The IMAP folder name terror

IMAP is a protocol for e-mail retrieval and storage. It allows you to create sub folders in your mailbox to store special mail: stuff like trash, drafts and sent messages. You can also define rules so that messages from your colleagues go to a special folder named ‘work’. That’s great, and what is even greater is that these folders are stored on the server. So whatever mail client you use — the mail app on your smartphone, the web mailer in a browser, or a dedicated email application like Thunderbird at home — your mail account always has the same messages and folders! Sound great, eh?

BUT: Why can’t the people who create mail clients decide on standard names for the IMAP folders they store special kind of mail in?

Look at this:


What do you think this is? I hate to say it, but it is a list of the sub folders of my mailbox! All these annoying folders in the image were created automatically by different IMAP clients (I also have some folders for stuff like work emails etc, but I put gray bars over them in the image). They gotta be kidding me!

I you have a closer look at the image, you will note that the different clients use similar but different names for the same type of emails:

  • For sent messages, I have: ‘sent’, ‘Sent’, ‘Sent objects’ and ‘Gesendet’ (the latter is German)
  • For drafts, I have: ‘drafts’, ‘Drafts, ‘Drafts’ (Yes, another one. How the hell did they even manage to create two folders with the same name? omg!), and ‘Entwuerfe’
  • and so on…

This must not be! Everytime I search a message I sent, I have to search four different folders for it?!

(Btw: If you sent the message from your smartphone and happen to search for it in your webmailer, you may not find it at all: maybe you forgot to ‘subscribe’ to the sent mail folder your smartphone mail app created on the server with your webmail mail client!)

Yes, with some mail clients, you can configure the folder names. But with a lot, you cannot. For whatever reason. This needs to change, and/or, we need standard folder names.

So what do people do to cope with this?

There is, of course, some discussion on this stuff. Some people seem to use manually created filters in Thunderbird to move all the messages from the different folders to one of them. Not that great. Any ideas on this?


About dfspspirit

PhD student in bioinformatics, interested in photography, level design, digital image manipulation, architecture and, of course, bioinformatics.
This entry was posted in IT and computers, troubleshooting and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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