POP and IMAP
As SaneBox gets more popular, we are starting to realize that far, far, far more people use POP to view their email that I would have ever thought possible. SaneBox will not work properly if you download your email using POP. SaneBox will only work if your client uses IMAP or one of the proprietary Exchange protocols.
What is POP anyway?
For those that don’t know, POP is an old, late 1980’s protocol that simply downloads your emails to your computer and ignores the server for any other purpose. POP has two modes: it can delete emails from the server after downloading or it can leave them on the server.
The death knell for POP should have been the advent of multiple devices that all need to access your email: your laptop, smartphone, desktop and web browser. If you only ever check your email from one place, POP is okay (until your device crashes, then poof all your email is gone) but using it with multiple devices is pure torture.
Imagine you are downloading your Yahoo! email with POP to your laptop, desktop, and smartphone. What do you see when you go to the web interface? Well… you will see an endless series of unread emails with no indication of which you deleted, read, flagged, filed. And none of your email folders.
So what do you do? Well, you probably rush around to each desktop, laptop, and smartphone deleting or filing the same emails over and over again. And we feel so badly for the steady stream of SaneBox users that find them in this very situation. And to add insult to injury, SaneBox won’t be able to help them until they get off the POP wagon.
What can I do?
If you find yourself in this situation your life will be a whole lot easier if you convert every desktop, laptop, and smartphone you use to check your email to use the IMAP protocol.
How do I convert to IMAP?
First, don’t panic. In theory, this should be easy and relatively straight-forward.
Each email client is different but the general idea is that you add an new email account using the same username, password, and mail server name but using the IMAP protocol. You may have to click on Advanced Settings or something similar in order to switch mail protocols in your client. Gmail has a good rundown of how to configure an IMAP server in various email clients, but be sure to use the correct username and mail server name for your email provider.
Now, what do you do about your old email? All that stuff you received before you had this revelation? Well, that all depends on how you deal with your email right now:
I download my email from the server onto a single computer, and delete the copy on the server. None of your old emails are on the server — they all reside locally on your computer, including any folders you have made.
Simply use your email clients mailbox import feature to upload all of your email back to the server. Then you’re done.
I download my email from the server onto a bunch of desktop, laptops, and smartphones and never go and clear out the server’s INBOX. The server contains all of your email history — or at least as much as your provider will allow you to have. If you want the local copy of your email (i.e. all of the deleting, filing, etc. that you’ve done) to be reflected on the server so you don’t have to process all of your email again you should make a new folder on the server — call it OLD POP MAIL. Copy all your INBOX email into that folder so that your INBOX is empty.
Then use your email clients mailbox import feature to upload all of your email back to the server. Then you’re done.
Once you’re certain that all your email is on the server correctly you can delete the folder called OLD POP MAIL.
I download my email from the server onto a bunch of desktop, laptops, and smartphones and I open up my webmail and clear out my INBOX every now and then. You go back to the Yahoo! web interface and clean up from time to time: delete, file, etc… (And we feel really badly for you if you’ve been doing this. Believe us, its more common than you think!)
You don’t have to do anything. The email on the server probably already reflects what you have on your computer. For completeness you may want to import your Sent Mail folder up to the server so that your full email history is in one place.
Obviously each different mail client will have a slightly different way of doing things. We will try to provide instructions for all of them eventually. For now, you could search for something like “convert POP to IMAP Outlook 2010” or “convert POP to IMAP <your email client and version>”.
If you find a particularly good set of instructions or need more help please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.