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I am using gmail as my email server and alpine 2.02 as my email client. Gmail has a rather non-standard IMAP setup and consequently, in order to delete a message (rather than archive it), one must "save" messages to the Trash folder/label. This action seems to randomly mark nearby messages for deletion. If I then try to read those messages, I receive the error message "[Some messages could not be FETCHed (Failure)]" and I can no longer find the messages in the inbox, trash, or elsewhere. Strange behavior when saving messages to the trash in alpine/gmail setups has been previously reported. Is there an alternative solution to deleting gmail messages in alpine? A response to the previous hyperlinked thread suggests starring the messages and then deleting them through the web interface. This superuser answer basically agrees. I have found other reported solutions that involve hiding the "All Mail" label/folder from view in gmail as well as from IMAP. I would ideally like to find a solution that does not require resorting to the web interface. Thank you.

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Google's supprt pages say:

  • 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.


If you delete a message from your inbox or one of your custom folders in your IMAP1 client, it will still appear in [Gmail]/All Mail.

Here's why: in most folders, deleting a message simply removes that folder's label from the message, including the label identifying the message as being in your inbox. [Gmail]/All Mail shows all of your messages, whether or not they have labels attached to them. If you want to delete a message from all folders, move it to the [Gmail]/Trash folder.

If you delete a message from [Gmail]/Spam or [Gmail]/Trash, it will be deleted permanently.

Nancy McGough at infinite ink sums up gmail's non-standard behaviour as follows:

  • To put a message in multiple folders, use Pine's Save (S) command multiple times. Be careful about whether you copy or move the message. Pine's Save ^R subcommand is a toggle that controls whether or not the message is Removed from the current folder after the Save is done.
  • When you use Pine to "Delete" (D) a non-spam non-trash message, the Gmail IMAP server immediately deletes & expunges the message from the current folder, but it will still be in the [Gmail]/All Mail special folder and any other folders that it happens to be in.
  • To "archive" a message that is in your Gmail INBOX, use the Pine D command to Delete it from the INBOX. It will still be archived in [Gmail]/All Mail. Tip: When accesssing your Gmail INBOX with Pine, you can think of D as meaning Done (but don't think this way in non-Gmail folders!).
  • When you use Pine to "Delete" (D) a message in the [Gmail]/All Mail special folder, the command is ignored.
  • To delete a message from all the folders it is in, including the special [Gmail]/All Mail folder, use Pine's Save (S) command to move or copy the message to the [Gmail]/Trash special folder.
  • When you use Pine to "Delete" (D) a message in either the [Gmail]/Trash or the [Gmail]/Spam special folder, the message is immediately deleted & expunged and cannot be recovered.
  • To search all your non-spam non-trash Gmail messages, open the [Gmail]/All Mail folder and use Pine's Select (;) command and other aggregate operations to zoom (Z) in on the search results.
  • Pine folder means Gmail label!


Neither address the "strange behaviour" you link to. I can only recommend either experimenting cautiously with deleting in the [Gmail]/Trash folder or, more pragmatically, if you are going to use their service then try adopting the google philosophy towards deleting email: i.e. don't do it and don't worry about the deleted emails hanging around in [Gmail]/All Mail because disk space is cheap.

(Personally I don't use gmail because of this kind of behaviour but recognise that some may not have any choice in the matter and others may just happen to like using it.)

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