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Old 28 Nov 2021, 06:31 PM   #1
steenkh
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Join Date: Nov 2021
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POP, IMAP, or both?

My wife and I have for many years used POP3 for our email, but we would like to take advantages of IMAP. However, it seems that our requirements makes it impossible, or difficult.

This is the situation: we both have iPhones and iPads, and we have a desktop computer, and a laptop. We also both have full access to each other’s email accounts, and finally, it is an absolute requirement that I can have a complete archive of all mails on the desktop (and laptop).

So far I have set it up using POP3, and on the desktop computer mails on the mail server are deleted after 3 months, whereas on the other computers, mails are never deleted on the mailserver. I have assumed that within three months, mails have been fetched on all units so they can be deleted safely on the mail server.

However that also means that on every computer we need to delete the same spam mails over and over again, and mails that have been read on the iPad will still be marked read on the iPhone.

I am now conducting an experiment where I have setup my iPhone and iPad to use IMAP, whereas all the other units still use POP3. It works fine, except that when one of the POP accounts have pulled mails, these mails are marked read in IMAP so that usually, all my mails seem to be read, which sort of defeats the idea of it all.

Is there another way of setting this up, like is there a way of using IMAP everywhere and still get all mail on the desktop and laptop computers?

I am used to delete mails on my own iPhone and iPad that are of no interest to me, but my wife can still see them, just like she deletes mails that are of no interest to her, but might still be of my interest, and in any case, we can always check on the desktop computer if we have somehow deleted something hat should not be deleted.

Ideally, the synchronisation of read markings should be work on my iPad and iPhone, but be independent of the status on my wife’s iPad and iPhone, but I do realise that this is too much to ask.

I’ll probably have to revert to using POP3 everywhere.
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Old 29 Nov 2021, 03:05 AM   #2
JeremyNicoll
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What's possible and how will depend I think on how your mail provider(s) have set up their systems.

Some providers, if they allow POP3 access, only allow you to access the INBOX folder of your mail account; indeed, if you have a system like that it, you may be unaware of any other folders. /Maybe/ there's ways to use POP3 to access other folders.

[Long ago I used a Demon POP3 account where in essence one owned a subdomain of demon so when one registered as eg "myname" ie myname.demon.co.uk one could use any address [email protected]n... or [email protected]n... etc. (This was long before spam became a problem.) Normally if one logged into one's account one would see all the waiting mail but it was also possible to login and only see a subset, eg all the new mail that had arrived for [email protected] That mechanism probably doesn't exist anywhere these days but maybe some providers have a similar method of accessing a non-INBOX folder.]

Mail that arrives at a mail-hoster is probably placed in the INBOX by default. But if you are using a provider who allows filter rules to be defined on their server, you may be able to put mails elsewhere and/or set/unset IMAP flags on them. For example, if you filtered spam, on the server, to somewhere other than the INBOX then a POP3 session scanning the INBOX would never see it. If the place you put the spam in was visible to your IMAP sessions then you'd be able to review the results of the filter, in case stuff got filtered incorrectly.

Email client programs (on any of your devices) may also be able to interact with either temporary copies of the mails (grabbing them from the server as needed) or permanent copies (when they no longer exist on the server).

There are IMAP utility programs whose purpose is to grab mails from an IMAP server, to back them up. Possibly using one of those instead of POP3 for making backups would help you. See eg: Mailstore Home at https://www.mailstore.com/ (which I have never used, just noted its existence). Or see eg https://imapsync.lamiral.info/ for another tool (also never used by me). If you can write programs, you could also perhaps grab stuff with "curl".

I think you need to be clear what you're intending to do. What I think you maybe want is to make sure that every mail (of maybe just every non-spam mail, but that risks genuine mail being misclassified) is backed up securely in several places. Separately, you want to be able to see all the mails from umpteen places. I doubt it's easy to be able to see an on-server mail from umpteen places AND know it's been read from one person's iPad but not from someone-else's laptop, unless you (say) move every mail that one user has read to a folder that's for "read-by-me-but-not-you" and ignore the IMAP read flag. Maybe filters could copy mails so eg there's two copies, one for you to read and one for your wife ... but it'd likely get complicated quickly.

