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Fix deep Inbox hierarchy problem in Mail Apps
Several times in the past couple of years, I experienced an annoying mailbug: the Inbox becomes a deep hierarchy of Inbox » Inbox » Inbox » ...repeat... » xxxx, where xxxx is the name of one of the special mailboxes (Trash, Drafts, or Outbox). Every simple fix I tried would only make things worse.

I finally traced the issue to a bad interaction between Mail, the IMAP server, and the iPhone. I'm not sure which of these is ultimately responsible, but somehow, one of the three would use a different location for one of the special mailboxes.

I was finally able to fix the problem, by following these steps:
  1. Identify the file name of the special mailboxes. To do so, I quit Mail and connected to the webmail server interface, where I created a draft message, an outgoing message, and a deleted message, each with known content. Then I disconnected from the webmail. In Mail, I searched for the content I had just created. This enabled me to identify the current name of the special mailboxes.
  2. In Mail, use the Mailbox » Use This Mailbox For menu to correctly identify each special mailbox.
  3. In iTunes (this is the crucial step), under iPhone » Info » Mail Accounts, select 'Sync selected Mail accounts.' Under iPhone » Info » Advanced, select 'Replace information on this iPhone: Mail Accounts,' then sync the iPhone.
I discovered afterwards that the first step can probably be simplified, from two different angles. First, my webmail has an interface letting me set the mailbox file names. Second, in the left sidebar of Mail, hovering the mouse above a mailbox tells you its file location. My configuration: MacOS 10.5.6 PPC; iPhone 2.2.1; Courier IMAP server.
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Fix deep Inbox hierarchy problem in Mail
Authored by: neuralstatic on May 27, '09 08:15:00AM

fwiw, we get this every few weeks among our users. this does not require iphone (in our case), it's just's handling of mail folders which screws up our imap server.

pruning by hand (email server's web client) always fixes, but never prevents it from coming back.

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Fix deep Inbox hierarchy problem in Mail
Authored by: encro on May 27, '09 02:06:57PM

If it's Gmail you are using, then go into Preferences...>Accounts>Advanced and add [GMail] to the IMAP path prefix for the Gmail Account.


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Fix deep Inbox hierarchy problem in Mail
Authored by: heggaton on May 27, '09 04:42:44PM

I actually found that the nested folders are part of a corrupt mail preferences file [user home]/Library/Preferences/

I rectified the issue by first quitting Mail.

Then, using the Propertly List Editor (Apple Developer tools required) I "dump"ed the XML and copying/pasted that XML into a text editor.

Then, I searched for INBOX. After a few searches, I finally came across a property for "ToDosMailboxName" (search for this instead of INBOX, you'll get there quicker) where the value was all of the nested INBOXES.

Then, I went back into the Property List Editor, found the element (using the XML path) and replaced the INBOXES with the correct "Apple Mail To Do".

Problem solved (for me at least ;)

If the Apple Developer Tools aren't installed, the only way to fix it is to delete the preferences file and add all of your mailbox accounts again.

Oh, FWIW, is stored in binary format so you can't simply modify it with a text editor. You have to use the Property List Editor.

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Fix deep Inbox hierarchy problem in Mail
Authored by: barefootguru on Jul 30, '09 05:37:33PM

Actually binary plist files can be converted from binary to text, and viccy vacca, with the command line plutil.

TextWrangler also opens them directly, translating on the fly.


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Fix deep Inbox hierarchy problem in Mail
Authored by: shapiro on May 28, '09 01:36:46PM

I forgot to mention: if you have several computers, repeat Step 2 on each one of them.

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Fix deep Inbox hierarchy problem in Mail
Authored by: furly37 on Feb 11, '10 09:52:46AM

Thank you so much for figuring this out. Just FYI, you can also use Pref Setter ( and it will open Plists in a nice GUI format for those people who don't know XML and don't have time to learn it. It has worked great since 10.4 and I use it now on 10.6.

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