Dec 24: Note to self — IMAP notes are go!

Technical

This is the twenty-fourth, and final, post in the FastMail 2015 Advent Calendar. Phew, we made it!


Back in July we launched our IMAP Notes service into beta. We are pleased to announce today that we have now migrated all active users to the new system, and it is ready for everyone to use.

Notes? What’s that about?

Notes is a simple "note to self" feature, which allows you to store plain or rich text notes in your FastMail account. Our original notes service stored your notes in a separate database which was only available via the FastMail web interface. The updated system stores your notes in the same place as we store your email, making them available via the standard IMAP protocol.

Why are we moving notes into IMAP?

When notes are stored with email they become available for third party applications to use. In particular, you can now read and edit your notes in the native Notes app on iOS (iPhones/iPads) and OS X, so your notes are in sync everywhere you go — just like your mail, contacts and calendars.

Storing notes in IMAP also lets us take advantage of our existing solutions for backups, and will of course benefit from our storage architecture, meaning on disk encryption, geographically disparate replication, and anti-corruption features.

Why did it take so long?

Shortly after announcing our beta program, Apple released beta versions of their new iOS and OS X operating systems. One of the big changes was the way in which notes were stored, changing from IMAP to optionally using iCloud as a backend store.

As interoperability with Apple products was one of the advantages of moving to IMAP we needed to test extensively with the new Apple systems to make sure we knew what this meant.

So with that in mind, please note: The new Notes features in OS X 10.11 and iOS 9 are only available if you are using Apple's Notes with iCloud. These extra features are not available if you are using IMAP based Notes through FastMail.

If you don't need the new features, then we recommend you do not upgrade Notes support: once upgraded, you can't go back. Once a note goes onto iCloud, FastMail will no longer be able to synchronise with it.

What about Android?

IMAP Notes isn't a native android feature, but of course apps exist which bring this functionality to android. If Android is what you use then a quick search for "IMAP Notes" in Google Play is what you need.

Tips

Head on over to the notes section of our help pages for details of the service, and to learn how to set up your Apple client to sync notes with FastMail.

You may notice a new folder in your IMAP client called "Notes": this is where your notes are stored. Being a special folder we don't show it to you in the FastMail web interface. We do not recommend you store regular email in there, as it won't be shown in the web interface and will be moved to a MailNotes folder by the notes system.

Users who had regular email stored in a Notes folder prior to FastMail enabling IMAP Notes support will find their mail has been moved to a new MailNotes folder, to keep the official Notes folder just for notes.

If you include an image in your note, it will sync to FastMail and display correctly but you will no longer be able to edit the note via the browser; you will only be able to edit this via the Apple Notes app.

Attempting to store regular email in the Notes folder does not magically turn them into notes: they will not sync or show up as notes in the Notes view.

If you move or rename your Notes folder via an external mail client, FastMail will no longer be able to sync your notes to your device and the Notes view will be empty on the web interface.

And finally…

Thanks for following along with our advent blog series. We've tried to once more provide some insight into the behind-the-scenes magic that makes FastMail tick, plus some tips and tricks for getting the best out of your account. We hope you found (at least some of) it interesting!

Looking forward to next year, we're excited to see many great features and improvements planned, so stay tuned to this blog if you want to be the first to know. Until then, have a safe and wonderful festive period. Happy holidays!