AutoCreate/AutoSubscribe and Special-Use IMAP folders

  • OS X 10.9.x Mavericks with Server 3.x
  • OS X 10.10.x Yosemite with Server 4.x or 5.x
  • OS X 10.11.x El Capitan with Server 5.x

For this article, we assume you are comfortable editing config files with Terminal or a suitable text editor.

Sever 3.x was the first version of OS X Server to include Dovecot 2.1.

Dovecot 2.1 added several new features, we will cover:

  • How to define folders which are automatically created, and optionally auto subscribed for all imap users.
    This useful feature allows you to define a core set of folders all users should have.
    Obvious examples are folders like Junk and Drafts, but it can be used to create folders for any use.

  • How to define Special-Use folders
    Modern email clients will ask the imap server which folder is preferred for Sent, Trash, Junk and Drafts.
    Defining these Special-Use folders helps keep the user experience consistent and predictable.

Before editing any file, be sure to back it up.

We’ll be working with just this one file:


Here is a default copy of the file

## Mailbox definitions
## Version 2.2.x (AR14759611)

# NOTE: Assumes "namespace inbox" has been defined in 10-mail.conf.
namespace inbox {

  #mailbox name {
    # auto=create will automatically create this mailbox.
    # auto=subscribe will both create and subscribe to the mailbox.
    #auto = no

    # Space separated list of IMAP SPECIAL-USE attributes as specified by
    # RFC 6154: \All \Archive \Drafts \Flagged \Junk \Sent \Trash
    #special_use =

  # These mailboxes are widely used and could perhaps be created automatically:
  mailbox Drafts {
    special_use = \Drafts
  mailbox Junk {
    special_use = \Junk
  mailbox Trash {
    special_use = \Trash

  # For \Sent mailboxes there are two widely used names. We'll mark both of
  # them as \Sent. User typically deletes one of them if duplicates are created.
  mailbox Sent {
    special_use = \Sent
  mailbox "Sent Messages" {
    special_use = \Sent

  # If you have a virtual "All messages" mailbox:
  #mailbox virtual/All {
  #  special_use = \All

  # If you have a virtual "Flagged" mailbox:
  #mailbox virtual/Flagged {
  #  special_use = \Flagged

Not much to it – its already commented with clear instructions

Lets look at the definition for Drafts.

mailbox Drafts {
    special_use = \Drafts

If we want Drafts to be auto created, we would add auto=create and to have Drafts created and automatically subscribed instead use auto=subscribe.

This simple change will ensure everyone has a Drafts.

mailbox Drafts {
    special_use = \Drafts

You can add any new folder

mailbox Important {

When done editing, you’ll need to stop/start dovecot to activate the change.

sudo launchctl stop org.dovecot.dovecotd

It will restart automatically.

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