What is a good software to organize a large IMAP account's mail?

Right now, I'm using Thunderbird filters, but ideally, I want a system where my secretary can manage the filters by herself without having to use Thunderbird filters, which are very hard to export and version control and seemingly require Thunderbird to be running continuously.

Additionally, the account is relatively large, with 70,000+ emails and 100+ arriving every day. Typical consumer grade hardware is choking just trying to download the messages in Thunderbird.

Suggestions are welcome.

  • 2
    Might be helpful if you could edit your post and add what operating system(s) must be supported. Additionally: some IMAP servers support Sieve for filtering mails directly on the server, which is supported by several clients. You might wish to check if that's an option (or not), and include that in your edit. The more details you can provide, the better answers can be customized to your needs :) Thanks!
    – Izzy
    Commented Oct 24, 2014 at 10:18

2 Answers 2


Gmail and/or Sylpheed

If your email server supports automatic forwarding or POP3 then you can configure it to forward your emails to a Gmail account. The advantage being that you can set up online filters as opposed to the local ones in Thunderbird. That way, the messages will be filtered before downloading it so you don't have to keep the client program open.

Sylpheed is a lightweight email client that doesn't download attachments unless you click them. This results in an average email being 1 or 2kb in size. So downloading thousands of emails isn't an issue. It will just download the text part, and show the rest as additional attachments. It also has a portable version that can be installed on a USB drive and used on multiple computers.

Since the filters are now online, you can have an assistant set them up and the folders will automatically be downloaded to every computer that has the client installed.

  • IMO, It's inappropriate to run the company mail through a privacy-hostile service provider like gmail. You do provide other options though, so fair enough answer.
    – mc0e
    Commented Jan 13, 2015 at 15:32

Depending what sort of mail server you run, you may be able to use sieve filters that run on the server. Client support for editing the filters is a bit patchy though.

I'm thinking though that with suitable rules you should be OK with just Thunderbird.

The problem with thunderbird is not how muych email is on the server, but how big a given folder you are processing is. If you arrange things into folders with sub-folders per year, or per moth as required, then you probably won't have a problem. You might also want to file mail from the inbox that is older than some given age into sub-folders of your inbox.

I don't have a really good suggestion for a plugin to do this in thunderbird. In fact I was looking for one as I came across this page.

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