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Thunderbird, IMAP and Gmail

User Help for Mozilla Thunderbird
Magritte
 
Posts: 114
Joined: July 6th, 2004, 11:58 am

Post Posted May 27th, 2008, 10:49 am

Hi,

I'm trying o switch to using Gmail as my primary e-mail. I have several Gmail accounts and am trying to decide if I'll still with Outlook 2007 (which has several issues with IMAP, at least Gmail's interpretation of IMAP) or Thunderbird (which has several different issues)...

I've set up Thunderbird to use my Gmail accounts through IMAP without any problems.

But I have a few questions:

1) Is it possible to have Thunderbird automatically check for new IMAP folders either periodically or on startup then receive new folder info through IDLE? If a folder is created in another client or as a new label in GMail's web interface it seems like it has to be manually updated in Thunderbird.

2) Can new folders (not created by Thunderbird) be automatically set to use offline. Again, it seems like offline folders need to be set one-by-one for each existing and new folder.

3) Can all messages (including full body and attachment) be downloaded. It seems like Thunderbird will only download headers until opening a specific message. The only way I've found around this is to use the offline feature, but there doesn't seem to be any obvious way to schedule this. It has to be done manually. I want to use the IMAP server to synchronize between different clients and the web interface, but I want to maintain a local backup copy of all my mail.

4) Does the IDLE command alert Thunderbird of new messages in any folder or just the inbox or just the currently selected folder? Does it work with multiple GMail accounts? Does it only alert to new mail or to any changes in a folder? (eg. if there are unread messages in a folder then those are red from the web interface, will those messages get automatically tagged as read?) - or should I schedule periodic updates if I want all folders in sync?

5) Is there any way to have a toolbar button that will do a Gmail "delete" - move the currently selected message(s) to the [Gmail]/trash folder of the currently selected account?

6) Any addons that will sync Gmail labels with Thunderbird keywords? That would be useful...

Thanks!

bkennelly
 
Posts: 2177
Joined: June 26th, 2005, 4:36 pm
Location: Mesa, AZ

Post Posted May 27th, 2008, 12:54 pm

Magritte wrote:1) Is it possible to have Thunderbird automatically check for new IMAP folders either periodically or on startup then receive new folder info through IDLE? If a folder is created in another client or as a new label in GMail's web interface it seems like it has to be manually updated in Thunderbird.

Thunderbird refreshes the folder list when it connects to the server, in particular, at startup. You can force a refresh of the folder list any time by collapsing and re-expanding it.

2) Can new folders (not created by Thunderbird) be automatically set to use offline. Again, it seems like offline folders need to be set one-by-one for each existing and new folder.

You cannot change the default for new folders to 'use offline'. That may change in TB3.

3) Can all messages (including full body and attachment) be downloaded. It seems like Thunderbird will only download headers until opening a specific message. The only way I've found around this is to use the offline feature, but there doesn't seem to be any obvious way to schedule this. It has to be done manually. I want to use the IMAP server to synchronize between different clients and the web interface, but I want to maintain a local backup copy of all my mail.

The autosync preference will provide that function.

4) Does the IDLE command alert Thunderbird of new messages in any folder or just the inbox or just the currently selected folder? Does it work with multiple GMail accounts? Does it only alert to new mail or to any changes in a folder? (eg. if there are unread messages in a folder then those are red from the web interface, will those messages get automatically tagged as read?) - or should I schedule periodic updates if I want all folders in sync?

IDLE sends information about new or deleted messages, but not flag changes.
With mail.imap.use_status_for_biff set to false, Thunderbird will refresh the flags, along with downloading new headers and (with autosync) bodies, when checking new mail.


5) Is there any way to have a toolbar button that will do a Gmail "delete" - move the currently selected message(s) to the [Gmail]/trash folder of the currently selected account?

You can make "Delete" do that, if you don't want to use it to remove labels. There may be an extension that would allow you to program a "move to folder" action. Start on http://addons.mozilla.og/thunderbird.

6) Any addons that will sync Gmail labels with Thunderbird keywords? That would be useful...

