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email in 2013

Another nerdy email post.

I'm what you'd call a power mail user, which means I use email so much that I require the full functionality of a mail client; my client of choice is Mozilla Thunderbird.

The way I do email these days is unique because it's done in a pseudo-synchronized way via POP and not IMAP, and utilize this method because I bounce between laptops periodically. That, and at some point I'll probably use mail on the smartphone. Mail apps and IMAP suck on the phone, but tried-and-true POP always works reliably.

To pseudo-sync a POP account, all that's required are two things. First is the use of the auto-bcc feature (something Thunderbird has had ever since version 1.5), and second is the use of threaded view which most know as "conversation view".

The way this works is that for every mail you send, you auto-bcc yourself to start or continue the message thread, never use the Sent folder since everything resides in the inbox (and the fact POP doesn't support mail folders), and instruct the client to leave messages on the mail server so you can pseudo-sync up other computers set up this way.

If this sounds confusing, it will all make sense in a moment.

First part: Instruct TB not to delete mail off the server


Second part: Don't use the Sent folder, auto-bcc yourself whenever you compose a message, reply to or forward a message


Third part: Enable threaded view in descending order so newest threads are at top


The end result is that whenever you compose a new message, reply to or forward a message, your email address is auto-injected as a bcc:


...and messages when viewed are done so in threaded style where they can be expanded/contracted at whim:


This is a little weird at first, but once you start using mail threaded-style, you'll never go back to flat because threaded is a much easier way to keep track of conversations.

For every computer where you install Thunderbird and set this up, you follow the exact same formula.

How does this pseudo-sync work? Since the mail is never deleted off the server and all messages sent are "circled back" via auto-bcc, any TB setup you do as outlined above will always show the all the mail both for received and sent.

Here's an example of the above in my VMWare session of Windows 95 using Thunderbird 1.5:


Same thing, totally different OS, totally different TB install using totally different version, but same result. All the mail shows up. And anything I send from there would pseudo-sync back to my TB in Windows 7 since it auto-bccs the same way.

Why do I call this pseudo-sync? Because I'm technically not synchronizing anything but rather just re-downloading. That, and only the messages are "synchronized", meaning message filters and contacts aren't since this is just for messages only.

How would pseudo-synchronized mail via POP on a smartphone help?

While I don't do mail on my smartphone now, I might at some point in the future. Mail apps and IMAP on the phone just plain suck. With all the "push"/sync going on, things screw up all the time when all you're trying to do is just read and reply to your mail.

On the phone, I could configure a POP client so that only mail headers are downloaded/re-downloaded for the fastest, lightest possible messaging. In other words, messages are basically very close to the same size as text messages. Ridiculously fast downloads with no traditional push/sync going on. Even with the weakest phone signal I could still download mail headers with no problem at all.

There are mail clients like K-9 Mail for Android that does in fact have auto-bcc in it, so yes it does exist and yes you can do the pseudo-sync thing between PC, laptop/notebook and phone. And that's just plain cool.

Do mail apps for the phone show threaded views? Whether they do or don't, I don't care because that's not the primary place I use email anyway. The point is that I can pseudo-sync my mail with POP no matter what platform I'm using, and send/receive email in the fastest, most reliable way.

POP pseudo-sync works great for vintage PCs too

Using the Windows 95 example, I can instruct the client just to download headers so I don't overwork the environment:


...and in the "Disk Space" area of Account Settings I can instruct TB not to download any huge messages since big mail tends to make old Windows a bit crash-happy:


True, POP3 is ancient. But for power mail users, there's simply nothing better. POP just works, works well and does so reliably. As the old saying goes, the mail must flow. And when you use mail via POP, it does flow like it's supposed to.

And seriously, what other way of doing mail could you think of that works on computer stuff from modern-day PCs, tablets and phones all the way back to Windows 95 and everything in between? POP is the only one that can do it right.

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