Apple Mail 3: Use GMail’s Trash Folder

So, you just upgraded to Mac OS X Leopard and all its shiny new features including Mail (version 3). And you finally managed to integrate your GMail account using IMAP (woot!) into Mail. But what bothers you is the fact that when you delete mails, they still show up in the All Mails folder on the GMail web interface because they’re actually only marked as read and archived, not deleted.


Mail settings for the GMail IMAP accountOnce you set up your GMail IMAP account correctly, make sure to check the “Move deleted messages to the Trash mailbox” and the “Store deleted messages on the server” checkboxes. If you want to, you may also set an expiration date for deleted mails but as GMail deletes messages in the Trash folder after 30 days, I left this option unchanged. After you close this window, navigate to your GMail mailbox in the left window pane of Mail.app.

GMail IMAP foldersYou’ll find all your regular IMAP folders (All Mail, Sent, etc.) there as well as a list of the tags (a.k.a. labels) you’re currently using. You wonder why Trash doesn’t show up in my list? Well, I already set it up correctly, so the folder disappears from this list and appears aside of all other Trash folders.

You just have to perform a control-click (yes, you may also use your right mouse button) on the Trash folder and select “Use this folder for deleted messages” from the pop-up window.1 That’s it! From now on, your deleted messages are moved to GMail’s Trash folder and automagically cleaned up by GMail.

  1. As JBonTourand Rodrigo mentioned in their comments, the option is found in the regular menu in current versions of Mail.app. []

14 thoughts on “Apple Mail 3: Use GMail’s Trash Folder”

  1. I am still a bit confused about IMAP with Gmail and Mail.app and Thunderbird. Especially when deleting messages.

  2. Just a small update, the right menu did not work for me, the option does not exist however the following did;

    Highlight ‘[Gmail] Sent Mail’ in the sidebar and select
    ‘Mailbox’ (menu bar) > ‘Use This Mailbox For’ > ‘Sent’.
    Highlight ‘[Gmail] Drafts’ in the sidebar and select ‘Mailbox’ (menu
    bar) > ‘Use This Mailbox For’ > ‘Drafts’
    Highlight ‘[Gmail] Trash’ in the sidebar and select ‘Mailbox’ (menu
    bar) > ‘Use This Mailbox For’ > ‘Trash’
    Highlight ‘[Gmail] Spam’ in the sidebar and select ‘Mailbox’ (menu
    bar) > ‘Use This Mailbox For’ > ‘Junk’
    Once properly configured, managing email from Apple Mail or the iPhone
    will be no different from managing emails within the Gmail web client
    - sent, drafts, trash, and junk properly sorted between your various
    email clients and web interface.
    🙂

  3. JBonTour, I have spent MONTHS looking for an email client that manages my Google Mail properly. Entourage works okay in that it moves everything to the correct place (something Outlook didn’t even manage!). But Apple Mail is better! Thanks for the advice, I had an App right under my nose, and integrates very well into my Mac (for obvious reasons) 🙂

  4. Thanks for the great info.
    However, it would be nice to have an easy way to archive the messages (send them to All Mail) without having to drag them there. Do you know if that’s possible?
    Cheers!

  5. Sorry Lars, I am also looking for an easy way to send archived mails to the corresponding IMAP folder (GMail label). I haven’t tried it but perhaps a macro, Automator action, or AppleScript would do the job.

  6. LarsR,

    All you need to do is to NOT set up the ‘move to trash’ preference in Apple Mail.

    This is because there is /always/ a copy of your message in the ‘All Mail’ folder – Gmail sets this up for you.

    So anytime you delete a message in Apple Mail, a copy will remain in the All Mail folder.

  7. Pingback: Apple Mail, Google IMAP and deleting messages | keyongtech
  8. Victor: I know that Google tells you to set up your IMAP account in a different way — otherwise there would have been no need for me to write this blog post. 😉

    What I wanted to accomplish with my solution: when I delete a message from Mail.app, I want it to be gone. Hey, that’s what “delete” means, right? Google’s implementation of the “delete” command is rather… “archive and store forever”…

    I don’t really care if I have more than 7 GB of storage space on Google Mail, I just don’t want to keep mails that I’m never going to look at again.

  9. Hi,

    This is a great article, the only thing is that the right click button does not work, but it does appear on the Mailbox menu option.

    Thanks.-

  10. Rodrigo: thanks for your comment!

    I am pretty sure I used the Ctrl-click option-menu at the time I wrote that blog post (back in 2007), but Apple might have moved that option to the regular menu in the meantime. I’ll update the article.

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