Setting up Apple Mail for better IMAP Support with GMail


Posted on 9th November 2008 by Krow in Tips & Tricks

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So this weekend in setting up Apple Mail I had to do some serious research about how to get the annoying [Gmail] folder out of the way. There is one frustrating thing about Google’s implementation of the IMAP protocol.

Google has a somewhat odd IMAP folder structure with a [Gmail] folder containing “All Mail”, “Starred”, “Sent”, “Drafts” etc.

Apple Mail gives you no choice to unsubscribe from the [Gmail] folder. In all the articles I read this weekend, I found that this may actually be an issue with the way Gmail implements IMAP.

The result is that you end up with doubles (and in some cases more) of literally every email in your Inbox.

Some other blogs and articles have suggested specifying the [Gmail] prefix in IMAP set up however this means you can’t actually see your INBOX but can see “All Mail” as well as the other folders shown above. This is not a nice solution.

The Solution

The trick is to simply specify INBOX as the IMAP Path Prefix in your email program.

What this does is set the “root” of your email access to the Inbox meaning all the extra folders such as “All Mail” are below the root and thus not shown.

If you have any folders that you previously had in your Inbox (i.e., INBOX/Folder A), you can still show these inline in your Apple Mail Inbox by labeling them INBOX/Folder A. This does not look good at all in the Gmail web app but will work perfectly in Apple Mail.


If you send your outgoing emails through the Gmail servers, which is highly recommend you do, sent messages are automatically stored in your sent messages folder so it is recommended you set Mail to not store sent messages on the server.

This is important and strongly recommend that you uncheck these options and save changes to your email settings prior to implementing the INBOX prefix above. If you don’t you might find you can’t access from Mail any previous sent messages unless you copy them back down which is complicated and time consuming.


I am interested to know if this works for others and, if not, what your experience has been. If everything falls apart, don’t stress, all your email messages are still on the server and have not been affected. The worst-case scenario is that you will have to delete your email account in Mail and set it up again.