I will quote exactly the initial paragraph of another question, because it explains the issue perfectly:

A features that I liked in GMail was that when an email arrived that was a reply to an earlier email, Gmail would display all of the previous emails along with the new one in a single thread in my inbox. Importantly, GMail would display emails in the thread even if they had been previously archived.

The OP of that question wants to have a similar functionality in Thunderbird. My question differs in that I would like to reproduce this kind of functionality without being bound with a specific client. I have access to an email account via IMAP, and I actually access this account through a client on my laptop, through an email application on my smartphone and through the web interface when on a public computer.

To be more specific, I would like to see the entire conversation to be visible in the inbox whenever an email arrives. The entire conversation should include the other emails I received (as To: or CC:) and the ones I sent. This should happen even if I archived the conversation earlier (by archived I mean moved it to a folder other than the inbox).

This looks like a basic feature to me. Gmail has offered it for about a decade already. Yet, from the little techincal knowledge of email I have, I know this is not how email works. And I would find difficult to migrate away from Gmail specifically for this reason. So, the question is: Am I missing something, or having this reasonable way of managing conversation really difficult with standard email providers?

(A non-solution)

The only solution I can think of that does not require clients to actively perform this kind of operations when checking the email is to have a script running on a server, checking the email every, say, 5 minutes, and move the conversation from the archive into the inbox when a new related message arrives.

While I have the skills to do that and I could run the script on my always-on Raspberry Pi, I have several problems with this solution:

  • It relies on my server's uptime
  • If I happen to check the email on my laptop after a message as arrived but before the server has moved the conversation I will not have the desired result in my inbox (i.e., the entire conversation won't be there)
  • I would have the feeling of reinventing the wheel, because I think this is a very generic problem and I can't believe a better solution doesn't exist.
  • The nature of emails means that this is always down to specific client support. Any program could do exactly what gmail does so long as they have the email headers. Even outlook has a "conversation view" that achieves the same effect. – Mokubai Feb 23 '18 at 10:22
  • As per Mokubai's comment - won't simply using the correct email client that handle "Conversation" view would do what you want, and a lot less issue for you? This page en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_email_clients shows comparison of a fair amount of email clients and one of the listed feature is Conversation view – Darius Feb 23 '18 at 10:29
  • According to my understanding, "conversation view" means that the client will group the emails in threads, not that it will also search for other messages related to the same conversation in other folders. Am I correct? – Spiros Feb 23 '18 at 11:36
  • In Outlook 2010 when you select "show as conversations" you get given a choice: "All folders" or "this folder". Again, this is going to be entirely email client dependant. – Mokubai Feb 23 '18 at 14:27

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