If you really do want to be able to see who read which mail when, you possibly need something other than an email client - some sort of database - to store emails in, with it logging who read what and when. I'd guess that software to do that would exist, in the corporate world, but I don't know of any.

One way to make security copies of mails is to intercept the email transport process so that when someone sends you a mail instead of it just being delivered to one mail-host, it also gets sent elsewhere. I think that requires your email address to be within your own domain (ie not something like a gmail address). Or, you could perhaps have a rule on your mail host's server that sends a copy of every incoming email to another provider (assuming your mail host allows that) so there's always (technical problems aside) more than one copy of every mail.
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Old 29 Nov 2021, 06:40 AM   #3
hadaso
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If I understand the situation correctly, there are two mail readers, man and wife (call them M and W), two mail accounts (M's account and W's account, and by "account" I understand a place where email is received), and then each reader has several devices, and wants to be able to read mail on any of them, with read/unread status being synced across the reader's devices, but each reader also wants to have access to all the mail received in the other reader's account, and the two readers' read/unread status for each message should be independent, and also one reader should be able to delete a message and this message should stay available (undeleted) for the other reader. So e.g. M can read a message and then it would be marked as having been read across all of' M's devices, and would be marked as unread across all of W's devices. and then W can access the message using any of her devices, and then it would be marked "read" on all of her devices. And then W can decide to delete the said message, so it would be deleted from all of her devices, and would be left available on all of M's devices, with the same "read" status on all of M's devices (and if W was quicker and deleted the message before M had read it, it would still be available and marked "unread" on all of M's devices). In addition an archive is needed (call it A), were all the messages would remain available offline forever.


So the way I think this can be done, is that each reader and the archive (that is a sort of a third reader that is a an email hoarder) have a separate account. M's account will forward all incoming email to W and to A. W's account will forward all incoming email to M and to A. A would receive only mail forwarded from M and from W.
A would download all incoming email and keep it forever (doesn't matter if it's POP or IMAP, unless one wants to automatically classify some mail into folders on the server, then one would use IMAP to fetch the content of all the folders. Also if A wants to have two offline copies of the mail archive, on desktop and on laptop, then probably IMAP should be used to keep both locations synchronized). M and W would each use IMAP with their accounts, and that would sync the mail status across all their devices, independently of each other, and if one of them deleted a message it would be unaffected in the other's account (and in A's account) since they are separate copies in different accounts. Basically that's all, but since each receives copies of all of the other's email, probably filtering rules can be used on server to separate the other's email to a separate folder.
That still doesn't take spam filtering into account. Probably each of M and W should do their spam filtering on the server, on all copies received (that includes the other's spam). A can just keep all email, including spam, or else separate spam and either keep it forever in a separate spam folder or discard it, depending on how important it is not to lose false positives in the archive.
Anyway, I think the key to having two (or more) readers access the same reading material without affecting each other is to give each reader a separate copy.
Probably this can be done with less than three IMAP accounts, by using filtering rules to make copies of messages in several folders, but this might go wrong, depending on how copying messages is implemented on the server (I found out the hard way that that making a copy of a message in a separate folder in Fastmail doesn't really create a separate folder: deleting an attachment from one copy removes it from the other copy).
I have a simpler way to keep all my email the same across all my devices: I only use webmail...
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Old 29 Nov 2021, 06:45 AM   #4
xyzzy
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Quote:
Originally Posted by steenkh View Post
So far I have set it up using POP3, and on the desktop computer mails on the mail server are deleted after 3 months, whereas on the other computers, mails are never deleted on the mailserver. I have assumed that within three months, mails have been fetched on all units so they can be deleted safely on the mail server.
FWIW and FYI, for most (all?) email clients using POP3, there should be a setting to control how long to keep messages on the server (inbox) when deleted from the client's inbox. It will probably be worded something like "leave messages on server for..." or "delete messages on server after...". You must currently have yours set to 3 months.
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Old 29 Nov 2021, 06:50 AM   #5
steenkh
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Thanks, Jeremy,

Your post has given me a lot to think of. You seem to understand what I want, and I will start by finding out what possibilities my email host one.com can provide. They go for a mass market, so I doubt if they will give me special treatment, but it does not hurt to ask.

