Gmail with IMAP is a Pain in the Syncing with Gmail via IMAP

I requested IMAP access to Gmail and was very excited to learn that Google has enabled it, but I think I spoke too soon.

There are a number of issues with trying to use Gmail with with either POP or IMAP.


p>For one, integration isn’t so great, or simple. Because I prefer to use a desktop client I’ve learned how to best use to mimic the revolutionary features in Gmail.

While Gmail’s labels are an awesome feature, most mail clients can make up for it with conditional mailboxes. Outlook has Search Mailboxes. has Smart Mailboxes. If you’re a Gmail user you’ll try to avoid conventional email folders and just create conditional mailboxes. That goes a long way towards matching Gmail’s features.

Also, most email clients (and users) are still stuck in the mindset that messages they receive and messages they send should be segregated. Not so with Gmail, and doesn’t stop you from mixing the two together.

So what does IMAP get you? Really, not much – and you could be worse off by using it.

As I write this I’m downloading every single piece of email I’ve ever sent or received from my personal account since late 2004. Gmail has never recognized when a POP client deletes a piece of email. It just knows to move anything downloaded from its Inbox to its Archive.

If you want to use things like Smart Mailboxes with IMAP Gmail you have to download all the email locally. But then when you work on email using the Smart Mailbox you’re really just interacting with the COPY it made. Delete it and you may not be deleting the actual email on Google’s servers. So not only do you get to manage your local copies, you also get to manage GMail’s copy, just like always. Except now it’s taken the step from the far away Google server and landed in your IMAP setup.

Want to apply a label to an email? You have to copy it to that label – which means you use labels like folders, which suck and are the whole point of using labels on Gmail. Now we’re dealing with multiple copies of the same email?

Using POP with Gmail gives you the best of both wolds. It allows you to work with email the way you’re used to and it lets you use Gmail’s interface. If you need to be in sync just use your mail client on your primary machine and the Gmail web interface everywhere else. Why put up with the hassle?

Maybe my opinion will change when the initial sync is over – but right now it doesn’t seem so promising.