Gmail and Mavericks Mail: Why they aren't playing nice and what you can do about it

Google has never had anything approximating what you could call a normal IMAP implementation for Gmail. However, under Mail in OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion and previous versions, many of us learned to work around and otherwise live with it. No longer! OS X 10.9 Mavericks changes the way the Mail app works, and in doing so, is less forgiving of Gmail's idiosyncrasies than ever before. Joe Kissel on TidBITS:

Mail and Gmail were never a fantastic combination out of the box, because Gmail has a wacky, highly nonstandard way of using IMAP, and Mail always wanted to treat Gmail as though it were a conventional IMAP server. But, after much trial and error, I eventually found a combination of Mail settings and Gmail settings that, prior to Mavericks, resulted in a stable — and indeed largely pleasant — experience. As I documented in “Achieving Email Bliss with IMAP, Gmail, and Apple Mail,” 2 May 2009, you just do x, y, and z (well, 21 steps’ worth of x, y, and z), and it’ll all work smoothly.Well, forget about that under Mavericks. In fact, following those old directions now will lead you far from bliss. And if you followed them before upgrading to Mavericks, you’ll need to take some steps to undo some of the problems.

Gmail in Mail over IMAP has always been a pain for me. I never hid All Mail, so that's not a problem now, but it uses a ton of disk space and up until recently kept generating simultaneous connection and bandwidth usage errors.

I have a paid Google Apps account, so on iOS I simply use Exchange for Gmail via Google Sync, which works much, much better, and faster. Sadly, Google doesn't seem to allow for Exchange connections on OS X.

So, unless and until Apple changes Mail for Gmail's sake, or Google figures out how to better serve IMAP, we'll stay caught, painfully, in the middle.

Check out Joe's article for some small amount of relief, and if you're struggling with Gmail in, let me know how it's going for you.

