Death to IMAP Clients

    June 21, 2005

After a long drawn out experience with numerous email clients (mutt/isync, mutt/mailsync, Thunderbird, Eudora,, even Outlook Express in a moment of desperation)…

on various platforms (Mac, Windows, Linux, FreeBSD) and spanning over four years, I’ve come to the inevitable conclusion that all IMAP clients suck.

Yes, all of them–especially when used for off-line or disconnection operation.

My needs were simple, but I’d yet to find a tool that would Just Work. So I’ve replaced my lofty goals of using IMAP so that I could keep mail organized on my server but accessible anywhere.

My new system works like this. Email addressed to comes to my mail server. Exim hands it off to procmail, which runs it thru SpamAssassin. Then it sends a copy to GMail and delivers one locally. It also archives a copy on the server in monthly mbox files. (Yes, it’s a secondary backup.)

I use Thunderbird on the Windows notebook that Yahoo provides me. Periodically, I make sure to archive mail in my GMail account, flag the obvious spam, etc.

The downside is that when I switch from using Thunderbird to Gmail and back (happens once in a while for short periods of time), I may see some messages twice.

The upside is that the broken IMAP sync never happens. I just download all my mail and go offline when I need to. I can then manipulate it to my heart’s content on the client and worry not about things going wrong.

If my notebook blows up, I’m still okay. It is backed up regularly and I’ve got a copy of everything in my Gmail account as well.

Why didn’t I do this a few years ago? Probably because the promise of IMAP is so damned appealing. It makes me a little sad that nobody’s ever been able to get it working well and efficiently.

In Summary

  • POP good.
  • IMAP bad.
  • GMail good.
  • Thunderbird good.
  • Backups good.
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    Jeremy Zawodny is the author of the popular Jeremy Zawodny’s blog. Jeremy is part of the Yahoo search team and frequently posts in the Yahoo! Search blog as well.

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