I currently use Thunderbird on my desktop and laptop, and I am very satisfied with the setup. My desktop is backed up four different hard disks, of which one is stored at another physical location and exchanged with one of the others a once a week. The desktop is only backed up on a single hard disk, as it is not so important.

I’ll consider using a specialised third party program for importing data from IMAP.

Thanks again for your splendid reply, it was much better than I expected.
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Old 29 Nov 2021, 06:52 AM   #6
steenkh
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Quote:
Originally Posted by xyzzy View Post
FWIW and FYI, for most (all?) email clients using POP3, there should be a setting to control how long to keep messages on the server (inbox) when deleted from the client's inbox. It will probably be worded something like "leave messages on server for..." or "delete messages on server after...". You must currently have yours set to 3 months.
Yes, they are all left at “never delete”, except for the desktop where they are deleted after three months.
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Old 29 Nov 2021, 07:03 AM   #7
xyzzy
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Quote:
Originally Posted by steenkh View Post
Yes, they are all left at “never delete”, except for the desktop where they are deleted after three months.
Does your email service have its own webmail where you can control this with its settings? It seems strange to me that a email server would automatically by default make the assumption to keep read email messages in its inbox for a max amount of time.
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Old 29 Nov 2021, 07:08 AM   #8
steenkh
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hadaso View Post
If I understand the situation correctly,
You have understood it correctly.

Quote:
So the way I think this can be done, is that each reader and the archive (that is a sort of a third reader that is a an email hoarder) have a separate account. M's account will forward all incoming email to W and to A. W's account will forward all incoming email to M and to A. A would receive only mail forwarded from M and from W.
That is a very creative way of doing this, and it seems doable. Thanks a lot for your contribution.

Quote:
I have a simpler way to keep all my email the same across all my devices: I only use webmail...
Oh yes. That has been considered many times, but I have lost an account once because the company that hosted the server believed I was a spammer (a spammer had “kindly” put my address as sender, and the incompetent supporter at the mail hotel could not believe that it is possible to fake a sender, and the fact that the IP address used was not mine did not impress him).

Fortunately, I have always fetched my mail with POP3, so no mails were lost, but I do not trust that nothing untoward will ever happen, so I do not use webmail. Besides, webmail does not solve the M and W issue.
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Old 29 Nov 2021, 07:09 AM   #9
steenkh
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Thanks everybody. You rock!
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Old 29 Nov 2021, 07:28 AM   #10
hadaso
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Quote:
Originally Posted by steenkh View Post
...
Oh yes. That has been considered many times, but I have lost an account once because the company that hosted the server believed I was a spammer (a spammer had “kindly” put my address as sender, and the incompetent supporter at the mail hotel could not believe that it is possible to fake a sender, and the fact that the IP address used was not mine did not impress him).
...
Well, I don't use free webmail. But I use exclusively the webmail client at the email provider that hosts the email for my domains (Fastmail). So I don't think I risk losing all my email: I can fetch it all using POP or IMAP (and in the past I had made backup copies several times using IMAPSize, that doesn't alter email status on the server unless you tell it to change something), but it's been years since I did it: I think they can keep my email for me better than I can. Anyway, the main advantage of webmail for me, other than not having to maintain software and mail archives, is that I automatically have the same settings on all devices, and that includes not just the email store but also the address book, several sending identities (different email addresses I send from, along with their different signatures, separate folders were sent mail is saved, etc. IMAP is good at synchronizing mail stores, but mail involves not just receiving, reading and storing but also sending.
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Old 29 Nov 2021, 07:41 AM   #11
steenkh
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Quote:
Originally Posted by xyzzy View Post
Does your email service have its own webmail where you can control this with its settings? It seems strange to me that a email server would automatically by default make the assumption to keep read email messages in its inbox for a max amount of time.
It seems like POP3 only deletes mail when called to do so by the POP client. I am not sure how the IMAP server does this. I can only say that as part of an experiment I stopped deleting mails on one account in June, and when I recently started using IMAP with this account, all mails back to May are still present.

