IMAP Folders


I have been doing some testing using an IMAP service (iCloud) I have noticed that different clients put things in different folders. some will put things in Sent, others will create a new Sent folder or Sent items. I think the same for deleted items.

So my question are:

1. Does the IMAP protocol define the folders that are uses or is it meant to be flexible ?
2. What about if I create my own folder every IMAP client meant be abLe to download them?


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Guy LidbetterCommented:
Hi whorsfall,

IMAP simply copies what is on the server.

It reads all the folders and creates a local copy. Depending on the client itself, default folders (Sent, deleted, trash etc) can often be called something slightly different, but this is a client application side change, however from a server point of view this doesn't matter.

If you create a Folder in an IMAP client, the change is copied up to te server, what this means is that ANY client connected to that account, will download a copy. EG... You have an Outlook and a Thunderbird client. You create A folder in Outlook... In Thunderbird, on the next sync the folder will be copied.
The INBOX directive is in defined in the RFC3501 IMAP protocol, while a Sent items folder is NOT, purely because it does not fall within the IMAP directive, as IMAP doesn't send emails (SMTP does, and protocols just don't intermingle).
That's why almost ALL IMAP clients will have the options to SET your own Sent Items folder (since it's a message copy to a folder AFTER an SMTP send, which doesn't belong in the IMAP protocol, it's the client's own prerogative how to handle sent emails)
Any other folders you create (if the name falls within the specifications), will be able to be accessed in any another client.
Guy LidbetterCommented:
INBOX is ONLY defined as "The Primary Mailbox for this user on this server", It does NOT represent the Inbox as a folder, nor is ANY other Folder defined.

The RFC3501 IMAP Protocol, IMAP Directive as you stipulate, only outlines the management of Emails and the Mailbox itself, tagging, searching and fetching ( there are a few more thing but none regarding folders or hierarchical management of folder structure or their definitions)

All a mailbox is at the basic level, is a folder with items in it, no different to a file folder with text files in it. All IMAP does in plain English is enable you to manage a mailbox much as the same as you would Local Folders.

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whorsfallAuthor Commented:

All great answers thankyou.

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