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How does Mail 4 organize folders for IMAP vs POP in sidebar?

3218 Views 18 Replies Latest reply: Nov 2, 2012 9:29 AM by K60SGB RSS
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Marlinespike Level 4 Level 4 (1,880 points)
Currently Being Moderated
May 25, 2011 8:41 AM

Can someone explain how Mail organizes the sidebar for POP vs IMAP and what would happen if I switched totatlly to IMAP?


I'm a bit confused by how Mail is organizing the folders in the sidebar for an IMAP account. Way back in Panther days I had an IMAP email for a year or two and if I recall correctly I saved it in On My Mac as a folder. Same for a POP account I was getting rid of.


Since then I have had only POP accounts (including a gmail account). I managed to keep the inboxes (at least) in sync by not removing mail from the server so that my ipod, iphone, and other Macs can log into the mail server too. This has worked OK. However, since I send a lot of mail from my iPhone, I'm wondering if it's time to switch to IMAP since I will be giving up several ISP issued email addresses that only use POP.


I signed up for a new gmail account recently and it set up as an IMAP account by default. Now there's a folder for the new IMAP Gmail account at the bottom of the sidebar under On My Mac folders. It doesn't have an inbox or sent folder but does have a "sent items" folder.


Additionally, at the top of the sidebar is "Mailboxes" with Inbox, Sent, Drafts, Trash and under these are a subfolder for each POP account and also one for the new IMAP gmail. It seems weird to have the inbox and sent items so far away from the rest of the folders. I'm also not clear if it's keeping 2 copies on my hard disk one in the top mailboxes under "Sent" and one at the bottom Gmail folder under "sent items".


Finally, I'm wondering would it be prudent to back up all of the existing POP mailboxes or move everything to On My Mac before switching some of the other mail accounts over to IMAP? I will want to keep archives of the ISP emails when I cancel my service with them.


Thanks for any clarification and advice.

MBP 13 2.53gHZ/4mb RAM, PB G4 12, 1gHZ/768 mb RAM, OS X.3.9, Mac OS X (10.6.7), Touch 2 gen, Shuffle 1 gen, Nano 2 gen, PM7300/200 416 mb RAM OS
  • Glenn Leblanc Level 5 Level 5 (5,935 points)

    Wow, that a lot to explain.


    POP Mail is set up on your computer. All folders are stored on your computer.


    IMAP is internet Mail.

    The GMail folder you see in your sidebar in Mail is really just an image of the folders in GMail. What you see or don't see in Mail is controlled from the GMail website through it's settings. You can set a folder to be seen or not seen on the Mac from the GMail site under settings and Labels.

    The GMail inbox & sent folders do show up as mailboxes in you Mail INBOX & SENT folder. That's what's on your Mac, even though they sync up with the GMail folders.


    I have a GMail account, but it's just a secondary account for me. I have hidden all the folders from showing on my Mac through the GMail site. I just have the inbox and sent folder for GMail under my INBOX & SENT mailboxes so I can view and send messages from my Mac. My main account is POP.


    GMail is a bit confusing. It's very involved on the settings and is hard to understand. I've just started using it recently, so it's still a bit new to me.

  • Barney-15E Level 7 Level 7 (33,560 points)

    In the Gmail folders, select each of the four main mailboxes (Sent, Drafts, Spam, Trash) and then tell mail what they are used for. With one selected, go to Mailbox>Use Mailbox for> and pick the appropriate item. That will "merge" them with Mail's Sent, Drafts, Junk, and Trash.


    The other Gmail cruft you must deal with as already mentioned in the Labels section of Gmail web interface.

    You can get even more control by "installing" the Advanced IMAP controls Lab in the Gmail web interface.

  • Csound1 Level 7 Level 7 (32,465 points)

    Marlinespike wrote:


    I'm really confused now how to use OSX 's Mail application with an IMAP server.


    .snip ..


