Most people these days have several email accounts

Locked mailboxTypically, most people have one or more “proper” accounts and one or more accounts that are used for less important stuff and for situations where they have been compelled to give an email address but haven’t wanted to give their “proper” one (perhaps because of fears of getting “spammed”).

It can be rather tedious having to log onto several different webmail sites to check all these accounts separately – especially if it’s just on the off-chance that there’s something new and important to be read. One of the benefits of using an email “client” (as opposed to using webmail) is the ability to add all your email accounts to the same place so that you can check all accounts at the same time instead of having to log onto different webmail sites.

Gmail iconHowever, if you try to add your Gmail account or your Yahoo account to Outlook or Thunderbird then it probably won’t work (initially). What’s more, you don’t get any proper indication as to why it doesn’t work. Instead, you will get misleading error messages suggesting that either your username or your password is incorrect. You may not even discover the reason by looking for help on the email provider’s website. Perhaps I should clarify that “Outlook” in this context means the email program from Microsoft and not the webmail service called Outlook.com.

The reason it won’t work is almost certainly that your webmail provider thinks that the email program that you are using is “less secure” than using webmail and that it won’t allow the connection to be made until you explicitly instruct the webmail provider to connect your account to programs such as Outlook.

Yahoo Mail iconThe way that you do this is by opening up your webmail and looking in “Settings” (or “Options”) for a setting that says something to the effect of “allow less secure applications to access your email”. I know that this is the case for both Yahoo and Gmail and suspect that it may apply to other webmail setups. Below are instructions for changing the settings in Yahoo and Gmail. Hopefully, if you use a different webmail service, there is enough information here for Yahoo and Gmail for you to be able to find the equivalent setting in your own setup. After you have changed this setting, then go back to Outlook (or Thunderbird or whatever) and try again to set the account up there. It should then connect with no further bother.

In Yahoo, log into your webmail as normal and then:

  • Click on the cogwheel located at top right of your Yahoo webmail screen
  • Click on “Account Info”
  • Click on “Account Security” at the left of the screen
  • Jump through any security hoops that it sets up for you (such as making near impossible decisions about which squares on an image “include traffic signs”)
  • Go down to the last item on the screen (“Allow apps that use less secure sign in”) and slide the switch to the “on” position
  • Go back to Outlook (or Thundebird or whatever) and enter the account info again


In Gmail, log into your webmail in the normal way and then:

  • Click on the Settings cogwheel (near top right of screen)
  • Click on the “Settings” option
  • Click on the tab marked “Forwarding and POP/IMAP”
  • Under “IMAP access”, click the circle next to “Enable IMAP”
  • At the bottom of the list of options, click on “Save changes”
  • Go back to Outlook (or Thunderbird or whatever) and enter the account info again

Small iPhone niggle solved!

Down The PlugholeFollowing on from last week’s blog about blocking unwanted phone calls, I have finally had a look at a problem with iPads and iPhones when attempting to delete emails from the inbox.

When I open my iPhone Mail app I like to be able to see the option to view all emails that have come in today. Clicking on the “Today” option will reveal a pile of emails coming into all my accounts – including real, urgent, dealt-with, spam, unwanted etc. It can be quite therapeutic (as well as “administratively sound”) to go through these, deleting all of those that don’t need my attention. Like most people, I only use my phone and tablet to keep abreast of new stuff and to deal with anything that needs dealing with immediately. Therefore, I’m not at all interested in long-term storage or filing of emails on these devices. I either need to keep them in the inbox for now or they can be deleted.

Unable to Move Message

Look familiar? Read on…

So, here comes the irritating problem. You ought to be able to delete an email by sliding the message leftwards. The message will be replaced by a red bar and the word “delete”. Remove your finger from the screen (at the end of the leftward swipe motion) and the message should be despatched to data heaven. Quite often, though, it doesn’t. Instead, a message pops up declaring “Unable to Move Message. The message could not be moved to the mailbox Trash”.

This is one of those small computer niggles that’s just important enough to create a scintilla of annoyance, but not important enough to bother investigating. Well, this time I thought “no more, I’m going to get to the bottom of this one”.

I have found that the problem happens when you connect to an email account on your IOS device (iPhone or iPad) via the IMAP method and the account settings on the device need a slight tweak to tell the app where your incoming message are kept. The solution (for an iPhone running IOS version 8.1.3) is as follows:

  • Go to “Settings”
  • Scroll down to “Mail, Contacts, Calendars” and tap on it
  • Tap on the account that is displaying the behaviour you wish to change
  • Under the heading “IMAP”, tap on the account name
  • Scroll down to the bottom of the screen and tap on “Advanced”
  • Scroll down until you see the item called “IMAP path prefix”
  • Tap on the item and replace the contents (“probably a “/”) with the word “INPUT” (in capitals, no quotation marks)
  • Tap on “< Account" at the top lefthand corner of the screen
  • Tap on “done” and close the “settings” app in the normal way.

