Using IMAP with Your Email Program

1. Understanding IMAP
From the early 90s through about 2001, the standard method of getting email from Panix has been POP (Post Office Protocol).
It works like a PO box; your mail sits on the server waiting for you to come get it, and then when you get it, you take it out of the server's "POP box" and bring it "home" to your own computer.
(This means that you can't look at your mail from two different computers without making special arrangements.)
IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol, in case you're curious) was designed with multiple-computer owners and Internet cafes in mind. IMAP works more like a voicemail system; your messages normally stay on the mail server even when you save them.
This means you don't have to download all of your incoming mail before reading one item; it also means that you can access your "Inbox" from wherever you are, and it'll still contain all the mail you've saved. (No more cursing at your mail being all on your computer at home when you need it at a hotel in Chicago.)
2. Getting, Saving, and Deleting Messages in IMAP
When you "get mail" via IMAP, your Inbox display will be updated to show the current contents of your Inbox. (New mail will be added, mail that you've deleted from elsewhere will disappear.) While you're online, you can delete mail, save it to other folders, reply, forward, etc..
If you "get mail" and then go offline, your computer will store a "snapshot" of your inbox, which means you'll be able to read it offline. However, your real inbox remains online, and you'll be unable to make any changes (like deleting messages) until you get back online and "get mail" again.
IMAP lets you "save off" messages in two ways: online or local. Online mailboxes show up as sub-folders of your account's Inbox; local mailboxes are listed separately.
Another nice thing about IMAP is that you can "nest" your mail folders; in other words, you can create folders inside other folders.
Deleting mail from your inbox deletes it from the server. If you access your inbox via Pine or something, and delete mail from there, the next time you open Netscape or Outlook those deleted messages will disappear from there too.
This is why local mailboxes are important. You only get a limited amount of server space for mail; if you want to keep a library of old love letters and business correspondence, you should save it on your own computer (locally) to keep your disk usage on Panix down. To save a message locally, usually you just have to drag the message to a local folder.
NB: Be careful what you trash!
You might be aware of our "snapshot" system of file backups; mail that's deleted by accident can sometimes be retrieved from snapshot. Note that IMAP mail is stored on a separate server, and is saved in a way that doesn't let you get it back from snapshot easily unless you have a shell account that you're comfortable using. Otherwise, intervention by one of our admins may be needed to retrieve deleted IMAP mail. So please be careful what you delete.
We highly recommend saving any important email to your own hard drive ("Local folders"), or even keeping a copy in both places if it's really important. And naturally, you should back up your important files on the hard drive frequently; but that goes without saying.

That's all!

Last Modified:Wednesday, 30-Jan-2013 12:14:07 EST
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