But yes there Is a webmail system, but there is not a lot of settings to mess around with.
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Old 29 Nov 2021, 07:43 AM   #12
xyzzy
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hadaso View Post
Well, I don't use free webmail. But I use exclusively the webmail client at the email provider that hosts the email for my domains (Fastmail)
Well that answers my last question. If you are using FM as your mail server, and stuff is disappearing from its inbox after 3 months I believe you have its inbox's auto-purge setting enabled (in the folder's advanced preferences).
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Old 29 Nov 2021, 11:05 PM   #13
JeremyNicoll
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Quote:
Originally Posted by steenkh View Post
Thanks, Jeremy,

Your post has given me a lot to think of. You seem to understand what I want, and I will start by finding out what possibilities my email host one.com can provide.
Thank-you! Having read hadaso's reply, I think the method suggested there is a good one.


Quote:
Originally Posted by steenkh View Post
I currently use Thunderbird on my desktop and laptop, and I am very satisfied with the setup.
It's good that you know your way around it. I've never used it but lurk on various support mail-lists/forums for TB users and it's clear that many users have no idea what they're doing. That's especially a problem for people who don't understand what a mail server is, or what "local"/"offline"/"online" storage of mails might be nor how they've got their own version of TB set up. Add to that that eg gmail seems to do things in different ways from other IMAP services, and confusion reigns. For example a lot of users don't seem to understand that gmails 'ALL MAIL' "folder" is literally a view of alltheir mail, and spend ages trying to delete what they think is a duplicate set of their mails. As far as I can tell they not only don't understand gmail but they also don't understand that what TB shows them (might?) depend on how they've got TB set up.


I'm also a user only of paid email services, neither of them particularly cheap. About half my mail is processed through Fastmail, though there I (so far) only use generic addresses at some of their (many) domains. I also have a personal domain hosted by a company in London, more expensive than FM, and sometimes toy with moving it all to FM. But not having all my eggs in one basket is also useful.

I used to use a versatile email client, not well known, but unfortunately no longer supported, and as a consequence have been using FM's own webmail system, and at the other place, Roundcube webmail. In both cases I have hundreds of server-side filters defined.
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Old 11 Dec 2021, 06:19 PM   #14
steenkh
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Thanks

I wanted to pop in and give you a feedback on this issue.

I set up nine (9) accounts in accordance with the scheme that hadaso suggested. It became nine accounts because I included the catch-all postmaster account in the scheme.

It works beautifully, and we have all the advantages of IMAP that I hoped for. Most importantly, when we have deleted spam on the iPad, it is gone also on the iPhone, and we do not have to check unread mails on both.

Because of the POP3 accounts on the laptop and desktop computer, we still have the setting of bcc to self, which is a little sad, but the POP3 accounts can’t see the IMAP Sent mail folder.

We are using Apple’s mailer on the iPhones and iPads although I am not happy with it, mostly because it is impossible to create rules to sort mails into different folders. I can make rules on the server side, but it is more tedious than doing it directly where I need it, and they are only able to make simple rules. I have looked around for other iOS mailers, but they all want to do fancy stuff like integration with social media, of which I have no interest.

I am very satisfied with Thunderbird on my Windows computers, but it is a hassle to keep two different TBs more or less synchronised. Some years ago I did an earnest attempt at scripting a synchronisation, but it did not survive the first version update of TB. Maybe I should ask around on a TB forum for that.

Thanks a lot for providing a solution to a question that had me vexed for years.
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