Big Sur Mail Rules


Just playing with Big Sur and I notice that Rules I created for Mail, some decades ago, are performing weirdly. In some cases not being applied and others mail is not 'Moved" but a copy is placed in the destination folder. I’ve re-written one Rule and that seems to solve the issue.

Anybody else having this issue, or know of it?


Actually, re-writing the rule doesn’t seem to have worked. Even though the rule says “move” Mail makes a copy in the target folder, and now I have to delete it twice!

I’ve seen this happen with Big Sur were on the Mac it looks like the rule copied the message instead of moving it, but on the server it did move the message.

1 Like

But to me I now have two copies. When I delete the one in the All Mail category, the one placed in the designated folder by the rule is still there. So, no matter what, I’m faced with extra work and emails I don’t want to see in the All Mail list. Very annoying.

If you’re seeing a copy in All Mail, I that’s probably not a bug or something to do with Big Sur but rather a general issue with the way Gmail and IMAP work. It duplicates every message in All Mail by design. There are settings in Gmail to adjust this, e.g. to hide All Mail from IMAP clients or to set Gmail to delete messages from All Mail when they are removed from the server.

OK, but then why did this only show up in Big Sur (I skipped Catalina)? It has not been, and still is not, a problem in Mojave. Did Apple ‘fix’ something about how Mail’s IMAP client interacts with Gmail which in the end causes unintended duplication? It just doesn’t make any sense to me that a Rule command to ‘move’ a message should create a copy of the message and leave another in a folder in All inboxes. And, because I can’t understand why this would be happening, I have no idea how to fix it.

It’s not so much a “duplicate” but a side effect of the fact that GMail’s system is not like a typical e-mail system.

GMail has no concept of folders. All your mail is in one large “All mail” bucket. You assign labels to messages. The web interface lets you click on labels to filter the output to only show messages with the selected label. Even “inbox” and “trash” are just labels.

Traditional mail apps (including, Thunderbird and Outlook) don’t work this way. They have actual folders, which you can move messages between.

IMAP is based on the concept of folders. In order to try and fake it GMail presents each label as a folder. But it’s an illusion. If you assign five labels to a message, you will see that message in six folders - one for each label and “All mail”. When you “delete” a message, you are really assigning the “Trash” label to it (and might also remove one or more other labels). When you move a message to a new folder, you are deleting the old folder’s label and adding a label for the new folder.

From the Google web site, you can set various preferences to customize what happens when typical IMAP actions are performed (e.g. delete message, move to folder), but nothing changes the fact that GMail is label-based not folder-based and their IMAP interface is providing an (imperfect) translation layer between the two concepts.

A lot of the problems people have with GMail and mail applications is a result of this. Unless you have a mail app that knows about and can work directly with GMail’s system of labels, you are going to see behaviors which don’t seem to make sense. Like messages being “duplicated” when you move them between folders.

1 Like

I don’t know why you are only seeing the problem now, but as @Shamino explains, even without a rule, you’ll see a “duplicate” of each inbox message in All Mail due to the way Gmail works.

If the move rule was moving the message from Gmail’s All Mail to a local mailbox on the Mac, it may have worked that way on Mojave and earlier - Gmail may have seen that as a delete. It ay have changed with Catalina and/or Big Sur - it may be that Gmail is seeing it as an archive and copy.

Personally, I see no reason for me to file Gmail messages anymore. Google’s search is so good that a good search will find anything I need to look for. And I’d definitely not move files from All Mail. I see similar feelings from people who have used Android and move to iOS about the Photos app. Many do not understand the concept of the Photo Library/Camera Roll as a collection of all of your photos and albums as subsets of that collection - they want to move photos out of the All Photos into albums, to keep the collection organized, and the iOS Photos app just doesn’t work that way. Gmail’s All Mail is the same way - it is literally what it says it is. I understand that people want it to work differently, but sometimes it’s better to change your workflow to match the tool than try to force the tool to do what it’s not designed to do.

I would be happy if people could report about Big Surs Apple Mail handling of the Bug found in Catalina a well, from time to time. I am still on Mojave and thinking about to update.