Q. How do I efficiently manage my email with three devices: computer, phone and tablet? Do I have to read, save, delete email three times, or can I easily sync them?
A. Most mail programs give you the choice of two ways to set up an account on a computer or mobile device — either with the IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol) standard or POP (Post Office Protocol). If you want to keep your mailbox in sync across multiple devices, choose the IMAP method.
Compared with POP, IMAP is a newer technology for managing messages and handles checking the same mail account on multiple devices much more smoothly. With IMAP, even though you can see your mailbox in the mail program on your computer and devices, IMAP messages actually live on the mail server. When you read, delete or flag a message, you are performing that action on the mail server. The mail apps on your other devices see the change when you view the updated mailbox.
In contrast, most POP mail systems in their default settings download messages directly to the device that checks in at the time, and then deletes those messages from the mail server. When you check mail with your computer or other gadgets, those devices do not get the deleted messages, but they may download newer ones — which then get deleted from the server, making your mailboxes out of sync.
As a workaround, some mail providers allow you to keep messages on the server without deleting them automatically after they download, but then you have to repeatedly delete a message on each device. Additionally, the messages you send stay on the Sent mailbox of the computer or device that actually did the sending.
Most modern mail providers and programs support IMAP You can find instructions for setting up IMAP mail accounts for Google’s Gmail, Microsoft Outlook and Mozilla’s Thunderbird program on their sites. Apple’s iCloud mail does not support POP and uses IMAP by default.
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