I might be a bit on the late site of reporting about Gmail"s latest addition but at least you’ll get an informed opinion on the whole new Imap thing. Since last week Gmail offered up IMAP services to most of its users (I say most , not all) and to be quite frank : I think its the best thing Gmail has offered up since hot water. Being the slider that I am, i’m mostly faced with the dilemma of choosing your ‘main computer’. This is mostly the system that has your mail client and stuff like that.
The thing is I’m never good at that. I constantly switch between my Imac, My macbook and my Linux system, depending on what I need to do or where I am at that very moment. Apart from being an OS Slider I’m also a location slider working from different systems and stuff like that. So having access to my email always ment using Web based solutions. Gmail’s interface might not be bad but it’s far from excellent. Dwarfed by the awesomeness of a mail client like Thunderbird with all its extensions and stuff its hard to be web based all the time. So using a mail client like Thunderbird was an option. Enabling pop3 on Gmail and using "recent:firstname.lastname@example.org" as my login made me able to get the last 30 days of email on every system (no matter if i had checked them on another system before) But it was still lacking the sweet spot of a real groupware experience (especially when sending email via this pop3 way the ‘thread’ of receive-reply that makes Gmail so cool, was broken).
So thank heavens for Imap (IMAP supports both connected and disconnected modes of operation. E-mail clients using IMAP generally leave messages on the server until the user explicitly deletes them. This and other facets of IMAP operation allow multiple clients to access the same mailbox. Most e-mail clients support either POP3 or IMAP to retrieve messages; however, fewer Internet Service Providers (ISPs) support IMAP. IMAP4 offers access to the mail store; the client may store local copies of the messages, but these are considered to be a temporary cache; the server’s store is authoritative says the wiki) In lame-men’s terms this means : instead of sucking the messages from the server and storing them to your desktop you actually make a local copy of the ‘state of your webmail mailbox’ on your computer(S) (plural) and have access to all your messages all the time (offline or online) and you are able to keep all the nice ‘treads’ intact (so you can now backtrack all the flame wars you had and who said what).
Getting everything configured is pretty easy (once you enable Imap in the settings menu of your Gmail you’ll find a link to a how to that gives you the ports and numbers you should set) and from then on its pretty straightforward. The only thing we need now is a decent way to manage our contacts and let them sync between Gmail and Thunderbird. Cause i’ve got the calendar thingie done and done ! (i’ll tell you about that in the next howto.