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I'd like to use the macOS Mail app for a few different reasons. But each time Mail launches (say, after clicking a mailto: link or if I'm taking a look at app preferences), the app begins downloading 15+ years of Gmail history to my drive. It's not that I don't have the drive space, but I have several practical reasons for keeping the the individual 'file count' of the drive as low as possible (each email is stored as an individual file in Mail's local storage folders).

Gmail's POP function does not have much in the way of settings, though I imagine local (client) settings are what will make the difference here. I do notice that Gmail's IMAP settings have an option to limit client-side folders to 1000 items (at the fewest), but then I cannot use the Mail client to access history older than whatever 1000 files happens to be in a given folder.

Even if I did go the IMAP route, a 15+ year old Gmail account would make this far from what I'm looking to do (turning local storage off altogether for Mail).

So I'm wondering if I just need to keep periodically deleting Mail's local storage folders -- or if someone here knows of a solution before I perhaps send this to Apple/feedback.

Thanks in advance!

p.s. Unlinking this email address from Mail (or finding a workaround in terms of how much is/isn't stored on the server) won't be practical in this case unfortunately

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    I'd be interested to know what the 'practical reasons' are for keeping a low file count on your drive; and I'd be tempted to solve the problem by fixing that requirement.
    – benwiggy
    Jul 2, 2022 at 17:11

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This problem is a bit chicken and egg, just like mail app can’t run client based rules on mails it hasn’t downloaded, there’s no “online search” function for IMAP and gmail and macOS mail.app. I understand why you already considered and disregarded the server side filtering for gmail.

You can avoid attachment downloads easily, but you’ll need to migrate this to Outlook and Exchange if you need this functionality. I believe that’s the only viable macOS mail client and server system that implements what you seek here.

The only other option is to relocate the Library storage to a drive you don’t mind carrying that volume of files and data so it can work as designed and your volume of mail that exists on the server marked as available to sync.

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