Google Labs Gives Gmail an IMAP Functionality Boost

Gmail, a staple of our work environment, becomes a little more like “big-boy” IMAP courtesy of Google Labs. Hit the Labs button in your Gmail account and you’ll see a new “Advanced IMAP Controls” function. Enable it and you can begin to take advantage of the following new features:

  • Auto-Expunge: it sounds like a dirty word, but expunging is a good thing for data that’s no longer needed. Up to now, Gmail would simply mark items for deletion in clients and not immediately delete them. Enabling the Auto-Expunge feature kicks those deleted messages to the curb and gets them out of your e-mail system.
  • Delete Forever: one the benefits of Gmail is that like an elephant, it never forgets. All of your mail is archived in the Gmail / All Mail label or folder unless you manually clean it out. This often results in wasted space, messages in multiple locations and more bandwidth required for mail synching. You can now expunge mail forever by setting Gmail to simply move it to Trash upon deletion.
  • Selective Syncing: you can now pick and choose which labels or folders you want synchronized between Gmail and your web or desktop client. This comes in handy for archived folders that don’t change much. For example, I still want my “CES 2008″ folder data, but I don’t need to see it every waking minute of the day. I’ve disabled that one for now because I’ve got an active “CES 2009″ folder for planning purposes.

Each of these features can be useful, but for me the ability to say good-bye to the All Mail label usage is key. I often work remotely over wireless broadband connections where there’s a 5GB monthly data cap and 1.5-hours of work already uses near 45MB. Why should I be synching the near 53,000 e-mails in my All Mail folder when I’m already managing the ones I need with custom labels?

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