My email is kept on a remote server and accessible from anywhere by IMAP.

What I'd like is a mail client that will periodically sync that remote mail to my laptop in the backgroun, so that when I open my mail client, today's email is instantly there and does not need to be downloaded. The background sync process could be some separate daemon or a function of the mail client itself.

What I have now is just Thunderbird accessing the remote mail server via IMAP. But it means that mail only syncs when I start Thunderbird, and it takes ages to do so before I can read it. It's a slow process.

I have a feeling that fetchmail could form part of what I want, as it can download mail to a local maildir. But then what's the easiest way to access this mail locally? And would fetchmail be smart enough to handle two-way sync, so that when I delete, move or save a mail locally the change will make its way to my remote IMAP server?

Or is there some other Thunderbird-like mail client that can sync in the background (I work in Gnome), solving my problem?

  • What if you just never close Thunderbird?
    – alex
    Commented Jun 5, 2011 at 18:58
  • @alex that is a good point, though Thunderbird eats a massive amount of memory for something you might have running all the time. It'd be good if it had a separate lightweight fetcher daemon that could run in the background.
    – trr
    Commented Jun 7, 2011 at 4:13

1 Answer 1


Fetchmail can collect your mail automatically, but it can't update the remote IMAP server with the actions you take in your local client.

OfflineIMAP can do what you want, although it doesn't work directly with Thunderbird (because Thunderbird doesn't support Maildir). But you can install a local IMAP server (e.g. Dovecot), tell Thunderbird to use that, and then use OfflineIMAP to keep the local and remote IMAP servers synchronized. Or, you could switch to another client that does support Maildir, like Evolution.

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