When you enable IMAP access in Gmail the [imap]/Drafts, [imap]/Sent and [imap]/Trash labels are created.

How do these labels function given that each IMAP client can potentially implement their local <--> server folder mapping in different ways?

Taking these label/folder names at face value I'd assume that they map to the client's Drafts, Sent and Trash folders respectively. But I haven't found this to be the case at all as Thunderbird handles folder mapping one way, the iPhone 4 IMAP client another, Outlook yet another and so on.

At the end of the day I want what every IMAP user wants which is their sent messages to show up in whatever the server's sent folder is called, same for trash and drafts.


3 Answers 3


You need to set up your IMAP client as Google instruct in order for the Gmail labels to work. See Recommended IMAP client settings

If you client is one of (iPhone, Thunderbird, Apple Mail, Outlook) then click the link and read Google's specific instructions for those clients.

Otherwise, you need to configure your client as follows:


  • Do not save sent messages on the server. If your client is sending mail through Gmail's SMTP2 server, your sent messages will be automatically copied to the [Gmail]/Sent Mail folder.
  • DO save draft messages on the server. If you want your drafts in your mail client to sync correctly with Gmail's web interface, set your client to save drafts to the [Gmail]/Drafts folder.


  • Do not save deleted messages on the server. Messages that are deleted from an IMAP folder (except for those in [Gmail]/Spam or [Gmail]/Trash) only have that label removed and still exist in All Mail. Hence, your client doesn't need to store an extra copy of a deleted message.
  • Do not save deleted messages to your [Gmail]/Trash folder because this will delete a message in all folders.
  • Do not save deleted messages to your [Gmail]/All Mail folder as some clients will try to empty this folder and ultimately fail. This can lead to delayed mail access or excessive battery consumption on a mobile device.

Junk mail and spam:

  • Do not enable your client's junk mail filters. Gmail's spam filters also work in your IMAP client, and we recommend turning off any additional anti-spam or junk mail filters within your client. Your client's filter will attempt to download and classify all of your existing messages, which may slow down your client until the process is complete.

Note that the folder prefix [Gmail] is not used for all accounts. For a minority of users, the prefix [Google Mail] is used instead. This presumably applies to older accounts of users from the UK, Germany and Austria, where "Gmail" was initially rebranded to "Google Mail" following trademark disputes.

  • 1
    Definitely the most informed response here, bravo, and thank you. I was suffering from this as well, I didn't even know there were folder name recommendations!!! </noob>
    – dmanexe
    Commented Aug 19, 2013 at 22:21

I think you've hit upon a little industry-standards issue. Gmail is happy to let email clients (Thunderbird, Outlook, etc.) create and use their own folders within the IMAP account, but Gmail itself will continue to populate its own folders.

In Outlook 2007 & 2010, in the (IMAP) Account Settings, you can tell Outlook to utilize Gmail's Sent & Trash (Deleted) folders.

I've done this for Trash, and it works great. If I delete a message in the Gmail web app or in Outlook, it ends up in the same folder.

I tried this for Sent, but in this case, Gmail and Outlook both create a sent message (so I get duplicates). My solution in Outlook was to disable creating sent messages, and I just created a Favorite to the Gmail Sent folder.

No luck whatsoever for Drafts. Outlook seems to wants to use its own (non-IMAP) Drafts folder.

  • 1
    In Thunderbird the same thing can be done in the account settings. In Opera too, and it also gets it right automatically from 11.50.
    – ytg
    Commented Oct 19, 2011 at 6:52

Had the same problem.
New to Gmail.
After sending messages from my phone through the phone email app/client they would appear in the Gmail imap/sent folder and not in the Gmail sent folder. Even worse if you saved it in drafts on the phone before sending it. It would then also appear in the imap/drafts folder as well. So now it appears in multiple folders with multiple tags on the email list.

Even worse for conversations, as you get them all appearing in all folders which were relevant for any one sent or received email with the tags for all of these folders added.

Found though if I deleted the removed imap/trash label everything in moved to the Gmail's default trash folder.

The found I could rename the imap/????? labels by clicking the edit option alongside it under Setting->Labels. So I renamed them Phone_Sent and Phone_Drafts. Once renamed all further emails from my phone went straight to Gmail's default Sent folder and not to the renamed folder - presumably the phone app could not find the folder so it used the default folder instead.

Well that is what I wanted from the beginning, so I'm happy, but after renaming the folders I would not have minded had they gone to the renamed folders as they now have meaningful names.

Only drawback is I can't tell if I sent an email from the phone email app/client or directly through Gmail.

  • Ah well, so I thought. After some time passed all sent messaged appeared in a newly created imap/sent folder as well.
    – Greg
    Commented Dec 10, 2011 at 7:39

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