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if you have a shared email account at for somthing like its quite useful for everyone at the company to be able to see all incoming email into that account..

when using imap if one person opens it, it will show up as opened in all users machines, i presume it does this by contacting the server and telling it the emails been opened (correct?)

this makes it quite difficult to keep track of incoming messages, as if one person opens it every else will see it but presume they have read it earlier so just ignore it.

is there a way of stopping outlook and mac mail telling all other machines using that use that email account that the emails been opened ?

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In OS X mail earlier than Mountain Lion this was accomplished with a plugin called TruePreview. I don't know if there has been an update for Mail 6.0 yet. The function in question is highlighted here:

enter image description here

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You are right, IMAP tracks opened emails centrally, along with reply and forward flags. As there is only one email, there is only one place to store these flags.

One option would be to instead of having a shared email, forward any incoming emails to the address in question to all members that need to see it. That way they can have their own flags set for the emails. You can use rules to ensure they are kept separate from other emails. Of course, this means that any outgoing emails would be stored in the users own sent items rather than the central email sent items (though you can often work around this as well).

An alternative would be to use a different indicator for unread than the unread indicator. For example, most email clients have a method of marking an email in some way. Outlook uses "Follow up" flags, Thunderbird uses tags - important, personal etc.

You could have any emails to the central account be flagged upon receipt within each email client with a Follow up flag using a rule. When a person reads an email, they remove the flag (usually this is a single keypress - and in some clients would be automate-able with anther rule). That way they have a clear indication of which emails they have read and which ones they have not independently of the IMAP unread status.

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