Setting up IMAP between Google Apps and Windows Mobile 5 Outlook Mobile

Well, for a while, the lovely email solution that is Gmail> (aka Googlemail), and the custom-domain Google Apps variant, didn’t seem to be getting much in the way of new features, despite big upgrades by its main competitors. Recently though, things have changed. We can look forward to a faster interface, a better contacts management solution, more storage space and, perhaps most excitingly in the eyes of the Poorhouse, IMAP.

IMAP, the Internet Message Access Protocol, is a technology allowing offline mail programs such as Outlook, Thunderbird et al. to read and manipulate their mail. Yes, Gmail has had an alternative technology, POP3, for a long, long while, albeit a rather dodgy implementation in some ways, but IMAP has the bonus of being able to keep in sync with the web-based Gmail proper. For instance, unlike POP3, if you read a message through an IMAP client then it will appear as read when you access Gmail or Google Apps over the web. You can move the messages between labels (usually termed folders under IMAP), delete them, star them and so on.

One mega bonus is for those of you who want to access their mail from a mobile device. Gmail does have its own nice-enough Java client for mobile phones which remains in perfect sync and looks rather like the Google Mail website itself, but this isn’t good if you don't have a suitable Java-enabled phone or for Google Apps where it only works on Blackberries (although there is a workaround to enable the Gmail app to work with Google Apps on at least some phones). Additionally, as it appears as a separate application rather than email directly, it doesn’t use your phone's native email facilities so any special handy features you might have won’t work with it. Your phone won’t be able to tell you how many emails you have waiting, you won’t get notification of new ones without checking and so on.

With IMAP however, if your phone can support it directly, email gets treated as email! So there’s just setting it up to be done. Google provides instructions for quite a few clients, but of course the Poorhouse’s slightly dated Windows Mobile 5 Outlook Mobile client is not on the list. Below therefore, are instructions to set Gmail (or more specifically Google Apps) email up it up so you can send, receive and manipulate your messages directly. Whilst these instructions relate to Outlook Mobile, they should be easily enough modifiable to any other device that supports the necessary IMAP features.

You should also try and remember after doing any sort of manipulation of your mail, even if it’s just moving things between folders, to use the “Send and Receive” command on Outlook Mobile to make sure your changes are synchronised.

Setting up Google Apps mail on Windows Mobile 5 Outlook Mobile

  1. First, ensure that your Gmail / Google Apps account is enabled for IMAP. Within your account on the web, go to Settings, then choose the "Forwarding and POP/IMAP" tab, and ensure IMAP Access is set to "Enable IMAP".
  2. Go into Outlook Mobile on your Windows Mobile device. Choose the "Menu" option, then "Tools", then "New Account...".
  3. Enter your email address as requested, and press Next.
  4. Press Next on the Auto configuration screen.
  5. Fill in your user information. Name can be whatever you like. User name, in the case of Google Apps, should be your whole email address (e.g. whoever@thepoorhouse.org.uk), and your password is the password you normally access your mail over the web with. Press Next.
  6. Under Account information, change Account type to "IMAP4", and type any name you would like Outlook Mobile to refer to your account as. Press Next.
  7. The server information should be as follows:
    Incoming mail: imap.gmail.com
    Outgoing mail: smtp.googlemail.com:465 (the :465 refers to the port number - it is important you include this in the Poorhouse's experience)
    Domain can be left blank.
    Then click Options
  8. Make whatever choices suit you on page 1 of options, and press Next.
  9. Make your selection regarding "Only displaying message for the last X days" according to preference. You must be sure to tick both "Require SSL connection" and "Outgoing mail requires authentication". Leave "Use separate settings" unticked. Click Next
  10. Choose your preferred options on the third options screen, and click Finish, Next or anything else you need to to return to your Outlook Mobile inbox.
  11. You're done! From Outlook Mobile's menu, do a "Send/Receive", and your existing Google Apps mail should flow in nicely. Horray.

There are a couple of quirks to be aware of. As the feature set of Gmail isn’t quite the same as that provided by the IMAP protocol certain things work slightly differently. Functions involving labels, trash, and spam are worth noting, but luckily Google provides a guide, reproduced below. You may wonder how Gmail’s labels could possibly exist under IMAP which doesn’t have labelling facilities per se, but luckily Google has taken the most sensible step available by translating them into folders. If a message has multiple labels in the webmail client then it will appear in multiple IMAP folders.

Action on mobile device/client (e.g. iPhone/Outlook) Result in Gmail on the web
Open a message Mark a message as read
Flag a message Apply a star to the message
Move a message to a folder Apply a label to the message
Move a message to a folder within a folder* Apply a label showing folder hierarchy ('MainFolder/SubFolder')*
Create a folder Create a label
Move a message to [Gmail]/Spam Report a message as spam
Move a message to [Gmail]/Trash Move a message to Trash
Send a message Store message in Sent Mail
Delete a message in inbox Remove the message from inbox
Delete a message from a folder Remove that label from the message
Delete a message from [Gmail]/Spam or [Gmail]/Trash Delete the message permanently

Note especially that using the delete function of, say, Outlook Mobile doesn’t actually delete the message from Google, rather it puts it in the "All Mail" archive (and labels it "[Imap]/Deleted Items" if you don't delete that label in the Gmail webclient). If you want a real delete, you actually have to move the message to the [Gmail] / Trash folder your IMAP client will have. Slightly weird, but the benefits of IMAP surely outweigh this slight hassle. Sent items has a similar issue. With certain clients you can get round this problem by redefining the location of Sent and Trash within the client, but Outlook Mobile does not seem to have this feature.

Currently there is also a strange bug where any HTML mail you get via Google’s IMAP facility does not display properly in Outlook Mobile, showing up instead as a blank message. Some might say this isn’t the worst thing – the Poorhouse certainly feels the invention of HTML mail was a dark day in messaging technology - but so many people and places insist on sending such things that you stand the risk of not being able to read something vaguely important currently. You’ll see it exists, but not what it says. Rumour has it a fix is in the works, but for now there's not a lot to be done about it as far as the Poorhouse knows.

Update:

If you want Outlook Mobile to synchronise with your more obscure, custom, labels you need to tell it to. This is done via the Menu -> Tools -> Manage Folders... command in Outlook Mobile, which then lets you tick which folders you would like to retrieve.


Comments

WM 5 Smartphone and IMAP folders

Big thanks for your very helpful post!

I assume you're using Windows Mobile 5 non-Smartphone edition, as I can't find anything about Manage Folders or the like on my Samsung Blackjack running WM 5 Smartphone. In fact I can't see any IMAP content other than what's in the Inbox itself on my Blackjack - I can't see any other folders, even those that are subfolders of Inbox.

Anyone have ideas/knowledge about this?

Many thanks in advance,
Neil

Hi - yep, mine was PPC

Hi - yep, mine was PPC edition, not smartphone. I don't have any experience on Smartphone edition I'm sorry. On PPC, the folders are also listed at the top left of the screen - it says "Inbox" but you can click to drop down a list of all the other options. I guess clicking isn't a possibility on Smartphone edition but is there anything up there that looks like it would be pressable? :-) Good luck.

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