Source: TidBITS

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

  • I wouldn't count on Google ever making IMAP work correctly for Gmail. If you use Apple Mail, iOS mail client, Outlook, Thunderbird, etc then you aren't seeing Gmail ads. Google doesn't like that. So don't count on Google ever caring about free users having an enjoyable experience on third party clients. Pretty evil IMO for a company that preaches not being evil and openness.
  • Personally, I feel sting has hit the nail on it's head here! Google will likely keep a non-standard implementation and push users to their own interface for "the best experience".
  • I use gmail and the mavericks mail client.. i'm not having any issues.
  • Neither me. But I think I will go over to I think Apple will be where I am for a while..
  • icloud webmail does not support a threaded view -> no go for me
  • Yup! Threaded emails are a must Sent from the iMore App
  • "Evil?" Come on. It's a business. It's not evil to not promote things that don't help your business. We can not like it but it's not evil. That guy that imprisoned them kids in his house in Cleveland was evil.
  • I prefer to use Sparrow even though there won't be anymore updates since the Google acquisition. I find it to be lighter and faster than The features I can't live without is the "Send and Archive" and "Delete button to Archive". Those are some key features that I wish would include in a future update.
  • I wonder what magic Palm did to get Gmail IMAP to work perfectly on the Pre? It had IMAP idle and supported push with no issues.
  • It wasn't Apple, so of course they played nice.
  • This is supposed to provide IMAP-IDLE on Mac Mail.
    Does anyone know if it works with Mavericks Mac Mail?
  • I thought already supported IMAP idle...
  • The Mail problems with Gmail and Google Apps are, unfortunately, not solved simply by enabling the "All Mail" folder. (This is not an ideal solution anyways, because it ate up 20 GB of my hard drive space!!) No, the problems go much deeper than that. This bug gets even worse for Gmail and Google Apps users in the following ways: #1. Mail no longer recognizes custom-mapped folders for "Sent Mail" and "Trash". Mail in Mavericks FORCES deleted messages to go into Google's Trash, instead of the custom-mapped folder that you might have created for yourself. This is bad news, because if you use Google's Trash, your deleted messages will automatically delete after 30 days. But if you use your own custom-mapped Trash folder, then you can keep your deleted messages around forever. #2. If you DO try to use a custom-mapped folder in Mail, those folders will appear completely BLANK in Mail, even if they already contain thousands of messages in them on the Gmail website. So you can't even go back and look at your previously-trashed messages from before Mavericks. You have to log into the Gmail website to see your previously-trashed messages, while all newly-trashed messages go into Google's Trash folder (which is undesirable behavior).
  • Response for #1
    Why didn't you set up gmail to archive mail after downloading? Then you could delete to your hearts content, and a copy would still be on the Google servers.
  • I am always amazed at how people are willing to pay thousands of dollars a year for Apple gear and wireless plans, but not a few dozen dollars a year for a decent, dedicated IMAP service provider. If you go for the free-as-in-ad-company-style mail, then these sort of issues are exactly what you are asking for. There is no good free stuff when it comes to services. Period.
  • So if I'm reading the Tidbits article correctly (and please correct me if I'm not), if you never fixed the "All Mail" inbox issue in the first place, then you're already all set for Mavericks to correct the issue of having double mails in your Gmail IMAP tree by itself?
  • Just don't use Gmail. I never understand why anyone immersed into Apple's ecosystem would use anything but Apple's email. PS: I would prefer to go back to AOL or Yahoo rather than go anywhere near Google's email. Sent from the iMore App
  • Perhaps because with apple mail you are not guaranteed of receiving every email sent to you. Some people may consider that important.
  • I've never had an issue getting an email through Apple. I've been using one since paid MobileMe. Outlook is a better solution to email IMO compared to Google. Google does what Microsoft does. It throws thousands of "features" in its mail that you don't need. It's one of the main reasons why there are so many email apps out there. To try and get rid of the junk features you don't need and will never use. Googles system for email is horrendous. No one needs to keep emails forever. More people should take the time to actually learn how to utilize email as a tool rather than a storage system. Documents that need to be saved should be saved. Not in emails. Pics should be downloaded/uploaded to save them. Time sensitive email should be flagged for follow up and set as a task. Trash, well, it should actually mean trash. Not, let me put that in all mail for you. These are the main reasons that 7-10 people have 100000 emails still in Gmail. It does have some good features, but those are on just about every email client. Apple being the one with the least. For me, I use Outlook to pull my exchange mail and for anything business related. It has all the features I need and works great with the Outlook program. Apple is for personal use.
  • BP41, I could not agree with you more. Well said.
    The way I explain how trashing or deleting a message works to my clients is using an analog reference. If you receive a paper letter from the mailman and you crumple it up and put it into the trash can, up to 30 days later you can still change your mind, go back into that trash can and dig out that crumpled up letter. Anything after 30 days, consider it gone because the maid has taken your trashcans out to the dumpster and the trash collector has hauled the trash off for good. I tell them to be deliberate when using Mail as a tool for communication. All messages should be acted upon whether by clicking them and leaving them in the inbox, flagging them for follow up, trashing them, or filing them into another mailbox — which by the way, I hate that term — it should be called a folder. If I go to a post office, I'm certainly not going to pay to rent multiple mailboxes to store my different categories of mail for the purposes of filing them. No, I'll collect my mail from my mailbox then take them to a place to be sorted into folders or discarded completely. This notion of archiving vs deleting or using your Trash Can as a storage repository is bizarre to me. Why would you store anything long term in your Trash Can? Trash is for stuff you deliberately want to remove forever. Having a 30 day grace period is a nice perk but if you're doing some kind of backup, why would you even need it aside from sheer convenience? Archiving to me means, yes this piece of communication I want to keep because it's important and I will file it into the Saved folder if it's something general that just doesn't fit within some other folder labeled with a category, e.g. Receipts or Funnies or Review or Memoirs. Those folders, to me, contain my archives which are searchable and efficient because they don't need to compete with a massive amount of "All Mail/Archives" I agree, Mail is a communication and collaboration tool, not a storage repository for attachments. If someone emails you a document, act on the message, file its contents appropriately. Use search later on for efficiency. Just because you CAN save every email ever received by using a blanket archive folder (GoogleMine), doesn't mean you SHOULD. Delete, trash, purge. Archive, file, organize. Be deliberate and let the Mail app do the work for you. Anything else is you doing the work for it which is not why we compute in the first place.
