IMAP and Mail.app

11 11 2006

IMAP: If you can you shouldMail.app

I’m here to talk about the Internet Message Access Protocol (IMAP) today. In the world of email there are basically two protocols: POP and IMAP.

POP is the original old faithful, but is very simple – you connect to your POP server, it sends you new messages, you download them and they are removed from the server.

The main problem with that is that the messages are now stored locally on your computer. Many people now use webmail of various types to connect in to their mailboxes, so if the messages have been downloaded, you won’t be able to see them anymore through the webmail.

Now most people probably will not find this a problem – and it isn’t if you only ever read your mail at home, on the same computer.

Enter IMAP. With IMAP, your emails are stored on the server and you connect to the server to download new messages, which are then cached on your computer for offline viewing. If you then connect in via a web interface, and delete some messages, when you next connect in from home, the mailbox is synchronised to reflect these changes.

This means you can organise your mail into different folders, and be able to see the exact same setup, regardless of your email client. Another really useful ability of IMAP is that it can request just the mail headers, allowing you to see the subject, sender, size and so on, without having to actually download the whole message.

Users of dial up who often receive large messages, will find this more useful than most, as it prevents them from wasting connected time (and money) waiting for large messages to download, as they can choose whether or not they want a particular email.

Thunderbird, Mozilla’s email client works with no further configuration, other than the account settings, but if you want to use the built in OS X Mail.app, then there are a few things to be aware of.

Mail.app and IMAP
Mail.app has issues with IMAP – it just doesn’t behave properly. Any folders you may have added to your IMAP account will either be missing or incomplete, and will disappear at seemingly random times!

After puzzling over this for some time I was worried that perhaps my email server host (1&1) didn’t fully support IMAP properly. So I installed Mozilla Thunderbird and tested it, only to see all my folders exactly as they should be.

So with 1&1 ruled out as the cause, I decided to move on to setup Mail.app to work with my Gmail account, while I puzzled over it. After setting Gmail up, suddenly, my original IMAP account started working perfectly!

So the solution to getting IMAP to work properly with Mail.app is to make sure you always have more than 1 account configured in it. After accidentally stumbling across this solution, I checked online for more advice, and apparently this is quite an old problem, stemming back to early versions of Mail.app, so who knows why it hasn’t been solved yet.

The only other thing you need to do when first setting up your IMAP, is tell Mail.app which of the server folders are to be used as the Inbox, Drafts and so on, or things will get a little confusing.

To do this, you just need to find each special server folder in the list, click on it, and choose ‘Use this mailbox for’ from the ‘Mailbox’ menu. Then select the appropriate option. Once this is done, you’ll have a fully working IMAP setup on Mail.app through OS X.

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Switching: Emails

15 10 2006

Switching from Microsoft Outlook Express to Apple Mail

This is an article written to assist those users who wish to switch, or indeed have already switched from Windows XP to the Mac OS.

When it came to my ‘big switch’ there were several things that I needed: my documents, my music, my pictures and my internet stuff (emails and bookmarks and so on). All of these were easily copied across to the Mac using a crossover cable, no problems there – but shock horror, my emails were another story.

Most Windows users will be familiar with the free email application which comes with Windows XP: Outlook Express. When I was using Windows, I was using Outlook Express to manage my SMTP email account, just because it was there and did everything I needed – why bother downloading a suitable alternative product?

Anyway, it turned out that I couldn’t just do a straight copy and paste, as Outlook Express stores emails in a proprietary Microsoft format, which can’t be read by Apple Mail.

Wondering what to do about the problem, it was then that I remembered once installing Netscape to test compatibility of my web site. Netscape had very nicely offered to import the Internet and email settings from Internet Explorer and Outlook Express.

Checking up on this I found that when it does this it stores the resulting emails in a standard .mbox format – which can then be read by any sensible email client. After performing said conversion, I promptly copied the new .mbox files onto the Mac, fired up Apple Mail and pointed it in their direction.

So the basic steps to import your emails from Outlook Express on Windows to Apple Mail on the Mac:

  • Install Netscape on the Windows box.
  • Allow it to import from your Outlook Express when asked.
  • Copy the newly created .mbox files to your Mac.
  • Launch Mail.app and show it where it can find them when it asks.
  • That’s it!

Note that I only tested this myself with Outlook Express, I don’t think Netscape can import from the full version of Outlook, so if you use the full version of Outlook this method may not work for you.

Note: This article was previously posted on my personal blog, and was re-written slightly as an article on this blog. It has now been recreated as a normal post as part of my rearranging.





Problem with Mail.app

24 04 2006

Well this is an unusual situation for me – today I had a problem with my Mac which I needed to fix :O

Now I've had an iBook for a year, an eMac before that for about 6 months, and this new MacBook since they released them basically, and in all that time I've never needed to fix the default stuff that comes with a Mac. Now sure I've had a few things that needed sorting out here and there, but that was always with third party software that I added myself, so I don't think that counts as the Mac itself 😛

Admittedly, in all that time I've never tidied up or archived my emails and apparently that's what was causing the problem with Mail.app. From what I could tell by doing a Google search of my symptoms (including emails vanishing and Mail.app lagging or not loading properly) it had something to do with the size of a mailbox.

Somewhere in the region of 1GB and you start to have issues according to the search results I checked – they also said that the newer version of Mail.app didn't have that problem any more, unless you were using the mailbox files from an older version you had upgraded from, which is what I had done!

There were some steps to follow which allowed me to rebuild the mailboxes to gain access so I could archive some older messages, and I also recreated the accounts from scratch so theoretically the problem should not re-occur, so all in all, no damage done, and now I know in the future to be more tidy with my emails.

So the moral of this story I guess is that nothing is infallible, and its always best to keep your files tidy 🙂