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The New IMAP in Outlook 2013

IMAP is an important protocol for many of Outlook’s customers, and we’ve heard from many of you that Outlook’s IMAP support is not at the level of quality that you expect from a product like Outlook. We heard your feedback, and this release we made a significant investment in IMAP.

Here’s what you’ll see with IMAP in Outlook 2013:

  • Syncing/sending messages is done in the background, so you no longer have to wait for sync to complete in order to use Outlook. General comments about Outlook’s performance when using IMAP was the top issue we heard from all of you, and we believe this change will improve the experience quite a bit.
  • New mail notifications are now supported. This was the second most common request we heard.
  • Outlook now recognizes special folders in your mailbox like Trash (in techspeak, the IMAP extension XLIST is now supported)
  • You can choose how much mail to sync and keep locally by telling Outlook to only sync mail that is newer than a certain number of months, such as 3, 6, or 12 months. You can find this setting under “Change account settings”:

If you’re working in a situation where bandwidth is expensive or otherwise constrained, we recommend using the above new setting to limit the amount of mail you sync to provide the best experience.

However, with all the new improvements we’ve made to IMAP in Outlook 2013 we were unable to support a few popular features that are used or have been requested by users like you. The two notable features in this list are:

  • Outlook 2013 will no longer support Download Headers Only mode for IMAP
  • And categories will still not be supported for IMAP accounts

We believe the best experience in Outlook is when you have the entire mail downloaded, and that folks who use Download Headers Only would benefit from our new sync offline setting above.

For categories, while this is the third most common request we hear from you, the IMAP protocol itself does not support categories. As a result, we weren’t able to engineer a feature that ensures that categories (including the color and name of the category) you assign on one computer are stored on the server and available on all your other computers, or even available on your same computer if you have to recreate your Outlook profile.

We were able to make these improvements to IMAP because you continue to provide feedback to the Outlook team about how to make your experience better. All your questions and comments are not only appreciated, but used to make decisions about how we can improve Outlook in the future. Please keep it coming!

–Allie Bellew, Outlook Program Manager

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28 comments
  1. No "Download Headers Only" mode? So all that spam I get I will HAVE to download it in full?

  2. Just tested this in Gmail and it works very well.

  3. So it is safe to say that Microsoft has people that understand IMAP. NOW ADD SUPPORT TO OUTLOOK.COM :)

  4. Allie please complete the IMAP experience by adding the following features (if not already added):
    1) IMAP IDLE support, this was in the previous Outlook versions so make sure it stays in there. Also please add this to the Windows 8 Phone mail client.
    2) Option to automatically subscribe to & offline all imap folders (and check for new folders created during Outlook startup and subscribe/offline if new folders are found). In addition provide option to exclude some folders from this option (such as SPAM or Trash). This will force a local copy download of all email to improve email search from Outlook (or Windows desktop).
    3) IMAP flags (AKA labels). RFC 3501.

    I agree with downloading the whole email due to allowing a more complete search for emails. Actually Outlook is the only Windows email client I found that will index text inside PDF and WORD email attachments one a downloaded local copy. Not even GMail will index text inside those type of attachments and allow for search.

    Add those features and Outlook will have a great IMAP experience.

  5. I am not sure why but in Outlook 2013 release preview, when subscribed to Gmail via IMAP, Outlook doesn’t automatically download anything until I click on the Gmail account. Is this the normal behavior? If yes, this means that I don’t have auto-check for new mail in IMAP accounts, which is… strange and uncomfortable, to say the least.

  6. "Outlook 2013 will no longer support Download Headers Only mode for IMAP"
    This is huge disappointment. If I have a large mailbox (especially corporate one, then I’ll have to download it all to be able to see old messages? And what if it’s running on mobile device and is connecting to Internet using 3G?

    • yeah, this is a very strange and stupid surprise!

  7. "Outlook 2013 will no longer support Download Headers Only mode for IMAP" will make me never use Outlook higher then 2010 or even get back to clumsy but totally adjustable Thunderbird

  8. There is a serious problem with Outlook’s new IMAP, which has not gotten the attention it deserves since being reported nearly four months ago!

    Outlook 2013 IMAP messages keep re-appearing after deletion or move

    See these threads:
    http://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/office/forum/office_home-outlook/outlook-2013-imap-messages-keep-re-appearing-after/5d473f53-18bf-42c9-ae11-16cd74c8cbfe

    http://social.technet.microsoft.com/Forums/mr-IN/officeitpropreview/thread/ba9c1b73-e55b-4903-a9c1-fc9e4cd28c65

  9. So there’s a big problem with Outlook 2013’s IMAP–and there is a big problem with this blog engine. My URLs, pasted in the previous post, get mangled on paste and mangled further when copying them to use in a browser, since actual hyperlinks are not permitted. No wonder Microsoft is losing market share.

    Extra dashes are inserted throughout the links on paste and even more upon copy. What in the world?! Earth to Microsoft. Come in, Microsoft.

  10. Wow, go ahead and search the Web for:
    Outlook 2013 IMAP Problems

    It’s unbelievable that Allie Bellew spent time bragging about the "new" IMAP when it’s so broken. I’d add a bunch of links, but they’ll just get mangled.

    Bottom line: If you use IMAP, avoid Outlook 2013 like the plague!

  11. Having lots of IMAP-related problems here as well.

    Sometimes I click "delete" but the message doesn’t go away. Very intermittent.

