Thursday, October 2, 2008

iPod touch Mail Inbox out of sync

I read my mail via IMAP: all my mail sits on my mail server, and I use a range of clients over a handful of different devices to read it.
  1. Mail on a Mac Pro
  2. Mail on a MacBook Pro
  3. Mail on an iPod touch
  4. Mutt via a terminal into my FreeBSD box
  5. SquirrelMail via a browser.

Today, I've been using the first three of those at various times throughout the morning. I've noticed that Apple Mail on a Mac takes its time between marking a message for deletion on the IMAP server (at which point it's still recoverable), and actually having the server flush the deleted message (after which it's gone). Actually, that's slightly unfair, as even Mutt will wait indefinitely between those two actions—a message marked deleted by Mutt will sit there forever until you tell Mutt to purge them. There are two differences between Mutt and Mail here, though. Firstly, there's a visual indication in Mutt that the message is only marked for deletion (that is, it's still sitting there, just with a ‘D’ next to it), and secondly, there's a way to purge them (quitting Mutt or changing mailboxes will result in a prompt to purge). There are neither of these in Mail. When I delete a message in Mail, I can no longer see it (without changing to the Deleted Messages mailbox). (And since I can no longer see it, there's also no option to purge it.) But I can fire up Mutt at this point, and the messages are still there, marked as deleted.

Today, I guess I just happened upon the right combination of reading mail with too many mail readers, and making changes on all of them. Mail on my iPod touch was showing more than 50 unread messages in my Inbox (and they were all there, marked unread, and readable). Mail on the two Macs was showing what I expected: 5 messages, all read. (The other 45 or more had been deleted or moved to other mailboxes via filtering rules.) No matter how many times I synced Mail on the iPod touch, the views of my Inbox wouldn't reconcile. I tried disabling and then enabling the account on the iPod, but this didn't help. Finally, I fired up Mutt, viewed my Inbox, quit Mutt and answered ‘y’ to the prompt about purging deleted messages. On its next sync, the iPod touch displayed the same view of the Inbox as the two Macs. This was easy enough for me, but I don't know what people who don't have easy access to Mutt are supposed to do in this situation.

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