One of the best tricks to speed up Gmail IMAP access is to use offline mode in your email application. Offline mode is supported by popular email clients such as Microsoft Outlook 2007, Outlook Express (Windows XP), Windows Mail (Windows Vista), and Thunderbird.
While you are in offline mode, your actions are carried out locally and the sequence is remembered by the email client. Later on, when you get back online, the same actions are then executed on the server. Offline mode is much faster (think instantaneous vs. several seconds for each action) than online mode because the email client does not have to connect/talk to the IMAP server each time you do something.
Outlook 2007’s Offline Support
Not all offline modes are created equally however. One would think that Microsoft top-of-the-line email client Outlook (2007) would have better support for working offline than its little brothers Outlook Express and Windows Mail, but that’s just not the case. According to my own testing, Outlook 2007 is the worst among the three when it comes to supporting offline access. Specifically, you cannot copy or move messages in Outlook 2007 when working offline.
If you have read my article Gmail IMAP Tips article, you know Gmail IMAP is all about moving and copying messages. Lacking the ability to move/copy messages in offline mode reduces the usefulness of Outlook as a Gmail IMAP client by about oh… 90% right there for me! I have not tested Thunderbird but it think I does support moving/copying images while working offline.
My Current IMAP Client
I still use Outlook for its calendar and to synchronize with my i730 Windows Mobile phone, but for Gmail IMAP, Windows Mail (Windows Vista) is now my email client of choice.
If anyone reading this is from the Microsoft Outlook team, please fix Outlook!
Gmail IMAP has been available for more than a month now. It’s been working great for me. I have read that some users are having trouble reading HTML messages on their Windows Mobile devices, but for some odd reason, I can see HTML messages (in HTML, not rendered) just fine on my i730 Windows Mobile phone.
Here are some tips to help you make the most out of Gmail IMAP. If you have not used Gmail IMAP, you can set it up by following the instructions from Google here. I personally use Gmail IMAP on my Windows Mobile 2003 phone, Outlook 2007, and Windows Mail in Windows Vista. However, these tips should work on any standard IMAP client.
1 – Be Familiar with Gmail IMAP Folders
Gmail IMAP has the following special folders:
[Gmail]/All Mail – This folder contains all of your Gmail messages.
[Gmail]/Drafts – Your drafts.
[Gmail]/Sent Mail – Messages you sent to other people.
[Gmail]/Spam – Messages marked as spam.
[Gmail]/Starred – Starred messages.
[Gmail]/Trash – Messages deleted from Gmail.
Each of your custom labels also becomes an IMAP folder. Messages that have more than one labels will be in multiple IMAP folders.
Your email client may create its own special folders such as "Drafts", "Sent Items", "Deleted Items". These folders only have special meaning to your email client and not Gmail. These special folders can be seen in the web Gmail client as "[Imap]/Drafts", "[Imap]/Deleted Items". To Gmail, these are just additional labels with no special meaning.
If you use Outlook 2007, you can configure it to use Gmail’s Sent Mail folder instead of its own "Sent Items" folder:
Note that you can create more than 1 level of folders. You can have folders within folders:
2- To Archive, Move the Message Out of the Inbox Folder
To archive a message, you can do one of the following:
Move the message to the [Gmail]/All Mail folder.
Move the message to one of your label folders.
Use your email client’s Delete Message feature. This won’t actually delete your message, but move it to a folder named [Imap]/Deleted Items. You just have to know messages in that folder are not really meant to be deleted.
Since I sometimes use the Delete button for its intended purpose (see section 3 below), I do not use it to archive.
Applying Multiple Labels (Updated Jan 23, 2008)
To apply more than one label to a message, copy the message to the respective folders. "Copy" does not actually create a new copy of the message. There’s still one message stored in Gmail. It just gets a new label.
To remove the message from a folder, move it to the special folder [Gmail]/All Mail. Don’t move the message to [Gmail]/Trash, as that will actually delete the message from all folders (it will be gone forever when you empty the trash), unless deleting is really what you want to do.
(I originally wrote incorrectly that copying will create multiple physical copies. Thanks to Hans Ref for correcting me on this).
3 – To Delete, Move to [Gmail]/Trash Folder
To delete a message, move it to the [Gmail]/Trash folder. If the message is in more than one folder, Gmail will delete those copies as well.
Using the email client’s Delete feature will likely not really delete the message, but instead move it to the [Imap]/Deleted Items folder.
Sometimes I use the email client’s Delete command anyway, because it’s faster to press the Delete key. Once in a while, I then go into the Deleted Items folder and move messages from there to [Gmail]/Trash. Same result in the end.
4 – To Report a Message as Spam, Move to [Gmail]/Spam Folder
See a pattern now? Most of what you need to do with Gmail IMAP involves moving messages around.
To report a message as spam, what else… move it to the [Gmail]/Spam folder. This is just like clicking ‘Report Spam’ in the Gmail web interface. Don’t believe me, it comes straight from Google.
Likewise, to mark that was marked as spam by Google incorrectly, move it out of the [Imap]/Spam folder.
5 – Import Old Mail
If you are like me, you have archived a ton of old email messages from years past. With Gmail IMAP, it’s easy to import them into Gmail so you can have all of your email messages from all time in one place, all searchable.
Just use the copy feature of your email client to copy those old messages into one of the Gmail IMAP folders. Google advices that you should copy the messages in small group because "uploading an excessive number of messages to your Gmail account via IMAP may lead to being temporarily locked out of your account." Anyone knows what the limit is?
There you have it, my 5 tips to get the most out of Gmail IMAP. For more information on how to use Gmail IMAP, see Google Help Center for IMAP.