    Just my 2 cents.
  • Apple does not allow the flexibility of Google's service. As the author mentioned, Google offers paid services which are ad-free. I use Google to host my domain e-mail, which is not an option at Apple. Also, many providers do not allow catch-all addresses...including GoDaddy. I prefer to give out an address that is specific to each business (,, This tells me how my e-mail is used. Google does a great job of catching spam. I've been doing this for years and rarely get spam in my inbox. No other service has been able to provide this service.
  • Some people aren't as deep into Apple's "ecosystem" as you are. Never understood why people can't use products from other companies unbiasedly.
  • I have to use gmail, because my email provider switched to using a skinned version of gmail. I never chose it, never would have. I just don't want to change my email address as I've had it over a decade. My original provider was bought by virginmedia, and I was allowed to keep the address. Two years ago virginmedia switched to using a gmail back-end. I've had trouble ever since, but now it's getting really bad with Mavericks.
  • It's easy to go over your cap using Apple email. Free iCloud accounts cap you at 5GB of storage space, and you can't buy plans above 50GB (give or take). I've never had to upgrade from the free plan, mainly because I don't use Apple mail. I have 4 devices synced with my account, and only use 3.5GB
  • I can't get store draft messages on server to turn off. When i deselect it and 'Save' if you go back it's rechecked. keeps saving every change to an email i'm working on in the Trash folder. This is a huge problem.
  • Same here! Anyone?
  • My experience: I also work out of the INBOX which has my domain emails as well as my gmail accounts. Prior to Mavericks I was able to archive (or delete) any message and it would do it. Now it seems that I can still do that, but if I move from the INBOX to another folder (maybe FLAGGED or GMAIL), the archived messages re-flood the INBOX. Might a workaround be to simply have gmail forward the mail to an address I create in a domain I own? There are a number of reasons I like gmail--I have had it forever and changing addresses will be a hassle, it filters spam effortlessly, it integrates well with other google services. The reason I am liking AppleMail more is the way it integrates with calendar and address book from within mail. Total Catch 22
  • Here's my solution... I just use Gmail in the Browser (Chrome)! Then if I ever need to work on emails offline I use Google's "Gmail Offline." No worries about Mail compatibility, safer for when I travel and go through security, and no more emails cluttering up my hard drive. It's been a year and I can't imagine I'll ever go back.
  • I just use Airmail. Much better client than Mac Mail and handles both gmail and iCloud accounts wonderfully.
  • As an Apple lover and mac user I think the best thing you could do is ditch GMail. After all, they are Apple's arch rival and Steve Jobs hated them. If you love Steve, you should dump those bozo's and just use iCloud. No more problems :-)
  • My gmail stopped working yesterday afternoon, was working fine with Mavericks now totally dead. I too use google apps for business and to be honest i have no idea why i should pay $5 a month for this. Think i might just use Hover to look after my mail or use FastMail which has a good reputation. Hangouts was quite a pull for me but i can use Jabber on Messages so that can replace that. Google+ was also a really nice social network so i will have to transfer that or just start over again.
  • Same thing for me, it stopped working for me the afternoon of 10/23. Wonder why.
  • I simply forward all my Gmail to my iCloud address. Works perfectly.
  • Well, Gmail is broken for me in I get some new email, but it all goes to my inbox and ignores anything I have deleted on my phone or moved to another folder. Occasionally it updates, but maybe once a day. And now on top of all that, forwarded mail from my .mac/.me/.icloud (can't they just leave the name alone?) account is not working right either. I get about 80% of it. WHAT A MESS! ...Thank goodness for Airmail.
  • with regards to notification lags that some have complained about, couldn't this be fixed if google updated the gmail page to push notifications through safari?
  • They did enable it...
  • I believe that I have found a workaround to this problem: Moving and deleting Gmail messages using an iOS device appears to work and "stick" even without the All Mail folder being enabled on either device. I have been testing this all morning and it is functioning as it should. A nuisance, to be sure, but at least it's functional.
  • We could all just go back to writing letters! Sent from the iMore App
  • It's weird to me that everyone is saying Gmail is broken in Mavericks now because it doesn't work anymore with their previously-used workaround. IMO google finally works as it should (unless you don't like how gmail works to begin with and you expect it to work like vanilla IMAP). The archive button now simply removes the inbox label and retains the copy in all mail - just like gmail on the web. Delete moves it to trash like it should. Moving emails into folders removes the inbox label and adds the label for the folder you moved it to. This is how Gmail is supposed to work. If you don't like that then you shouldn't be using gmail to begin with. As far as smart folders not working properly that very well may be broken. I don't personally use them. Actually I recently moved away from Gmail to iCloud but I'm still happy about the changes to gmail in Mavericks because I had my dad set up with the IMAP root hack before and now I don't need to do any workarounds to avoid duplicate local copies. I just had to re-enable the all mail folder for IMAP and remove the [Gmail] prefix in Mail. After everything reindexed it's been working great for him.