Slimming Mail IMAP messages

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In reaction to a recent entry where I discussed deleting Mail messages without viewing them, reader Tony Sturges writes:

I appreciate very much your discussion of how to delete a message w/o opening it. However, what would be Really Helpful would be the ability to look at the message headers before they are all downloaded—particularly when one is using a slow modem connection. Many times (in Mail) on an IMAP server, a huge attachment will delay all the mail downloads when I need to get to one brief text message. I should image that is possible but I can’t find out how.

It is very nearly possible. Although you can’t download just the message headers, you can download the messages without the attachments.

To do this in Apple’s Mail, select Preferences > Accounts and select your IMAP account. Click the Advanced tab and in the Keep Copies of Messages for Offline Viewing pop-up menu, choose All Messages, But Omit Attachments. From now on, Mail will download the messages, but not the attachments. To retrieve those attachments you must click the Save button in a message that contains an attachment.

For POP accounts you can ask Mail to prompt you to skip messages over a size you’ve determined—12KB, for example. To do so, select a POP account, choose the Advanced tab, and enter a value in the field that reads Prompt Me to Skip Messages Over ___ KB. When a message comes in that exceeds the size you’ve set, you can tell Mail to skip it.

I wish that Mail was a little more flexible in this regard. If you’ve set up a schedule for downloading your Mail and you’re not sitting in front of your computer, Mail automatically downloads messages that exceed your desired size if you don’t respond within 15 seconds to Mail’s request to skip the message. Entourage, on the other hand, allows you to download a portion of messages that exceed a certain size. This means you don’t have to constantly click Skip or Download and can, instead, peruse message subjects at your offline leisure and then choose exactly which messages you’d care to download.

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