File Under: Software & Tools

Gmail Expands IMAP Capabilities With New Labs Features

Gamil IMAP optionsGmail Labs keeps cranking out the hits — this time the experimental project is a collection of Advanced IMAP Controls. The most useful of the new features is a way to selectively control which of your Gmail labels are available to your IMAP mail client.

Of course controlling which IMAP folders show up in your desktop e-mail reader is something most mail clients already handle using a subscribe/unsubscribe option. But Gmail’s new controls are handy for mobile clients, many of which lack the per-folder subscription tools that desktop clients offer.

The ability to set your IMAP folder subscriptions on the Gmail side is also a handy way to hide Gmail’s “All Mail” folder, which can bring even the most robust clients to grinding halt if you have a sizable amount of archived e-mail. Depending on how your organize your e-mail, All Mail may also be storing duplicate messages you don’t need.

But selective folder subscriptions aren’t the only new options for Gmail’s IMAP feature, Gmail is also attempting to bring its implementation of IMAP more in line with the IMAP protocol. The Gmail blog explains:

The IMAP protocol allows messages to be marked for deletion, a sort of limbo state where a message is still present in the folder but slated to be deleted the next time the folder is expunged. In our standard IMAP implementation, when you mark a message as deleted, Gmail doesn’t let it linger in that state — it deletes (or auto-expunges) it from the folder right away. If you want the two-stage delete process, after you’ve enabled this Lab, just select ‘Do not automatically expunge messages’ under the ‘Forwarding and POP/IMAP’ tab in Settings.

Also new is a way to configure your IMAP client to behave more like a traditional IMAP provider. Since IMAP doesn’t inherently share Gmail’s concept of archiving messages to all “All Mail” (rather than Trash), it can make managing your mail across multiple clients a little tricky. The solution is to make Gmail behave like a normal IMAP provider:

If you’d prefer that deleted messages not remaining in any other visible IMAP folders are sent to [Gmail]/Trash instead, Advanced IMAP Controls lets you set your preferences this way. In the ‘IMAP Access:’ section of the ‘Forwarding and POP/IMAP’ tab, find the ‘When a message is deleted from the last visible IMAP folder:’ option. Select ‘Move the message to the Gmail Trash.’ If you want to take it one step further, you can select ‘Immediately delete the message forever.’

Gmail’s IMAP implementation is still a little bit different than most, but these new features should make it behave a bit more like what old school IMAP fans are used to.

To enable the new features, head to the Gmail Labs area (click the green beaker icon) and look for the “Advanced IMAP Controls” option. Once that’s enabled, head to Settings >> Forwarding and POP/IMAP, and tweak the settings to suit your workflow. To control which folders are visible, head to the labels section of Gmail where you’ll find a new “Show in IMAP” option next to each of your labels.

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