No. Thunderbird tags are saved as Gmail flags, so they are stored on the server, but I have not seen an extension that tries to map them to Gmail labels. Because labels are exposed as folders, you can achieve the same result by copying messages to the appropriate folders, rather than adding tags.

Magritte
 
Posts: 114
Joined: July 6th, 2004, 11:58 am

Post Posted May 27th, 2008, 3:01 pm

bkennelly wrote:Thunderbird refreshes the folder list when it connects to the server, in particular, at startup. You can force a refresh of the folder list any time by collapsing and re-expanding it.


Thanks, I didn't realize that. Still, since my computer is practically always on, Thunderbird could easily run continuously for days or weeks. It would be nice if it could periodically recheck for new folders. In the Autosync link you provided below it lists several options to force Thunderbird to check all folders for new messages rather than just the inbox. Would that also force it to update the folder lists?

2) Can new folders (not created by Thunderbird) be automatically set to use offline. Again, it seems like offline folders need to be set one-by-one for each existing and new folder.

You cannot change the default for new folders to 'use offline'. That may change in TB3.

Again, from the article you linked to below on Autosync:
You can force Thunderbird to download messages for offline use whenever you open a folder or Thunderbird detects new mail by setting mail.server.default.autosync_offline_stores to true. You can use mail.server.serverX.autosync_offline_stores instead if you want to specify it per account. This only works if you also set use_status_for_biff false. It ignores whether the folder is configured as a offline folder or not
it says it will ignore the offline folder configuration. So am I correct to think if I use this option I can leave the offline box unchecked but Thunderbird will still download new messages from all folders?

4) Does the IDLE command alert Thunderbird of new messages in any folder or just the inbox or just the currently selected folder? Does it work with multiple GMail accounts? Does it only alert to new mail or to any changes in a folder? (eg. if there are unread messages in a folder then those are red from the web interface, will those messages get automatically tagged as read?) - or should I schedule periodic updates if I want all folders in sync?

IDLE sends information about new or deleted messages, but not flag changes.
With mail.imap.use_status_for_biff set to false, Thunderbird will refresh the flags, along with downloading new headers and (with autosync) bodies, when checking new mail.

So if I use this option, should I disable the use IDLE if available option under the server options and specifically tell it to check for new mail every x minutes?

5) Is there any way to have a toolbar button that will do a Gmail "delete" - move the currently selected message(s) to the [Gmail]/trash folder of the currently selected account?

You can make "Delete" do that, if you don't want to use it to remove labels. There may be an extension that would allow you to program a "move to folder" action. Start on http://addons.mozilla.org/thunderbird.

I've read you can change the default location of the trash folder to the [Gmail]/trash but could you do that on a per-account basis? But in any case, I don't really want to do that since I still need a way to remove a label without removing all copies of the email.

6) Any addons that will sync Gmail labels with Thunderbird keywords? That would be useful...

No. Thunderbird tags are saved as Gmail flags, so they are stored on the server, but I have not seen an extension that tries to map them to Gmail labels. Because labels are exposed as folders, you can achieve the same result by copying messages to the appropriate folders, rather than adding tags.

Yes, the folder metaphor works to a certain extent. But I like the concept of tags in that a single message can have multiple tags. Outlook has a similar feature with multiple categories. There are times when this makes a lot of sense for organizing correspondence that naturally belongs in several categories. Using GMail's IMAP folders you can copy a message to multiple folders to achieve the same effect. But then I can't look in one folder and easily tell what messages are also in another folder. This is a nice feature in GMail's web interface: you can click on a label to search for all messages with that label, and immediately see in the list, what other labels those messages also contain. This is why I think an addon that maps GMail's labels to Thunderbird tags would be useful. Far beyond my humble programming skills, though...

Thanks for the help. It's been very useful!

bkennelly
 
Posts: 2177
Joined: June 26th, 2005, 4:36 pm
Location: Mesa, AZ

Post Posted May 27th, 2008, 3:35 pm

Magritte wrote:... In the Autosync link you provided below it lists several options to force Thunderbird to check all folders for new messages rather than just the inbox. Would that also force it to update the folder lists?

None of those option will help with folder refresh.

