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Vox Pop: Sell me on manual email filing

tow.com » MsgFiler

Lots of the kids are excited about the arrival of MsgFiler, which is a neat litte app for helping you file away your messages in Mail.app:

MsgFiler is a plug-in for Apple Mail which quickly files emails into existing mailbox folders. MsgFiler’s fast searching means you just have to type a few characters to find the right mailbox. Move selected messages with a click or open a mailbox without having to navigate the mailbox folder pane. MsgFiler is optimized for keyboard-only usage, perfect for Apple Mail power users.


But I'll just play devil's advocate on this one: if you find yourself inordinately excited about the arrival of this (admittedly clever) application, there's an excellent chance that your email archiving system is unnecessarily complex and, in fact, is in need of a major streamlining. Discuss.

Me? Here's my own folder hierarchy (and the Mail Act-on key I use to send selected messages there.):

  • To Respond (CTRL-R)
  • Archived (CTRL-A)
    • Receipts and things I Bought (CTRL-B)
    • Passwords and account info (CTRL-P)

That's it. Personally, I abandoned the byzantine filing system quite a while ago, and so far -- given a mindful combination of Smart Folders and Spotlight -- I've yet to find a compelling case for manually filing beyond a depth of more than one folder.

So, my larger question for you guys with more than, say, five or so archive sub-folders:

How often are you using your archiving hierarchy to retrieve old mail? In other words, give me your success stories and best practices by which the time spent on meticulous manual filing has paid outsize rewards in finding stuff later. Or, perhaps better put: what are the limitations of Smart Folders, and what would need to change about them to get you out of the manual filing routine?

Because, I gotta tell you, it kinda seems like a lot of busy work given what seems like modest functional pay-off. But you school me...

John's picture

I think if you deal...

I think if you deal with clients or projects where you need to keep things compartmentalized, this would probably be a useful tool.

Personally, I don't need to separate things out into customer- or project-related folders. I just tag the message with the appropriate name so I can search it out from the tag later on. I do think you need to have a good handle on your tagging if you're going to do it this way though. If your tags don't follow an appropriate taxonomy, it may be harder to find that needle in a haystack 18 months from now than it would if it was stuffed in a folder with a descriptive name.

The other thing that may be a problem would be if you ever have to move your mail to a different OS. I had an incredibly convoluted folder structure in my Windows days and didn't discover tagging until I had switched to the Mac so I don't know if there's something on the Windows side of things that gives you similar capabilities but I somehow doubt it would be compatible with Mailtags metadata anyway. The folder structure is relatively easy to move back and forth though, whether it's on an IMAP server or on your local machine.




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