Working offline when using IMAP

How do I read my IMAP email which is stored on the server when I don't have an Internet connection?

By synchronising your computer with the server so that you have an ‘offline’ copy of all messages. 

If you regularly need to read your emails whilst not connected to the server – for instance if you are using a laptop on the train, or because you use a dialup connection and want to save money, then you would need to regularly copy the messages between your computer and the server whilst you are online. This is known as “performing a synchronisation”. 

When you first set-up an IMAP account in Outlook Express only the Inbox is marked for synchronisation. To synchronise other folders you need to click once on the IMAP account name in the left hand folder view (in the screen shot below the account is called, however, your own account will be named something different). In the right hand view you will see all of the folders which are available to be synchronised.

Synchronisation image 1

Because it is possible that you have created new folders using another computer or using the webmail system, it is best to force Outlook Express to check for any new folders before progressing. To do this first click on the IMAP Folders… button. This following screen will be displayed. 

Synchronisation image 1a

Click once on the Reset List button and you will briefly see the following screen: 

Synchronisation image 1b 

Once Outlook Express has completed this task you will be shown the “Show/Hide IMAP folders” box – click the OK button to return to the main screen. 

We can see from the following screen shot that there are a number of folders which have unread messages in them and the total number of messages for each folder. Place a tick next to any folder which you would like to synchronise. 

Synchronisation image 2 

In order to perform the synchronisation you need to either click the “Send/Recv” button (which we have highlighted in red) or you may click Tools, then Synchronize all. 

Synchronisation image 3

Outlook Express will proceed to synchronise your computer with the server. This can take some time if you have a number of large messages, however, once it has been done a single time, Outlook Express will remember which messages it has already synchronised and will only download new ones and remove deleted items. 

Synchronisation image 4 

Now that we have performed the synchronisation, we can disconnect from the Internet and work in “Offline mode”. 

It is possible to tell that we are “Working Offline” because in the middle at the very bottom of the screen you can see a little computer icon with a red cross and a note saying Working Offline. However, because we have synchronised the “Customer emails” folder we can read the messages in it. Note that both the “Inbox” and the “Customer emails” folders have a small blue arrow next to their title in the left hand folder view. You can see also that all folders are “grayed out” as an additional indication that we are Offline.

Synchronisation image 5

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