    Since the default on Gmail seems to be "Sent Mail" folder, is there any way to tell Mail (on my Mac) to file the emails in the "Sent Mail" folder instead of the "Sent" folder?


    In Mac Mail click on the "Sent Mail" folder, >Mailbox Menu>Use this Mailbox for>Sent


    That should fix it

  • Glenn Leblanc Level 5 Level 5 (5,935 points)

    You Wrote:

    This is what Gmail help suggests to set


Store draft messages on the server > do NOT check

Store sent messages on the server > do NOT check

Store junk messages on the server > checked
Delete junk messages when > Never

Move deleted messages to the Trash mailbox > do NOT check
Store deleted messages on the server > do NOT check


    These settings in Mail on your Mac or other device is what you want that device to do with these folders. If you want to be able to start a message on an iPhone and finish it on your Mac, then check the setting on the iPhone to store the draft message on the server. Then, it will be available on all other devices set up with the account to finish it. You would need to set each device to the settings you wish. You really don't want to store anything useless like junk mail or trash on the server and take up server space.


    You Wrote:

    As I understand it, the IMAP keeps a local cache and the servers synced. However, Mail sends email and stores it in the Sent folder and the web interface sends email from the Sent Mail folder. Can't I tell Mail to store outbound mail in Sent Mail?


    As I understand it, if you send a message from your IMAP account from Mail on your Mac, it will also copy it to the Sent Items folder in IMAP to be seen from any device. If you delete it from the IMAP Sent Items folder, you won't see it on any other device. It will still be in the Sent Mail on the Mac you sent it from. That is a local folder on that particular device.



    The advantage of the IMAP account is that you can control email from multiple devices either locally on them if it is set up with that account or from any browser without having to physically sync all of them together. Like you said, you have to leave the messages on the server to view them on other devices and it also takes up storage on each device.

    If you want to store them locally to be saved on one computer, then move or copy them from the IMAP folder to a local folder on that computer.


    As Barney suggested, enable the advanced IMAP controls in the Labs section on the gmail website settings. That will give you much more control on what you see in Mail on your Mac.

    For example, after enabling this feature, I went  to the Labels section in settings on the website and unchecked all boxes to show in IMAP. the only one left is Inbox which you can't disable. When I go to Mac Mail, I don't see any gmail folders except an Inbox subfolder for gmail, a gmail subfolder for sent, and a gmail subfolder for trash.


    I have also checked the box in the Mac account settings on the Trash to move deleted messages to the trash, but not store them on the server. That way, a copy goes to the trash on my Mac and it puts the subfolder in the Mail Trash.

    I have also set Mail Preferences in gmail under the Forwarding and POP/IMAP tab to Auto Expunge off and immediately delete messages forever. I did this to keep the gmail site clean and to give all control to my Mac since I never pull it up at the gmail website except when away on vacation.

  • Barney-15E Level 7 Level 7 (33,560 points)

    It appears that they have rolled that Advanced IMAP controls into the main interface, so you can do everything without the Lab.


    The All Mail folder shows everything on Gmail (sent, inbox, drafts, spam, trash). You don't have to move anything into it. Gmail does it on its own. I turned it off in IMAP because it is one giant waste. I'm not sure who at google thinks I actually want to keep things I've trashed, but they apparently do. Maybe it helps push people over their free server quota. If you really want to trash something, you have to go into the All Mail mailbox and delete it again.

  • Csound1 Level 7 Level 7 (32,465 points)

    I think of All Mail (in the trash sense) as Mail or Outlooks deleted folder, I trash, then I go there and trash it again.


    It's all labelling

  • Glenn Leblanc Level 5 Level 5 (5,935 points)

    If you don't want to fool with the gmail site and worry about gmail saving it in trash and taking up server space, the method I described at the end of my previous post works great. Once deleted or moved from the inbox in Mail, it deletes it on the gmail site and server forever. No need to fool with the gmail All Mail folder, Delete Items folder, or the gmail Trash folder. The only trash it will be in is on the computer you delete it from. So basically everything is controlled from my Mail application.