Do be aware that, since this is an IMAP connection, deleting any messages from your iphone/iPad will also cause the message to be deleted from the server.

iPhone Mail Preferences

Tap on a circle to select or unselect that option (you would need to scroll down to see the “Today” option)

I started this blog by saying that I like to open the “Today” screen in my emails – showing all emails that have come in to all accounts today. You can choose which items are displayed when you open the Mail app by opening the Mail App and then tapping on the “Edit” option at the top righthand corner of the screen. Then just tap on any “empty” circle to replace it with a tick. That item will then be displayed when you open the Mail app. As you would expect, this is a “toggle” switch, so tapping on it again will change its state back again (ie ticked to not ticked and vice versa). Tap on the “Done” option at the top right when you have finished changing selections.

For the most part, I like to avoid computer jargon but it’s probably worth knowing what a “toggle switch” is since there are lots of them in computer software. A toggle switch (in computer terms) is just a switch that can be in one of two or even three or more positions and changing between the positions is achieved by operating the same switch in the same way so that you “cycle” through the available settings and stop when you’ve reached the setting you want. In other words, it’s not analogous to a light switch that you flick down for “on” and up for “off” but it is analagous to a light switch on a cord where you pull the cord down in the same manner whether you are going from on to off or off to on.

What do POP and IMAP mean?

The @ sign and a question mark mergedThese are both methods or “protocols” used by email programs (also called “email clients”) so that the email program and the mail server (the computer that deals with your email) can understand each other and deliver your email. “POP” stands for “Post Office Protocol” and “IMAP” stands for “Internet Message Access Protocol”.

These protocols are only concerned with INCOMING email and they are only relevant if you deal with your email by using a program on your own computer or device. In other words, email protocols are not relevant if you connect to your mail server by logging onto a website (this is known as webmail). Some of the most popular email clients are:

  • Outlook
  • Windows Live Mail
  • Apple Mac Mail
  • Thunderbird
  • Outlook Express used to be a very widespread email client. It is no longer available, having been replaced by Windows mail and then Windows Live Mail

What is the difference between POP and IMAP?

With POP email (or, more likely, its latest incarnation – POP3) your email is downloaded from the mail server onto your own computer. After that, it may remain on the server or it may be deleted from the server either immediately or at some later time – eg one week or one month later.

With IMAP email, your email is stored on the mail server. It remains on the server until/unless you delete it.

What are the implications of the difference?

Harry Hill mouthing "fight" under a headline of "POP vs IMAP"With IMAP you can create email folders and sub-folders on the mail server itself. You can not do this with POP email. The folders and sub-folders you create with POP are on your own computer and only on that computer. So, if you check your email from lots of different places (eg a laptop at home and a smartphone and tablet when on the move) you can not see all of your folders if you use POP unless you manually replicate the folder structure on all your computers and devices. Moreover, you will need to do your filing into folders on each computer and device separately. With IMAP, on the other hand, the folder structure is created once on the server and then every device that you connect sees the same structure.

Another major difference is that when using POP email your “sent” email is not available on the server. The sent mail is stored on the computer or device that sent it. This has the drawback that you can not see on one computer the email that you sent from another computer. The way around this is to send a blind copy (a BCC) to yourself. This will arrive in the inbox of all your computers and devices. You can then move it to the “sent” folder on that device. This can be time-consuming and tedious.

If IMAP always shows all email in the same way to all computers and devices, why would you use POP instead?

POP vs IMAP - clipartThe main drawbacks of IMAP are speed and data file sizes Every time you open your email, the program has to synchronise the headers that you see at your end with the reality of what’s on the server. This can take time. Also, if you always file email rather than deleting it then your online store of emails is getting bigger all the time. It’s possible that your email provider only provides you with a specific amount of storage space. You could reach the limit. So, over time IMAP can become unwieldy.

There is also the aspect that I think of as “perceived control”. A lot of people are unwilling to trust that data stored “in the cloud” will always be available to them. They feel more secure knowing that all their data is stored on their own computer. For such people, POP email feels more safe.

Another factor that might sway the choice towards POP is that most people typically have one computer that they think of as containing everything and being their “main computer” or “mission control”. These people wouldn’t be expecting to see, or need, all their “sent” email on their smartphone, for instance. The mobile devices are more useful for just staying on top of what is coming in – not for storage. If an important message does need to be sent from a mobile device then a blind copy can always be sent to oneself for subsequent filing on the “main” computer.

Can I choose which to use?

It’s just possible that your email provider will not be able to provide IMAP. In that case, it’s POP or nothing. In reality, most email servers now offer a connection by either protocol.

PS: apologies for the rather odd email sent in my name in the middle of last week. This must have been triggered when I was trying to change my newsletter details to reflect the new “.london” domain name.

© 2011-2018 David Leonard
Computer Support in London
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