The Gmail blog talks up yesterday's release of IMAP for Gmail:

As some of you know, IMAP is the best way to access your email from multiple devices (e.g. phone or desktop). It keeps the same information synced across all devices so that whatever you do in one place shows up everywhere else you might access your email.

For example, I can:

  • read an email in Gmail, then
  • move it to the "Starred" folder on my iPhone, then
  • archive it by moving it to "All Mail" in Thunderbird, then
  • see all of those changes on my Blackberry (or any of the above devices for that matter).

For the past few years, we've offered POP access, which is similar to IMAP but lacks one critical feature: your changes made on other devices aren't seen in Gmail when you log back in. Instead you are presented with a list of unread mail, and you must re-read and re-sort everything. For this reason, as soon as I started at Google, IMAP was one of the first things I asked about. Since then, I've seen countless blog posts, requests, chats, and just about everything else asking, "Are you guys ever going to do IMAP?" Well now I can say: Yes. Yes, we are doing IMAP. In fact, we are doing it for you for free on all devices and platforms.

As we roll out the feature over the next couple of days, you will be able to use Gmail at work, in your car, or just about anywhere on any device, and actions you take will be automatically synced with Gmail on the web (and remember it works the other way too: anything you do on the Web will be seen on your phone or in your mail client). Just click the "Forwarding and POP/IMAP" tab in your Gmail "Settings" and turn it on. (Psst. If you don't see the "IMAP" in the "Forwarding and POP/IMAP" tab, then check back soon. We are giving it to users as fast as we can).

IMAP isn't actually enabled for my Gmail account yet, but I assume it will be soon. I'm eager to try this though, again, it won't help with my Gmail-based Labels which, to me, is clearly Gmail's biggest strength.