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02-21-2009 11:13 PM
-->> something I found:
Why can't anyone get IMAP right?
February 21, 2008www.technologyevangelist.com/2008/02/why_cant_anyo
I'm extremely flustered with e-mail right now. When it comes to options for retrieving e-mail we have POP3 protocol or IMAP4 protocol. POP3 is basically one way and only works with the inbox and only the inbox. You can grab the messages from the inbox but if you have 4 computers you can't keep them in sync. Read a message on computer 1 and computer 2 has no idea if you have read the message. IMAP aims to fix this by keeping all messages not only on the server but also keeps the flags for each of these messages in sync. Computer 1 reads a message and computer 2, 3 and 4 all show that message as read. Reply to a message and all computers show that the message was replied to and have a copy of the reply so you can access it anywhere. Sounds great, right?
The IMAP protocol itself is pretty good although it is missing commands like 'move' but these problems are easily overcome. The biggest problem with IMAP are the clients available. Finding a good e-mail client that not only supports mail but also calendar and contacts is darned near impossible for Windows and while easier for the Mac it is still missing features. Frankly whatever client I go with should be cross-platform so I can use whatever computer I want.
Lets look at Windows first. I have a couple of options here for e-mail but as soon as I want to organize my life it becomes much more difficult. Outlook 2003/2007 has all the features I want but Microsoft has severely crippled IMAP. If I want a global inbox of my mail messages which also has my calendar and contact data I can't do it. I have to have a completely different PST file for those objects and they show in 'Personal Folders' while my IMAP data is in a completely different area. While PSTs offer more than 2GB now they only do so for POP3 and MAPI, not for IMAP. When you want to delete or move a message it won't actually process the commands on the server like you would expect, instead it merely changes the flag and copies the message. You have to purge the mailbox if you want to get rid of the messages with lines through them or hide messages marked for deletion. All in all it is possible to get a system moderately working, but in the end it is a royal pain that only a true techie would endure. Clearly Microsoft wants to sell more Exchange servers (MAPI) and does not care about IMAP at all. End result: I won't be buying MS Office any time soon.Thunderbird is another option although the future of the project is a bit unknown. The problem with Thunderbird is that the UI is a bit unpolished, still no global inbox, and the calendar plugin Lightning which is based on Sunbird is really not ready for release. While there is contact support it is really, really weak. Want to sync your Thunderbird contacts to your iPhone? I have yet to find a good way though there are posts that try and outline methods that may help. Thunderbird is a good work in progress, assuming it will still move forward, but still nowhere near a good polished e-mail client. Sunbird and Lightning are even further off in terms of a complete project and it is just not ready for prime time yet. My calendar, contacts and e-mail should be seamlessly linked (not necessarily one application but definitely linked together) with a well polished, consumer friendly interface. Thunderbird/Lightning/Sunbird are great for the uber techies but don't help push IMAP forward. I am being a bit harsh when it comes to the UI, but I guess my biggest gripe here comes in the form of the calender and contacts which simply don't sync anywhere. I know, I know, this post is about IMAP but lets be real. The total package matters.
On the Macintosh there is Mail.app linked to Address Book linked to iCal. iCal leaves a lot to be desired but the UI is nice and it is a lot closer to a real product than Sunbird/Lightning. While I wish iCal had more power, it is a releaseable product. Mail.app is by far the best IMAP client I have seen and with Leopard it seems to work really nice with my IMAP Idle system. I can't seem to unsubscribe from my 'All Mail' in my GMail inbox which means that I end up with a bunch of dupes since I use my GMail Apps account to backup my mail. A lot of Outlook attachments won't come though correctly but all in all those are my only two huge complaints. I do have a global inbox or a separate inbox for each account depending on how I want to view my mail. This means I can look at all of the mail across all of my accounts at the same time to get a eagle eye view of my messages, or I can click on the specific inbox and see only messages sent to that specific account. Really simple concept that Microsoft, Mozilla and others do not seem to understand. I can set any mailbox as any object that I want such as junk mail, sent items, drafts and have these be local to my computer or on the server so that all clients can access them. Again, really simple concept but something that Mozilla makes more painful than it need to be and something Microsoft just refuses to implement. All in all Mail.app is the best e-mail client I have ever used, even with its quirks. There are add-ons that extend functionality and help fix a few things which are nice. This is nice if you have a Macintosh, but I also have a Windows system or two. What do I use for them?
The iPhone is a different story. What should be a painfully simple thing is much too hard to do, actually impossible. Things like subscribing to folders is simply not possible. If you have a server side rule that places all mail from your parents into an associated folder it is not possible to see those messages unless you first click on the folder on the iPhone. Then and only then will the iPhone connect to the server and attempt to actually retrieve any new messages. If you have an e-mail organization system that does anything other than grabbing items from the inbox it will fail with IMAP on the iPhone. Want to BCC someone? Nope. Want to attach more than 1 picture? Nope. The benefit of the iPhone e-mail is that I can actually read and fully reply to the messages unlike other devices like Windows Mobile or Palm where I can barely read the messages that come through unless that are plain text with no attachments or anything.
So here we have a protocol with great potential and everyone seems to be screwing it up. If Mozilla really wanted to steal marketshare from Microsoft they would throw some great UI designers and new developers at the Thunderbird and Sunbird projects to give them a swift kick in the pants. Don't just accept that what we have today is good enough, push for a system that is usable and allows me to check for mail on any device and keep them all in sync. Why limit this to e-mail? I should be able to keep my e-mail, calendar and contacts in sync all via the cloud. Exchange does this but only if you stay inside of a Microsoft certified environment. That is silly. I don't want to run Exchange. I don't want to be tied to Microsoft. I don't hate them but I also don't like their clients. Entourage for Mac is pretty nasty, Outlook for PC is nice unless I want to use it on anything other than Windows. I don't understand why this is so hard for anyone to do. Where is my IMAP client that is easy and sexy enough for consumers to use with calendar, contacts and e-mail sync?
If you're running IMAP on Windows or simply using IMAP to share your mail across multiple platforms and multiple devices with calendar and contact support, what are you using? How do you make it work? Is there a client I should be looking at that I'm missing?
05-19-2009 03:10 PM