leftover mail, mail from in my address book goes into 2005/people/nickname. All other mail goes into 2005/domains/domainname, where domainname is the most relevant internet domain. So mail from another MeFi user would go into 2005/domain/, but usually it's just the domain they sent the mail from, like 2005/domain/

At the end of the year I will save the 2005/ directory locally and will start over. This is definitely the best filing system I've used in about seven years of saving my e-mail. The fact that it is organized by year first means that if I wanted to, I could radically reorganize next year's e-mail without having to squeeze existing stored mail into the new system.
posted by grouse at 10:15 AM on July 12, 2005

On Windows, you'll find IMAPSize quite handy for detaching attachments to a local disk in order to economize on server disk space.
posted by evariste at 5:07 PM on July 12, 2005

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