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Nov 01 2011

iPhone sync Notes with IMAP email

If you want to sync your iPhone notes directly with your IMAP account (not a GMail account) and not through iTunes, you may encounter some issues like i did.

First, a little info about this feature introduced with iOS 4. You can sync your notes in multiple ways :
– with iTunes, and from there with GMail.
– directly with GMail if you configure your mail account from Settings – > Mail, Contacts, Calendars -> Add account -> GMail.
– with an IMAP account on a different server, other than Google.
*I haven’t tested the first two methods so there could be some inaccurate info there.

Now, because i don’t like using iTunes, i can’t use option No.1
I can’t use option 2 because i want to sync my Contacts with Google contacts, so i must use Exchange option to connect to Google. This gives me the option to sync Mail, Contacts and Calendars, but no Notes.
The third option is to use another (second) IMAP account. The notes will be saved in a folder on the server, called Notes.
In a correct setup, you won’t see the Notes folder in the iPhone mail client. However it will be shown in a desktop mail client ( Mozilla Thunderbird in my case ).

First enable Notes synchronization with an IMAP account :
First go to Settings -> Mail, Contacts, Calendars. Select the IMAP account that will hold your notes. Then toggle ON for the Notes.

Select mail account

Toggle Notes to ON

Next, go to Settings -> Notes. If there is a default account setting, choose the IMAP account that you toggled ON above. (This button is shown if you have multiple account or some previous local notes).

Default account for notes app

Select default account to sync Notes with

Doing the above steps was not enough for me. Manually creating the Notes folder in my desktop mail client, did not help.

Here is why :

Normally , the folders in your IMAP account are displayed as subfolders of INBOX if the namespace (root mail folder , configured on the mail client) of the IMAP server is set to “/“, and not “INBOX” or “INBOX.” (without quotes).
For the iPhone this setting is named IMAP prefix path, and can be found under Settings -> Mail, Contacts, Calendar. Select your account, then scroll down to Advanced, and there you will find IMAP Path Prefix. Enter “INBOX” without quotes.

IMAP path prefix

Write INBOX instead of /

Now all should be done. You can verify this by opening your iPhone’s mail client for the account that will hold your notes.The folders in the mail account are not anymore subfolders of the INBOX folder. Also the Notes folder is gone from the folder list, because notes now appear in the Notes app.

The image below is a screenshot before setting INBOX as IMAP prefix. Folders appear as subfolders for INBOX and Notes folder is shown.

Folders without INBOX prefix as IMAP

Folders without INBOX prefix as IMAP are shown as subfolders

This is how your folders should appear. Remember that Notes folder is now hidden, because you will find your notes in the Notes app.

Folders with INBOX as IMAP prefix

INBOX as IMAP prefix

Now opening your Notes app, everything should work. You may see a new button there, if you had some local notes, to specify what notes you will be using : local or synced with an account. And in Settings -> Notes you will have a new button named Accounts to specify the default mail account for the notes. This button disapeared when i erased all notes and started again the steps.

Notes account button

Account button is shown in notes if other notes are present

Apple support info regarding how to sync Notes : iOS 4: Syncing Notes
Helpful info here.

Tested with iOS 4.3.5

7 comments

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  1. Leandro

    Thank you so much for this post! Changing the path prefix was the key to getting notes syncing to my IMAP server again. Before finding your post I was having trouble understanding why my notes were not syncing even though everything (else) was setup correctly.

  2. Emm

    Thanks, really helpful 🙂

  3. Matt Jenner

    Thank you – this wasn’t anywhere near obvious and I’m very happy to not use Google or Apple to store my notes on my phone. Very good guide, covered any issues that arose for me. Thanks again!

  4. Stephen

    I had a few dozen notes in my imap folder on the phone.
    I followed these steps and it worked.
    BUT NOTE: any existing notes on the phone will be LOST!
    Changing the setting back will not bring the notes back that were on the phone!

  5. Adam Cz.

    Thanks mate.
    That helped me a lot!

  6. Pat100

    I link my iPhone Notes to a Notes folder on my Godaddy IMAP email account (The option exists in iPhone settings for the Godaddy account)
    It IS possible (if a little awkward) to have bi-directional syncing as notes seem to just be tweaked email messages.
    I use Thunderbird on my desktop PC and use a trick to edit or create notes so that they sync back to my iPhone:
    Drag or copy the note to Drafts (or create a new message there)
    Edit its header to add the following line to turn it into a note:
    X-Uniform-Type-Identifier: com.apple.mail-note
    Edit it with desired text
    Move/drag/copy it back to the IMAP Notes folder
    Now you should be able to see it on the iPhone.

    Extra: To edit the message header, I use the Thunderbird add-on called Header Tools Lite. When installed, right clicking in the text body space of a message gives the option to use it. Select “Edit full source”

  7. Max

    Thank you so much! I tried forever and adding INBOX fixed it!

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