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Thunderbird tags in Gmail IMAP

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nrp0450
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Post Posted July 14th, 2011, 8:17 am

I've searched the forums to try and find an answer to this but haven't had success. It seems like a basic question, so I apologize if it's already been asked.

I recently switched my email setup from POP3 to IMAP so I could have all my emails available on my phone. I've been using Thunderbird with tags for a while now and really like the tag and archive setup versus folders. But there's apparently not a way to get IMAP and tags to work together. I know Gmail labels become folders in the IMAP protocol. It's not ideal, but what can you do. The setup I'm using now is to have Gmail pull my work email account in with POP3 and then emails from my Gmail and work accounts go to my gmail inbox. This is synced with TB through IMAP. And in TB I add tags and then archive the emails to the Gmail "All Mail" folder.

What I would like to know is if those tags are stored with the messages online or of it's only on my hard drive. I've played with it some and the tags seem to move with the messages. For example, I've tagged a message in my inbox in TB and then from the gmail web interface moved the message to the "All Mail" folder (which is actually just removing the "inbox" label in gmail). When I checked back in TB the tag moved with the message. I also tried creating an IMAP folder in TB and putting a tagged message into it. Then I unsubscribed from the folder (causing it to disappear from the folder pane in TB). Then I closed TB and opened it again. Subscribed to the folder again. And the message in it still had the tag. I'm still somewhat hesitant to trust Gmail IMAP to keep the tags I add with TB. Does anyone have more experience with this?

tanstaafl
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Post Posted July 14th, 2011, 3:10 pm

Gmail webmail tags are stored on the mail server. The IMAP mail server transparently remaps them to folders for email clients such as Thunderbird. Thunderbird has no knowledge that they were remapped from tags, as far as its concerned they're ordinary folders.

Thunderbird has its own type of tags, which the Gmail IMAP server basically ignores. It just stores it as attribute information for each message, and retrieves it when requested. It doesn't do anything else with it, and it has no effect on what Gmail considers tags. If Thunderbird uses tags with a IMAP account whose server doesn't know how to store/retrieve them it stores that information in the folders index file (*.msf file) instead. If you repair the folder (rebuild index) that information is kept. If you exit Thunderbird and delete the index file its lost.

http://kb.mozillazine.org/Tags

nrp0450
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Post Posted July 14th, 2011, 4:07 pm

Thank you tanstaafl, that's very helpful.

I don't necessarily need to have Gmail make use of TB tags. (Though it would be nice if that were implemented someday.) I just didn't want the tags to be lost. If I'm reading your response right, I could open TB on another computer and set it to read my Gmail account through IMAP and once it syncs, the TB tags that I added on the first computer would show up on the second. Do I have that right?

Thanks again.

tanstaafl
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Post Posted July 14th, 2011, 4:15 pm

Yes.

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