Configuring Thunderbird for Gmail IMAP on Leopard

Posted by Umair Abbasi on Jan. 21, 2008 in Technology


Let me start off by saying I tried to use Apple Mail for my email requirements, but it just refuses to behave without a lot of tweaking to work the way I want it to work with Gmail’s IMAP settings. I have since moved on to Thunderbird and am pleased to say that I am very content with it.

After you have finished setting up Thunderbird as per Gmail’s instructions found here, start up Thunderbird and let it download folders off your Gmail account. Depending on your setup you may just see the Gmail system folders (Inbox, Trash, Sent Messages, etc.) or all the folders will be created for you based on what all labels you have created. Here are the settings I have used for Thunderbird to work elegantly with my set up:

In Thunderbird go to Tools -> Account Settings

On the left pane click on Copies & Folders

In the right pane for the sent folder select other and from the drop down box go all the way to [Gmail] -> Sent Mail, this will ensure your sent mail is stored on your Gmail Sent folder. Do the same for the Drafts folder, except select [Gmail] -> Drafts, as the location to save your drafts. Leave Templates as it is. Do not select other for templates.

To configure your trash folder follow these steps:

  1. Go to Thunderbird -> Preferences -> Advanced -> Config Editor
  2. In the filter box type mail.server.server
  3. You will see a list of keys. The one we are looking for is mail.server.serverX.name. Where X is a number corresponding to your Gmail IMAP account. Remember the number X. For me it was 2.
  4. Right in an empty space in the window -> new -> string
  5. In the box that appears enter mail.server.serverX.trash_folder_name, where X is the number you remembered before. For my setup the line is mail.server.server2.trash_folder_name, click OK
  6. Another box will appear, enter the following [Gmail]/Trash
  7. You are done press ok. Quit Thunderbird and start it again.

After these settings have been completed you sent mail will be saved in the Sent folder on Gmail, your trash will go directly to Gmail’s trash folder, and your drafts will be saved in the drafts folder on Gmail.

A key point to remember here is that if you delete an email from anywhere in your mailbox all copies of that email will be deleted from your email account. For instance if I delete an email from my Inbox, and have a copy of that email in my archives, and my custom created ABC folder, by deleting the email from my Inbox it will delete the email from my archives folder and my custom created ABC folder. All traces of the email will be wiped.

Credits: All credit for the above steps goes to Gina Trapani, an editor at Lifehacker. Gina Trapani’s version of the above instructions can be found here.


gmail, thunderbird, apple mail, leopard

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