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