    Mailbox doesn’t update for an hour, when I’ve set Outlook to check every 15 minutes.

    Outlook has crashed multiple times as well.

  12. Also having IMAP issues with Outlook 2013 – when I delete messages from the Inbox they’re not deleting on the server and can still be seen on my webmail and other mail clients…

  13. Also, there’s a number of folders where I know there’s messages and Outlook downright refuses to download them…

  14. The New IMAP in Outlook 2013 is outright ridiculous! I tried to use it with Gmail and encountered too many problems.

    First, for folders with many messages (my Sent folder) cannot be downloaded off-line. Outlook simply stops at a certain message, the "Synchronizing folder…" label and progress bar stays there forever, with not actual progress whatsoever. Restarting Outlook does not help. The only solution is to get messages for the last 6 / 12 / 24 months only. You can’t possibly have all your emails offline.

    Second, the messages from my Inbox suddenly disappear for no apparent reason. The only way to bring them back was to change the settings of the account and cause Outlook to download them again. Alas, in a couple of ours the messages disappeared completely!

    This was the deal-breaker for me, and I reverted to Outlook 2010.

    As a side note: downloading messages in fullness takes quite some time for large folders. Further, for no apparent reason it starts from the oldest messages.

    Really, guys. I wonder how can you brag about something so outright broken.

  15. I forgot to mention I speak of the RTM version, not the preview one!

  16. Absolutely ridiculous design for IMAP foders… obscure, inconvenient, unclear.

    Going to test latest Thunderbird… have had it with outlook!

  17. Seriously, boosting about your new Outlook 2013 that is totally non functional. I am not worried about the two changes you referenced in your article. the fact is Outlook 2013 does not work with IMAP other then Microsoft’s.. I have been using my email service (IMAP) with all the flavors of the Office suites, flawlessly, that was until Outlook 2013. at first I thought it was me, but when I googled/binged it, I was shocked that this has been an issue sine the preview and not a work from Microsoft, crickets chirping more like it..
    Can the author of this blog at least address this IMAP issue, as it is all forums I have visited have complained about this, yet no one intelligent has responded with anything concrete. the issue is not a heard one to understand since it effect ALL IMAP users. I know that you Microsoft must be aware of this issue and I guess it is your choice to not respond and allow us to continue to grow more distant from your practices. A deaf ear is is not how you should treat your users.. I know my words fall on deaf ears, and I am patient, but I just want you to know this is ridicules and an insult that your lack of responding indicates that we do not matter.. Please fix this IMAP issue.,.
    Oh just to reiterate, after upgrading to office 2013, IMAP no longer syncs, it will send, but not receive. It does work beautifully with your live.com accounts.. so it makes me wonder if that was intended by design.! Allie?

  18. This statement would really deserve some clarification "Outlook now recognizes special folders in your mailbox like Trash (in techspeak, the IMAP extension XLIST is now supported)". This for me is the biggest annoyance. I haven’t been able to configure a single IMAP account with properly assigned special folders. Most of the times even if the folders are already there with the right names, I end up with multiple copies of those folders all marked "(This computer only)". Either support for XLIST on the server side is still not really there or the Outlook 2013 XSLT support is badly messed up. I need the possibility of manually assigning the special folders as in Outlook 2010.

  19. How can i disable the automatic "Test Account" when setting up an IMAP account in Outlook 2013. The test email is rejected because of a "date header field" and I cannot proceed beyond this point, because i cannot opt to "Not send a test email".

  20. "All your questions and comments are not only appreciated, but used to make decisions about how we can improve Outlook in the future. Please keep it coming!"

    But there is NO Microsoft response below that I can see. Hard to tell that they care at all…

  21. Please restore as custom folder for sended and trashed email, not all server as XLIST
    Downgraded all client to Outlook 2010

  22. OK… It’s hardest but I made thing, that sent message copied to Sent folder. But how can I do this with Deleted messages…

    So I have to use Thinderbird 17 instead…

  23. Moving Mails in Outlook 2013 to other folders via IMAP kills the Header of the Mails.

    We are using special X-Headers for our Mails (inserted by our Mail-Server), which are processed later by our self-coded Outlook-AddIn when the Mails are viewed.

    Works great with Outlook 2007 and Outlook 2010 as both are not killing the Mails’ Header.

    You said: "…that Outlook’s IMAP support is not at the level of quality that you expect from a product like Outlook"

    Seems that the quality got lost if it comes to Mail Headers. PLEASE FIX IT! Thank you!

  24. Another unhappy camper here… Apparently if you have lots of IMAP folders, including a subfolder buried three levels deep but with the word "Sent" in the name – well, that just might become your new default sent items folder.

    Also, apparently it would be bad to let us change this, mmmkay? Because letting mere users select their own special IMAP folders – well, that’s just crazy talk. I used up my entire allotment of "time I am willing to waste on this product" just figuring out that I can’t change this option, and that this is by design.

    +1 for the Thunderbird Exodus… Whee!!!

  25. I googled XLIST and the second result is from a Google document stating XLIST is proprietary and is being deprecated in favor of LIST, the standard. Seems pretty off-the-wall.

  26. I have a large (7000+ emails) MAPI account at Tuffmail. OL2013 keeps losing my local copies of emails. Apparently (Google) this is a long-standing bug that MS seems unable to fix. TBird is what I need I think …

  27. The outlook is not showing the e-mails of my sub-folders. Only from Inbox.
    I bought Office Pro today and had to downgrade to version 2010 … Shame …

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