IMAP simply is email as it should be.
Long gone are the days when you only retrieved your email from the one computer in the den. Now you access your email on your desktop, laptop, tablet, web and phone. Soon we’ll use “Minority Report“esque hand movements and answer email projected on the wall from an implant on our forehead. In the meantime, let’s make all of the places you receive mail work together.
If you’ve ever had to sort through the same email on your phone and your desktop, you know how frustrating it can be when life is out of sync. There is an easy answer — IMAP.
IMAP is a mail protocol similar to pop3 that retrieves mail from a mail server. In the simplest of terms (and not necessarily completely technically accurate) pop3 is a little like snail mail — the mail carrier drops it off at your house, but then doesn’t care what you do with it beyond that point. You can request to delete it or make it available to another drop box, but otherwise is ambivalent about your mail. IMAP is more like Netflix — The file is stored in one location and the server cares what you do with the file. Just like Netflix syncs your viewing progress in a movie on your Xbox and your iPad, the mail server will let all retrievers know if you’ve read an email or will delete it from all locations if you delete it. Additionally, it knows the disposition of the file. If you archived an email to your “Waiting for Response” folder on your phone, that’s where you will find the email on your desktop.
Essentially, IMAP keeps everything on the mail server and your email retriever borrows the emails and reports any changes it makes so that everything stays in sync. It’s a great way to reduce a lot of the stress in your life.
So, imagine that you have taken my advice in previous posts and are consolidating all of your email addresses into a single Gmail address and you use IMAP to retrieve your mail, then every device that you own will be set-up with one email account and they will ALL BE SYNCED!! If you think that the use of all caps and exclamation points is a little over the top, wait until you have actually gone this route. Or even better, once you’ve got one email to rule them all, try to go back to the old ways of pop3 and you’ll feel like you’ve traveled back to the days of Little House on the Prairie.
I’ve included some links bellow with instruction on how to set this up, but in short make sure you have IMAP enabled in Gmail, then follow the instructions on the Gmail settings page for your email client. Now go forward and enjoy life in the 21st century!
Getting Started with IMAP and POP by Google
Supported IMAP Client List by Google
How to Set Up Gmail with a Desktop Mail Client by Lifehacker
How to Set Up an Email Account on Your iPhone by Lifehacker