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IMAP email protocol: what it is and how to configure it

What is the IMAP protocol?

IMAP stands for Internet Message Access Protocol. In Spanish we can translate it as Internet Message Access Protocol. It allows access to the messages that are stored on a specific server. It is simply necessary to have a computer that has access to the Internet and to be able to enter that server.

This protocol does not allow to send emails. What it really does is give access to messages that are stored on that server. It has an advantage over other similar protocols and that is that IMAP allows you to view the content on that server without having to download it. In this way, a user can access a server from a computer, view the messages and not have to download them to their own computer.

It was created in 1986 and arrived as substitute for POP protocol. Since then, different versions have appeared that have improved the protocol and allowed new functions to users. The first of these was IMAP 2, which emerged only a couple of years later and was already distributed publicly. Later other versions such as IMAP 3, IMAP2 bis or IMAP 4 appeared.

Therefore, we can say that thanks to the protocol IMAP emails can be synchronized between a computer and a server. It allows you to create different folders and store them there. This allows us to access saved content from any device that has Internet access.

What is the purpose of IMAP

So what is the real purpose of using the IMAP protocol? How does it help users on a day-to-day basis? We are going to see what are the main uses that make it something interesting and that allowed us to obtain a significant improvement over previous protocols.

Access emails from any computer

The first thing that IMAP allows is to be able to access emails from any computer. We simply have to have an Internet connection to be able to enter the server where the messages are stored and view them.

This was an important advantage at the time, since any user could read a message from anywhere. It would only be necessary a computer that has access to the network.

Share the mailbox with third parties

It also aimed to be able share inbox with all emails and that another user could access them from another place. This is something interesting to apply in certain circumstances and that offers a range of options to users.

For example, let’s think of a company in which there are different workers who need to access a server to read messages. Thanks to the IMAP protocol this was possible. It would not be necessary for each one to have a different account, but to share the same mailbox.

Better manage emails

In addition, the IMAP protocol is very useful to be able to manage better email. It will allow you to create folders and subfolders where you can have a greater order, store based on the type of message, its importance, etc.

It also allows you to carry out different tasks such as searching or classifying messages. This will also help the management that we mentioned, by being able to have an order and better store the emails.

Free up space on devices

One more advantage that the IMAP protocol brought is the power free up space on the devices. Emails are not stored on our computer, but everything can be managed from an independent server and kept there available to be read from any computer.

However, there may also be space problems, since the server ends up filling up as we save more and more messages. But yes, it brought this interesting change that for many users helped them avoid having their devices full of emails and having them all on one server.

Therefore, the IMAP protocol brought different improvements that added advantages when using email. Being able to manage better, access from anywhere or share the mailbox were very important aspects.

How to use IMAP in Gmail

We have explained what the IMAP protocol is, how it works, and why it is important. Now let’s talk about how we can use it in the provider Gmail. It is undoubtedly the most used in Spain today and has this possibility available. For this, it will be necessary to configure it correctly within the settings.

The first thing we have to do to use IMAP in Gmail is to activate it, in case it is not. To do this we have to log in with our account on the computer, we go to Settings, which appears on the top right, See all the settings and once there we click on the tab Forwarding and POP / IMAP mail.

Enable IMAP in Gmail

By default it will be disabled. Therefore, what we have to do is go down to where it says IMAP Access and click on the Enable option. Once this is done we will only have to give Save Changes and we will have IMAP enabled in our Gmail account.

From this moment on we will be able to access the messages of our Gmail account from any computer through this protocol. If for any reason we are interested in disabling it again at any given time, we just have to follow the same steps we have seen and give To disable.

Therefore, as we have seen, the IMAP protocol is very useful for email. It allows us to access messages from any computer, have greater control and management. We have also explained what we must do to enable it in Gmail. However, this is something that we can do in a similar way in many other email providers, such as Outlook.

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