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Following the instructions to migrate a POP account to IMAP, the step for dragging and dropping (nested) folders over to the IMAP account is producing a different result than in the original POP account's folder structure. How can this be prevented? https://support.mozilla.org/en-US/kb/switch-pop-imap-account#w_transfer-your-local-messages-to-the-server

There are nested folders in the POP account in Thunderbird, like

  • A
    • B
      • C

Copying the folders to the new IMAP account in Thunderbird is resulting in:

  • C
  • B
    • C
  • A
    • B
      • C

And on Gmail's servers, the folders are represented as labels A-B-C, B-C, C, etc, all at the root level.

Is there a way to copy the folder structure as it was? I suppose I could delete the new B-C, C folders/labels at the root level, though it seems risky. On the other hand, leaving them as is looks redundant and confusing.

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  • I find thunderbird difficult to use for purposes like this - try using emclient, which works far better for these purposes Commented Aug 7, 2022 at 13:24
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    @JohnnyVegas How would a different email client help in this case? I'm not sure if the unexpected result is due to Thunderbird, Gmail, or something else. I'm not even sure if this result is abnormal.
    – adatum
    Commented Aug 7, 2022 at 19:06
  • Thunderbird isn't good at moving large amounts of email - I found emclient to be better at uploading the changes to the imap server Commented Aug 10, 2022 at 7:19

1 Answer 1

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An immediate solution that restores the originally displayed folder structure is to go into Gmail settings > Labels > uncheck all of the labels/folders which do not belong.

Folders in Thunderbird are mostly similar, but not identical, to labels in Gmail. The issue seems to be in how nested folders are interpreted for Gmail.

Specifically, nested folders have all parent folder names concatenated to form a single label (A-B-C) as well as additional labels (B-C, and C) for each level of the nested folders. By default all those labels/folders are displayed at the root level in Gmail's web client and Thunderbird (IMAP).

So maybe this behavior is "normal" and expected, I'm not sure.

Perhaps there are other solutions as well.

Also, for some reason, Gmail has the option to have labels nested under other labels. That might be part of a different solution, but I did not explore that for now.

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  • Gmail labels almost but not quite map to IMAP folders (e.g. for a long while Gmail didn't support nested labels, so there was no way for it to handle nested IMAP folders), and IIRC you might need to pre-create the nested labels through Gmail for them to correctly show up via IMAP. Commented Aug 8, 2022 at 4:55
  • @user1686 Quire right, Gmail labels are similar but not identical to IMAP folders. Another way to state the issue is that nested labels got additionally listed as unnested labels, and those folders are displayed in IMAP/Thunderbird. What is the purpose of nesting labels? It seems like a vestigial limitation of folder/directory structure on the more versatile concept of labels/tags.
    – adatum
    Commented Aug 8, 2022 at 17:32
  • So that you could group your related labels, of course. Commented Aug 8, 2022 at 19:38
  • @user1686 And what is the purpose of grouping related labels? It seems to be adding an unnecessary constraint on labels just to emulate directories. I can't think of any functionality of nested labels that can't be achieved without any nesting.
    – adatum
    Commented Aug 8, 2022 at 23:10

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