The bulk of my email goes through GMail. I use Mozilla Thunderbird to access my mail from home, and I use the web front-end at work. When I’m using Thunderbird, I access GMail using POP. However, this is not a perfect solution – for example, emails that I’ve sent via the website appear in my Thunderbird inbox!
In October last year, Google started offering IMAP as an option. IMAP is basically a “souped up” version of POP: it’s more comprehensive – you get things like folders and better mail synchronisation: when I mark a message as “read” in Thunderbird, it would show up as read on the Google Mail website as well.
So, I tried setting up Google Mail using IMAP, in Thunderbird (following the instructions), and it worked fine. The problem is, the messages you download aren’t integrated with “Local Folders” in Thunderbird (for obvious reasons): traditionally, when I receive an email I index it in my “Local Folders” – i.e., the mail store on my computer. If I want to look it up again, I’ve got all the mail there – it’s easy.
Using IMAP it looks like things are pretty much stored on the server, and I’m not sure how that leaves me if (a) the server goes down (I suppose things are cached locally), but more importantly (b) if I don’t want a GMail account anymore. If I delete my GMail account, will I still be able to access my email?
Another problem is, for IMAP to be of use, you should really use it as your only account. I don’t want to have to look under “GMail” for one set of messages and “Local Folders” for messages sent via any other account.
I’m sure there are solutions to these problems… I’m just not exactly sure what they are right now!