But, if you disable IDLE, it may force a folder refresh when checking for new mail, because it makes a new connection.

...
So am I correct to think if I use this option I can leave the offline box unchecked but Thunderbird will still download new messages from all folders?

Yes, for all folders selected, either explicitly or implicitly.
It will only be all folders if you are checking all folders for new mail, and you are not using STATUS for biff.

IDLE sends information about new or deleted messages, but not flag changes.
With mail.imap.use_status_for_biff set to false, Thunderbird will refresh the flags, along with downloading new headers and (with autosync) bodies, when checking new mail.

So if I use this option, should I disable the use IDLE if available option under the server options and specifically tell it to check for new mail every x minutes?

Not necessarily. With IDLE enabled, Thunderbird will still SELECT each of the folders to check for new messages if you use this option.

I've read you can change the default location of the trash folder to the [Gmail]/trash but could you do that on a per-account basis?

Yes, there is a per-account setting for trash folder name.

Yes, the folder metaphor works to a certain extent. But I like the concept of tags in that a single message can have multiple tags. Outlook has a similar feature with multiple categories. There are times when this makes a lot of sense for organizing correspondence that naturally belongs in several categories. Using GMail's IMAP folders you can copy a message to multiple folders to achieve the same effect. But then I can't look in one folder and easily tell what messages are also in another folder. This is a nice feature in GMail's web interface: you can click on a label to search for all messages with that label, and immediately see in the list, what other labels those messages also contain. This is why I think an addon that maps GMail's labels to Thunderbird tags would be useful.

I suggested to Google that they expose the user-defined flags as labels in Gmail, so that the Thunderbird tags would be available. Of course, they would then need a setting in the labels to indicate whether they were being used as folders or flags in IMAP. (I don't want all of my labels to be both folders and tags.)

Gmail suggestions:http://mail.google.com/support/bin/request.py?contact_type=suggest

Magritte
 
Posts: 114
Joined: July 6th, 2004, 11:58 am

Post Posted June 2nd, 2008, 1:58 pm

Hi again,

I've been playing with Thunderbird and other e-mail clients the last few days. I set up the autosync and mail.imap.use_status_for_biff and mail.check_all_imap_folders_for_new true options as described and for the most part this does seem to work the way I'd like: checking all IMAP folders for new messages and downloading complete messages.

When switching to a folder there is a pause. I assume Thunderbird is refreshing the folder info from the server to check if there are any changes since the last update? I did disable my internet connection to verify that messages were saved locally even before I view them. This seemed to be the case, although unplugging your internet connection before manually going offline is not recommended as Thunderbird will complain a lot about ever time it can't find the server. I hope they improve online/offline transitions in version 3...

There does seem to be an exception, though. The Spam folder (mapped to [Gmail]/spam) does not seem to update correctly until I manually select the folder. This seems to be true of all my accounts. I find it strange that it's only the spam folder that seems to be problematic. Is this by design? Does Thunderbird maybe assume that it's the only one that will be adding things to the spam folder so it doesn't bother checking with the server?

I've also found IMAP refreshing issues with the other clients I've been playing with: Outlook and Windows Live Mail. Live Mail is rather nice n that its default configuration is almost exactly what I'm looking for. But it also sometimes fails to correctly refresh one or more folders until manually selecting them. The same is true of Outlook. Is IMAP really so difficult to implement, or is this a server issue? Maybe Google's IMAP servers don't like to be queried so much and periodically cut connections short? Am I being an IMAP hog?

Thanks!

bkennelly
 
Posts: 2177
Joined: June 26th, 2005, 4:36 pm
Location: Mesa, AZ

Post Posted June 2nd, 2008, 2:08 pm

By default, Thunderbird does not include the Trash or Junk folders with mail.check_all_imap_folders_for_new. The designers probably figured that you would not want to waste bandwidth on them.
You can select "Check the folder for new messages" on each to override this behaviour and include them.

Magritte
 
Posts: 114
Joined: July 6th, 2004, 11:58 am

Post Posted June 2nd, 2008, 2:50 pm

That makes sense. Thanks again. You've been most helpful!

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