I use GMail (and I use labels intensively) and because of having to use a very slow Internet connection now I've came to the idea that I should try using a desktop email client.

What application (Thunderbird, Evolution, Claws, or some another) works best with GMail via IMAP?

First of all I want correct GMail labels support (for example an email client shouldn't think of GMail labels as of independent folders, treating messages with multiple labels as multiple different identical messages in different folders), incl. special GMail labels-folders like bin, spam, drafts and sent.

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    I don't think you will find one. From my experience, working with IMAP and GMAil is a pita. You get duplicated messages because of the labels and if you delete a message it never goes away. It could be my setup tho and perhaps someone has a good recipe to make some of the most popular clients work well. I'm currently using Opera with pop access. Oct 25, 2010 at 22:42
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    On a related note, I suggest you read this page: mail.google.com/support/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=77657 It shows what an action in the IMAP client actually does in Gmail. It says "mobile client" in the title, but it applies to any IMAP client.
    – pableu
    Oct 26, 2010 at 7:34

11 Answers 11


You're not going to find a client that does Gmail via IMAP and treats labels as labels instead of folders. This is because IMAP shows Gmail's labels as folders, so any email client that you use is going to see folders, not labels.

So really, your question boild down to: Is there a desktop mail client that treats IMAP folders as if they were labels? To that, my answer is that I don't know of any.

  • Agreed. Gmail's labels are not translated in any IMAP client, perhaps apart from sup (sup.rubyforge.org) which of course isn't a GUI mail program.
    – Jonathon
    Oct 26, 2010 at 0:16

Offline GMail Extension for Chrome

You can convert it into a complete offline application by going to Wrench -> Tools -> Create Application Shortcuts.

It offers amazing integration with GMail (labels, priority inbox, multiple accounts, conversation view, etc) and was ported from the iPad interface of GMail, which makes it look very cool.

This runs on HTML5 offline storage unlike the previous version(pableu's answer) which ran on Google Gears (now deprecated). Here's a blog entry announcing it.

Screenshot from the Chrome webstore

  • I would use this if it didn't force you to use the ipad interface, even on desktop...
    – Greg
    Sep 22, 2012 at 18:06

Thunderbird's the easiest to set up for GMail IMAP, as it has all the info re: their servers/ports/ssl settings already. In my experience it's the most customizable with regards to filters, etc as well.

  • Evolution also has the GMail Settings built in, at least in 10.10
    – russjr08
    Oct 25, 2010 at 23:06
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    Thunderbird is more user friend then Evolution regarding the configuration of GMail IMAP. Its just ask for login and password, no long need to input server address or Port. +1
    – crncosta
    Nov 14, 2010 at 9:59

Note that Thunderbird is working to Improve Gmail Interoperabilit during this Summer of Code. See: https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=721316 for all the details.

In short:

The biggest win here is probably avoiding downloading the same message to offline stores and indexing it multiple times, by using X-GM-MSGID. X-GM-THRID may help with threading in gloda, cross-folder views, and even within a folder. There are probably other things we can do to improve our Gmail integration. For example, we could avoid notifying for multiple new messages just because a message has multiple tags.

There are already some patches which are waiting for review, so it should come quite soon!


I think they all work pretty well. Evolution is what I have been using for years. Not a hitch. Works better than the web client since the interface is less all over the place.


Clawsmail simple, lightweight and supports plugin. Here are some explanation on what claws can give you with gmail or even google apps


Gmail has an offline mode that's built around Google Gears. I know Gears will be phased out eventually, but maybe it's a good solution for the moment. If gears is phased out, Google might create an offline mode for Gmail that uses HTML5 offline storage.

Here is some information from google about the offline mode and how to enable it, and there's also a Blog Entry of its announcement.


Both Thunderbird and Opera work well. Evolution crashes all the time. But AFAIK all IMAP clients treat labels as folders, so you would have duplicate mails.

  • +1 for Opera, I just tried it after years of frustration with Thunderbird and Evolution, one crashes and the other is never able to find an email. Opera is very overlooked.
    – alfC
    Dec 7, 2012 at 3:41
  • It’s not IMAP that treats labels as folders, it’s Gmail. Mar 29, 2014 at 4:36

i like Thunderbird because its easy configuration and its interface, more organized than Evolution


I love, as well as, use Alpine - the successor of Pine - from the University of Washington. Recently, it was revealed that Google too has an option for Googlers to use Pine to access Gmail. Runs in a terminal and completely text based.


Well, I was looking for the same thing as you and decided to give Thunderbird a shot although nothing was said about supporting Gmail labels.

After setting my Gmail account (only had to fill in user and password) I downloaded everything perfectly, including all my Gmail labels as folders.

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