    Of course, you can still use the gmail site if you need to.


    And I know this isn't for everyone. Other people may want to use the gmail server for storage instead of there computer.

  • Glenn Leblanc Level 5 Level 5 (5,935 points)

    Marlinespike wrote:

    Everyone, I did tell Mail to use "Sent Mail" for "Sent". As Glenn described, from my testing, it does now also copy the email into the Sent Mail folder and leaves a copy in the "Sent" folder. At least it's now in one place!


    I noticed now on the Gmail website there is a new label called [Gmail]/Sent Messages (Spikes New Gmail). "Spikes New Gmail" is the account name in Mail.


    I assume this is because now Mail is actually treating the "Sent Mail" folder as a folder and is copying the email to it so Gmail is now considering that a "label"? I also assume this is nothing to worry about. If it is please someone tell me!


    Nothing to worry about. That what it is.

    I had mine set that way so that the subfolder under sent in Mail for gmail was a local folder. I've since changed my settings. As I said before, all my IMAP folders were not shown in Mail due to my settings in Labels at the gmail site. I did not want all those extra folders showing.

    Here's what I changed:

    In Mail, I opened up the preferences and changed the Sent Settings to store the messages on the server and delete them after a month. That changed the Mail subfolder for the gmail sent messages from a local folder to an IMAP folder where the gmail sent messages are on the server. It creates another folder in the ON My Mac folder for gmail local sent messages in Mail that you can copy to for local storage or as in my case, I just deleted it.

    It also created another folder at the gmail site called {IMAP} Sent Messages.


    I find it works a bit better and gives better control. I can delete the sent messages from Mail and it will clear them from the gmail site just as the Inbox does. Your other devices will see them the same way and will also have better control.

    This is the same you wanted to do with the drafts which you can start a message on one device and finish on another.


  • linda2009 Level 1 Level 1 (35 points)


    I know you posted this in June, but it sounds like you have your Mac Mail - Gmail account(s) set the way I want to set mine.


    I've always used POP, and IMAP is so confusing for me!!  But, I know I don't want Gmail's servers saving any of my messages, including the Sent mails.  When I use POP for Gmail, all the Sent messages appear on Gmail's server and I have to log in via the internet to delete them.  I've been forced to set up a new Gmail account due to switching ISP (no longer have my main POP account and new ISP only uses Gmail).


    So, I've been trying to learn more about Gmail - using either POP or IMAP - without having to log in via the internet.  I like my Mac Mail!


    It seems to work okay set as POP, but it keeps putting the SENT emails on Gmails server.


    Do you have or could you *bullet your settings in Mac Mail AND on Gmail's server (for me to replicate on my Mac!)??  I would really appreciate it.  (I'm sure some of the settings are in this thread, but like I said IMAP is pretty confusing for me!!)


    Thank You!

  • Glenn Leblanc Level 5 Level 5 (5,935 points)

    I will have more time later to help if this is what you want to do, but it seems this may not be you best solution after reading your original post on the subject. It seems you just need to adjust your server settings in Mac Mail to delete the messages after a certain amount of time. Any message left on the server when read or sent in Mac Mail will be available at the gmail site when opened up. The ones that were deleted in Mac Mail should not show up at the gmail site.



    I've answered this on the other thread you've posted earlier. We will continue it there.

  • K60SGB Level 1 Level 1 (10 points)

    Hi Glenn,


    Reading through this discussion i have a similar issue, and so i wanted to ask for your help. I've recently configured my imap gmail account through mac mail (5.3) on my macbook air. My problem is that I want to be able to see my "sent" mails, from my gmail account, in my macmail sent folder as well.


    However the only way I can do this currently is to have the gmail "allmail" imap folder in my macmail folders, which is a real pain, if i uncheck it in the gmail imap label settings my sent folder in mac mail has nothing in it.


    Any ideas or suggestions to fix this would be welcomed.




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